A Thanksgiving Day Game Plan

Time-Saving Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday

by Kirsten Harrington

A Thanksgiving Day plan keeps stress at bay.

If the thought of cooking a turkey and all of the trimmings for family and friends makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t panic. With a little pre-planning, smart use of your kitchen, and a little help from your friends, this Thanksgiving could turn out to be one of the most enjoyable yet!

Start EarlyI

t’s never too early to confirm your guest list and finalize the menu. Gathering serving platters and bowls and labeling them with sticky notes a few days in advance smooths the way at serving time. Count plates, utensils and glasses a week ahead, purchasing extra in neutral colors and patterns to mix in if necessary. Set the table two to three days ahead — it’ll cross one thing off your to-do list and add a festive air to your home.

Savvy Shopping

With recipes ready, prepare a master shopping list. Dividing the list into produce, dairy, nonperishables, etc., makes getting in and out of the store faster. If you are purchasing a frozen turkey, shop early so that the turkey has time to defrost (this could take four to five days for a 20-pound bird). Don’t forget to stock up on plastic wrap, tin foil and extra containers for leftovers.

Prepare Your Kitchen

A week ahead of time, make room on pantry shelves for nonperishables, and clean out your refrigerator and freezer, so there’s plenty of room for the big day. Sharpen carving knives, find (or buy) a roasting pan, and clean the oven. Declutter countertops and give your kitchen a good scrub. A clean workspace makes everything easier. Consider using your slow cooker for side dishes like Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes or green beans, saving both cooking time and oven space.

Get Cooking!

Make a master schedule that includes all the dishes you plan to serve with the time and day you need to prepare them. Prepare as many items in advance as possible. For example, make pie crusts and freeze the dough in the pan a week ahead, or bake the pie, freeze and warm before serving. The day before, wash and prep vegetables, make stuffing and sweet potato casserole. Need tips on how to cook that big bird? Visit www.butterball.com for easy-to-follow roasting instructions.


There are no awards given for the person who spends the most time in the kitchen, so why not say yes when friends and family offer to bring something? You can still keep control of the menu by asking others to pitch in with specific items like dinner rollsand beverages.

Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole

Free up oven space by making this classic dish in a slow cooker. To keep the topping crunchy, add remaining fried onions just before serving.

2 16-ounce packages of cut, frozen green beans
2 10.75-ounce cans of cream of  mushroom or cream of chicken soup
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 6-ounce can of French-fried onions, divided

Mix green beans, soup, milk, salt, pepper and one-half of the fried onions in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Immediately prior to serving, add remaining onions.

Ginger Orange Cranberry Relish

Ginger adds a spicy twist to this holiday favorite. Relish can be made one week ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

16 ounces fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
Zest of one orange

Cook all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until cranberries start to pop — about 10 minutes. Skim off foam, cool and store in airtight container in the refrigerator. ♥

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