How Can You Pull off a Successful Thanksgiving Meal

by Ishani Bose last updated -

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Predominantly a harvest festival that was started by the pilgrims of Plymouth to celebrate and give thanks for the abundance of food, Thanksgiving, over the years, has become a festival for family and friends to connect. In our otherwise busy and stressful lives, it is often quite a challenge to take out time for our loved ones and Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to take a break and remind ourselves of the things we should be grateful for.

For many people, though, the festival is synonymous with cooking an enormous multi-course meal for a large group of people, which can be quite stressful. Some may even have a complete breakdown trying to plan and execute a perfect Thanksgiving extravaganza every year.

With a little over two weeks remaining for the big Turkey Day, we bring to you a one-stop-shop to pull off your much-awaited Thanksgiving lunch/dinner successfully. This guide will help you plan Thanksgiving like a pro, right from shopping lists, kitchen essentials to creating a tablescape for the D-day. It will surely come handy if you are looking to host the holiday get-together for the first time or if you are looking to simplify things a little this year.

Plan ahead and prepare a to-do list

Before you take on the mammoth task, it is highly recommended you prepare a to-do list consisting of everything that needs to get done. Start early so that you have enough time to prepare everything in advance without having to stress about it last minute. Count the number of days in hand and divide the duties accordingly. This will help you organize things properly and make sure you don’t miss out on any tasks.

Go shopping in advance and stick to your shopping list

Once you decide what you want to cook for Thanksgiving, you will know exactly what you will need. Carefully go through the recipes and create a master shopping list. To ensure you waste no time, stick to your list. If you want to further ease your troubles, purchase all the basic ingredients such as cream, flour, sugar, butter, etc through an online delivery service.

Prepare a guest list

Creating the guest list is an essential step in the entire Thanksgiving preparation process. This will help you ascertain the quantity of food that needs to be prepared as you have to ensure there is enough food to go around. This will also help you take into account the possible dietary restrictions of some of the guests, which will further help you plan the menu.

What size and kind of turkey to order

Given that Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, it is advisable to order it almost two weeks in advance. Either order a fresh turkey or buy a frozen one and put it in the freezer. If you’re buying a whole turkey, plan on dividing it one pound per person and if you’re buying just the bone-in breast portion, it would be advisable to divide it in 3/4 pound per person. You can also ask the butcher for additional bones and bits as that can come in handy while making the gravy. To know how to roast the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving, refer to our article, “A Beginner’s Guide To Oven-Roasted Turkey For Thanksgiving”.

Thanksgiving menu

When it comes to Thanksgiving dishes, people have a deep sense of nostalgia. However, it would be ideal to keep a balance between traditional and new dishes. You would not want everything to be the same as the previous year. Amid the turkey, casseroles, and elaborate sweet dishes, it is always nice to have at least one salad or a dish like sautéed vegetables as it helps to balance out the heavy meal. If you are vegan we have, “Three Easy Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes”, for you!

Designate the task to your family and friends

When you have a huge task such as planning a Thanksgiving meal at hand, the easiest way to approach it is by delegating the task between your family and friends. Instead of stressing about organizing an elaborate dinner/lunch at home all by yourself, plan a potluck. The festival is all about bonding with your loved ones and having a good time. Don’t shy away from sharing your responsibilities and helping each other out. If you have the turkey and the main event to focus on, you can put someone else in charge of the wine and dessert.

Drinks and cocktails

Liquor and wine can be stored so you can buy the items well in advance. To make your life easier, you can pick a signature drink, which can be made in large quantities and served as and when the guests start to arrive. You can also set up a bar with all the basic drinks and request the guests to help themselves. Once the guest list is made, you will know what all to buy and stock up. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a nonalcoholic option such as fruit punch or apple cider on the menu.

Prepare your side dishes, desserts, and sauces in advance

You can assemble casseroles such as sweet potato or green bean two days in advance. The basic preparation can be done and kept in the refrigerator. It can later be baked on the day of Thanksgiving. Likewise, prepare things that can sit for a day or two in the refrigerator like soups and cranberry sauce. This way you will be taking things off the list. In the meantime, you can also prepare desserts like pumpkin pies or sweet bread a day or two in advance. They can be refrigerated and later warmed up right before serving. However, it is best to prepare pies like apple and pecan on the main day as the crust will cease to be crisp and flaky if prepared and stored in advance. Here is our “Easy-to-make Classic Pecan Pie Recipe”

House cleaning and decor

Clean the house thoroughly a week before Thanksgiving. When it comes to planning the decor for the day, first decide whether you want to serve buffet-style or have a sit-down dinner. Once that is decided, see if you would want to order in flowers or create a centerpiece that is not perishable. Set the table a day in advance so that you have one less thing to fret about on Thanksgiving day.

Happy beautiful family praying before holiday dinner on thanksgiving

Send a reminder to your guests

Before the event, cross-check with your guests. Depending on the RSVPs and the last-minute cancellations, adjust the list accordingly. You may also need to make adjustments to the menu. If you have a seating chart arrangement planned, you can be creative in making festive place cards for your guests.

Utensils and storage

Select your bowls, serving spoons and platter in advance so you are not looking for things hurriedly last minute. Ensure that you have good mixing bowls with lids and the right kind of storage containers to keep the food. In case you have any leftovers and are planning to send them with your guests, ensure that you have sufficient utensils or package boxes for them.

Thanksgiving day

On the D-day, don’t stress and enjoy the meal with your family and friends. While the turkey roasts in the oven, get started in preparing the gravy and other side dishes. Those dishes that were already prepared and kept in the refrigerator can be heated or baked. Other than that, simply place the food on the table and do not shy away from requesting your guests to help themselves with the food.

The day after Thanksgiving

For those who are not planning to send the leftovers with your guest, you can refrigerate the food for up to four days. Instead of reheating the entire portion all at once, try reheating only the amount of food you wish to serve right away. You can also find creative ways of reusing leftover food. You can use the leftover turkey by adding it to freshly made soup or salad. You can use up the leftover salad or sauteed veggies from the previous night as the filling in a freshly made sandwich.
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About the Author

An alumnus of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Ishani Bose has worked as a reporter/features writer for several leading newspapers and organizations in India. It was her love for food, health, and wellness that brought her to Organic Facts. As a Content & Culinary Outreach Specialist, she is responsible for developing and managing the website’s recipe section. An avid Instagrammer who knows the latest social media trends, Ishani helps strategize and create authentic content for the website’s social media platforms. When not writing or cooking, you’ll find her reading, traveling, soaking herself in music, arts, and culture in every way possible. Ishani has completed an online program on “Introduction to Food and Health” by Stanford University, US. 

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