Thanksgiving Prep: What does your list look like? How much do you plan?

This was my grocery list for Thansgiving and meals for our guests in 2010. The list covered the front and the back and if I am reading my notes correctly I went to three stores.

This was my grocery list for Thanksgiving and meals for our guests in 2010. The list covered the front and the back and if I am reading my notes correctly I went to three stores.

This is the back of my list from 2010.

This is the back of my list from 2010.

This was my timing and platter planning sheet. I count backward from when I want to serve and write down when everything needs to be in the oven. I also plan out my serving platter.

This was my timing and platter planning sheet. I count backward from when I want to serve and write down when everything needs to be in the oven. I also plan out my serving platters.

I was looking for recipes to use with our guests and I ran across my Thanksgiving list and organization chart from 2010.

The list includes meals for the week for houseguests, as well as Thanksgiving. It was the back and front of a sheet and if I am reading my notes right, it looks like I went to three different stores to get everything I wanted.

The second list is a timing list counting back for when I needed to start cooking to serve at 5. It also planned out which serving platter or bowl I would use for each dish.

(This is why I don’t like to cook for Thanksgiving. It’s just too much trying to make all things that each person expects each year. Michael has certain things he likes, the kids have certain things and so do my parents. Christmas cooking isn’t this complicated.)

I tend to keep my grocery lists and prep lists from big holidays. (I have lists from our first years of marriage in the mid-1990s where I had notes from my mom on how to cook things.) I like seeing how what I make has changed over the years, and I also like to steal ideas from past years for meals for houseguests. (What I serve my brother-in-law is different than what I make for my parents. I can try new stuff with my bil – he’s an adventurous eater.)

Does your grocery list for Thanksgiving and guests look like mine? Is it that complicated? How many stores are you going to? Do you do the timing sheet as well or plan your serving platters?

29 comments Add your comment

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
1:22 pm

@TWG- I can’t believe you moved all this paper across the country! Dump it! Start using OneNote or scan your stuff. And I say that in the most loving way possible!! but geesh- I thought I was a pack rat! Maybe I’ll have my husband read this so he’ll feel better about my storage boxes in the basement!!

I went to Publix yesterday for the turkey, a few items that were on sale or what vegetables I know I can’t get at Aldi (in and out in roughly 30 minutes). I’ll run by Aldi tomorrow when I actually determine what I still need. That being said, I am not hosting a bunch of family or out of town guests. My in-laws are coming for dinner Thursday and then we’re going to my Sister-in-law’s on Saturday (she’s a nurse and has to work Thanksgiving day and Friday) but that means shared duty.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
1:30 pm

I keep my list from every year too and enjoy referencing them. They come in really handy so as not to forget anything. I have a list of every dish I’m going to make/serve. A shopping list of all the ingredients and a list of what to do on Wednesday (deserts, cook chicken & breads for dressing, chop onions & snap and soak beans etc.) and what to prepare in what order on Thursday even though that pretty all comes to me second nature these days. All three kids asked me over the weekend “Have you made your list yet?” since they know that is the beginning of the holidays for us. I got all the shopping done yesterday (whew) and it was quite the tasks with all the people shopping at the same time. It was litterally cram packed in Kroger and Walmart!! Next year I believe I’m going to go shopping at midnight to avoid such craziness. For this evening and tomorrow, I’ll do some last minute cleaning and begin it all on Wednesday. We only have immediate family attending this year so not a lot of stress involved. Just a lot of cooking and eating. Happy Thanksgiving to your family and everyone here. I hope it’s a relaxed stress free holiday for all.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
1:33 pm

Techmom, I keep a recipe folder in my kitchen drawer and all my lists go in that each year. It’s always handy to pull out during the year too if you want to make a desert or something you only cook a couple times a year.

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
1:49 pm

I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to make the holidays PERFECT. Can’t be done, and all you will be is stressed and not able to enjoy the holidays.

Do what you can, but don’t break your back or the bank. People do not want you to be perfect, they just want you to be there. Make a few mistakes, and give everyone something to laugh about next year. Go with the flow.

All it is really, is stressing out over ONE meal. Of course, your ONE meal may have 10-20 people, but you cannot make EVERYONE happy, and it will NOT be perfect. Somewhere along the lines, something is going to happen that is not included in your perfect plan, then you get upset.

Also, have people bring something. Delegate. Let it be a pot luck type if you have over 10 people. Less stress, less drama.

I’ve cooked numerous Thanksgiving meals, and yes lists are necessary. But I refuse to stress about anything. It will be what it is.

Relax, and enjoy your company. Ask for help, don’t be a martyr. You set yourself up for disappontment.

FCM on my cell

November 19th, 2012
1:49 pm

I am worh Techmom…I cannot believe you moved that paper. Being a guest to out of town relatives is not easy. I spent $250 getting warm clothes for the kids who had our grown their old ones. Flowers to our hosts already sent. Care package with items going up with my parents. I so not go until later due to work…..guest or no be happy this thanksgiving.

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
2:22 pm

Why do your even cook on Thanksgiving? Every year at this time you go on and on about how miserable you are, and how much work you have to do. I still remember that awful post from a couple of years ago about seating everyone outside even though it was freezing.

I don’t understand why everything stresses you out so much. I honestly feel sorry for your husband. I bet you don’t like ANYBODY helping you either, right? And if they do, you will make them feel so bad, and will point out all the things they do wrong. I am serious though – you really do complain so much about all the work you do. How do you walk around with that heavy cross on your back?

You are the perfect customer for a store that prepares the turkey dinner for pick up. Why don’t you ever do that? By preparing all those different things, for all the guests, I can promise you that the food to them is NOT worth all the complaining you do to explain the level of work you out in to please them. I know you probably tell everyone how hard you worked for THEM. Give it a rest Teresa – it is obvious that you hate doing this – so why put everyone else on edge too?

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
2:45 pm

I know of a woman (my CRAZY ex-mother-in-law) who cooks the turkey a week in advance, then freezes it. She brings it out the night before Thanksgiving, and let’s it sit on the counter to thaw for 12-15 hours.

Around noon on Thanksgiving day, she will put the Turkey on the table, right in the middle, (uncarved mind you). Then, she cooks and prepares the mashed potatos, and puts them on the table with the turkey. Then she makes the veggies (canned green beans) and puts them on the table, etc. The gravy is out of a jar, not homemade (she doesn’t have time, heats it up in the microwave)……the pies are purchased from the store, and the whip cream is in a can. It takes 2-3 hours to get the meal on the table, and by the time it is ready, everything is cold. We have to cut our own slices of turkey, but the kids go first (REALLY, you let a 6 year old cut his own slice of turkey?). Imagine that at a table with 15 people…..talk stress, not her, but EVERYONE ELSE!!!! Then as soon as we are finished eating, she goes to bed, because she is exhausted. We got to clean up.

Don’t get me started on her Christmas “traditions”….

jmb

November 19th, 2012
2:55 pm

Mayhem, I don’t think I could take a bite of turkey that is a week old, frozen or not. Poultry is one meat I don’t mess with. Why don’t you offer to take the turkey each year?

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
2:58 pm

Mayhem – I guess it’s a good thing she’s your EX-MIL… I wish mine was an ex (I don’t want to get rid of my husband, just my in-laws).

Mayhem

November 19th, 2012
3:04 pm

@jmb – I’m not married to her son anymore….and I HATED going to their house for holidays. Christmas was a free-for-all. Whenever the kids woke up they had at it, and no one got to see them open presents. The first year I was there, we took my step daughter and a couple of her cousins were there. They were all under the age of 8. I woke up at 8:00 on christmas day, to an absolute mess in the living room, and every single present had been unwrapped. EVERY ONE. I asked what happened, and MIL told me the kids opened their presents. I asked why didn’t anyone wake me up, and they said it was no big deal. WHAT????? I missed all the kids opening their presents. There was NO adult supervision, and the kids opened every single present. Even the ones for the adults. I was stunned…..how they knew what was for them I have no clue…..I am NOT making this up…

@techmom – she was a piece of work. Since our divorce, she has made absolutely NO attempt to get in touch with her grandchildren. Breaks my heart, but they have my parents, and they make up for it.

Bean question

November 19th, 2012
3:22 pm

Hey, jmb — Does soaking snapped beans in water keep them from getting stringy? I learned the hard way not to snap beans the day before.

Theresa's husband

November 19th, 2012
3:30 pm

Missnadine,
Thank you for saying what I am afraid to say.

Theresa’s Husband

motherjanegoose

November 19th, 2012
3:43 pm

It’s easy for me now. My darling daughter loves to cook. She makes the menu and hands me the grocery list. I shop and prepare the turkey. She orchestrates everything else. After 25 years of cooking, I am thrilled. She has done this for the past 5 years and I cannot tell you how great it is. She is a good cook too and tries new things!

jmb

November 19th, 2012
4:01 pm

Bean question, I always soak them in water in the frige and then just wash again and cook. Never a problem.

jmb

November 19th, 2012
4:02 pm

Sorry Mayhem, read to quick and missed the ex part. Good for you that’s the case though.

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
4:32 pm

@Theresa’s Husband -you are HILARIOUS :)

missnadine

November 19th, 2012
4:38 pm

@Mayhem – you story is funny, but sad too. I can imagine how horrible it was. I hope that you can at least laugh about it now. I still can’t figure out, though I have tried, why so many women go apes**t this time of year. I have been to people’s homes, and have hosted the day at my home, and there just wasn’t that level of stress. I always made sure that I had my guests’ favorite drink on hand, and possibly even a dessert (often picked up from a bakery) but never lost my mind making whole dishes just to please the kids and others. That’s crazy.

Bean question

November 19th, 2012
4:46 pm

Thanks, jmb!

Techmom

November 19th, 2012
4:46 pm

@jmb – Dried beans? I just let soak overnight on the counter, rinse and then cook. I’ve never refrigerated them.

Mother of 2

November 19th, 2012
4:47 pm

I just finished making 6 quiches for breakfast for the week. Everyone will have to figure something out for lunch on their own. But I have dinners planned for the whole week. I have easy meals planned, so they won’t require me to be in the kitchen the whole time. I’ve already made my gravy and turkey soup. We fry our turkey, and I make gravy from pan drippings. I bought turkey parts and roasted them to get the pan drippings. Then I threw the cooked parts in a stock pot and made my stock. Completed the soup and it’s now in the freezer. I’ll have 12 here starting Tues and have pre-made quite a bit already. It’s going to be a fun week!

A reader

November 19th, 2012
6:20 pm

I am hosting this year for all of the family, although no one is staying at my house (I think…). I have been planning for about a month. I only go to a single grocery store, but I spread out buying the items over a 2-3 week period.

While I love to cook, I hate to clean. On Saturday morning I made my list of what I needed to clean before the big day. It include everything from cleaning the bathrooms to organizing the serving dishes to shampooing the rug. The list was 27 items long. Ugh. THAT is the part I hate about hosting a big event at my house.

motherjanegoose

November 19th, 2012
9:43 pm

I would rather have 12 teeth pulled than 12 family members stay with us for a few days. I do not stay with our other family either, except one night ( once in a while) with my sister. We stay at hotels or a condo.

Yeah I said it

November 19th, 2012
11:06 pm

List!??!? Okay, now that is just a little bit too anal.

Observer

November 19th, 2012
11:42 pm

TWG, keep your hand-written notes, especially as it relates to you trying to get it all together on holidays. Priceless to your children one day, as they know their mother.
I’ve kept my notes/recipes/cookbooks and my grown children love to go through all (some 30 yrs of history) and see my personal comments about favorite recipes, family history and why they SHOULD NOT ever use any other recipe for cornbread dressing. They love it! I have the same hand-written notes from family members who preceded me. A precious gift.

Observer

November 19th, 2012
11:47 pm

TWG,would love to see a “memorable holiday story” blog. :)

DB

November 20th, 2012
10:43 am

Wow . . . three pages of notes?! That’s — organized. The MOST I do with organization is pull out the serving dishes and lay them out on the counters, with Post-it notes on each one as to what it is for. That way, when people are helping me in the kitchen, they know what dish it goes in. I LOVE my double-ovens, wouldn’t do without them, even if just for the holidays! I put a Post-In on the ovens as to what goes in when. And that’s it. I make the pies the day before, and I set the table the night before, but throw a sheet over it before I go to bed (to foil curious cat and dogs). The rest of my family is doing the Atlanta Half-Marathon Thursday morning, and will come home hungry, so we’re having an earlier meal this year, and I’ll have a peaceful morning puttering in the kitchen. :-)

I mean, I’ve been cooking for 35 years — at this point, I don’t really have to think twice about how long something takes to cook! Somehow, it all ends up on the table and eaten.

@Mayhem: I would NOT eat that turkey!! Sitting on a counter for a DAY?!?!? It’s a wonder she hasn’t killed anyone yet!

jmb

November 20th, 2012
11:16 am

Techmom, only the snap beans go in the fridge. Dry beans are left out with a towel over them in a pan of water.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 20th, 2012
11:40 am

DB love the post it note idea — that way folks can help!! it’s tiring having the plan in your head and then trying to answer questions while you’re trying to concentrate on what you are doing.

ssidawg

November 20th, 2012
2:16 pm

I like the idea of writing down the foods I cooked and what dish I used for each one. That’s a neat way to remember from year to year what worked and what didn’t. We go to my husband’s family on Thanksgiving but then we cook dinner at our house on Friday. It’s our “Day After Thanksgiving” tradition. My husband came up with this a few years ago to make sure we ended up with some leftovers. :-)