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Holidays can be super stressful, especially if you’re hosting. These Early Thanksgiving Prep Ideas will help you simplify Turkey Day, so you can get out of the kitchen, spend time with friends and family, and actually enjoy the day! For more helpful Thanksgiving Tips + Tricks, check out Thanksgiving Hacks to Make Your Holiday Super Simple and 10 Free + Low Cost Thanksgiving Supplies You Need for a Seamless Turkey Day.
Early Thanksgiving Prep Ideas to Make the Holiday So Much Easier
Holiday Grocery Shopping Hacks
Long lines, short tempers, and limited grocery stock can make shopping for big holiday dinners super stressful! Buy certain foods too early, and they may spoil. Shop too close to the holiday, and you may not be able to get the ingredients you need (why can’t grocery stores figure out how much food they need year after year anyway?!). Here are some tips I follow to try to make grocery shopping for the holidays a little easier.
BUY OVER TIME
If you’re stressed about the expense of hosting a holiday dinner, spread out grocery shopping over several pay checks. If you have room in your freezer, buy a frozen turkey early and store it in the freezer until it’s time to thaw the bird a few days before Turkey Day. Buy canned goods like cranberry sauce, yams, corn, green beans and fried onions for green bean casserole, etc. and other items that won’t go bad before the holiday.
Even if you’re not worried about finances, this is still an excellent idea to make holiday grocery shopping less stressful. Buying a few holiday items at a time during your regular shopping trips will help you avoid having to buy loads of groceries at once, which can be terribly stressful especially during the holiday season when stores are so much busier. I use this method for every holiday whether I host or just bring a dish!
BUY LOW STOCK ITEMS EARLY
My mom always preferred Libby’s Canned Pumpkin to make her pies. I’m the new designated family pie baker and like to honor her memory, follow in her footsteps, and adhere to family tradition, so I use this brand, as well. Libby’s Pumpkin, Carnation Evaporated Milk (we use for pumpkin pies and mashed potatoes), Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, and Butterball Turkeys are just a handful of brands our family likes to use, but every holiday season, our grocery stores tend to run out of these favorites. If you have brand favorites like these and want to reduce holiday stress, make sure to stock up early if you can to ensure you have all you need for the holiday.
Early Thanksgiving Prep
ASK FOR HELP
Don’t feel like, just because you’re hosting the holiday, you have to prepare everything because it’s perfectly within reason and proper etiquette to ask your guests for help. You can ask them to bring side dishes, drinks, or help with prep or clean up. You can even make Thanksgiving a potluck affair!
In my family, my sister likes to host our family holidays at her house. For Thanksgiving, she always asks me to bring my pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. I’m happy to contribute to our meal because I don’t feel it’s fair all the prep work and expense should fall to one person or family, and I’m sure your guests will feel the same!
Make the cranberry sauce at least one day before, so it can cool and set in the refrigerator and the flavors can develop.
Make extra cranberry sauce for a fun, festive cocktail. Just put a dollop of sauce in a champagne flute and top with bubbly for delicious, refreshing Bellinis. For an amazing cranberry sauce recipe that would be perfect for this drink, check out my Easy Cranberry Sauce with Orange + Ginger.
You can make fruit pies ahead of time and freeze them unbaked. Then, the day before, bake your frozen pies, adding 20-45 minutes to the baking time. Get the full instructions at the link below.
From The Kitchn
You can freeze pie crust dough before rolling, but an even easier option is to prepare and roll out your pie dough, place it in your pie plate, then freeze the dough in the pie plate. That way, your crust will be ready to fill and bake straight from the freezer! This method is especially recommended for custard pies, since freezing whole, unbaked custard pies is not recommended like it is for fruit pies. It’s also not recommended to freeze already baked pies, since they won’t taste as good or fresh after freezing. For an amazingly tender and flaky pie crust, check out My Mom’s Super Simple Heirloom Pie Crust Recipe.
Whether you freeze your pie or not, I recommend baking your pies at least one day in advance to let the flavors develop and the fillings set. I always bake mine the day before to reduce work on the holiday and to ensure my pies turn out nice, in case they would somehow be such a disaster I’d have to bake more. I’ve never had this happen to me, but I like having a contingency plan in place. Allow fruit pies to sit at room temperature, while custard pies should be stored in the refrigerator.
With most ovens, pie crust almost always gets too dark or even burned before the filling is done cooking. To prevent this, keep an eye on your pies. When the crust becomes a nice golden brown, cover the edges of the crust loosely with foil. This allows the rest of the pie to finish cooking while preventing further browning of your pie crust for a perfectly baked crust every time!
BLIND BAKING HACK
Need to blind bake your pie crust this year? You may know that you can use dried beans and, of course, pie crust weights to weigh down your pie crust for baking, but, what can you do if you don’t have either of these in your home? Actually, you can use many different things to weigh down your pie crust for blind baking, including rice, popcorn kernels, dried wheat berries, and even pennies! You can also just put another pie plate inside the plate with the crust to keep the pie crust flat and prevent shrinking. If you choose this method, you would bake the crust upside down on a cookie sheet, as outlined in this article. For more information on blind baking pie crust, here’s a helpful tutorial.
I didn’t realize until recently that some people blind bake their pie crust for pumpkin pie to prevent a soggy crust. I’ve been baking my family’s pumpkin pies for years now, and never have a problem with My Mom’s Pie Crust Recipe. Check it out if you have this issue – this pie crust is amazingly tender and flaky and always a big hit!
HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM
I think homemade whipped cream is super easy to make and so much better than store bought Reddi-Wip or Cool Whip. Check out the tutorial at the link below to learn how to make perfect whipped cream every time!
PRO TIP: For extra fluffy whipped cream, chill your bowl and beaters in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before whipping.
From Brown Eyed Baker
When I worked as a cook in a professional kitchen, we cut all our foods in advance, so we didn’t waste time on the line when cooking for our guests. You can follow this same idea to save you time on the holiday by cutting veggies the day before. Peel and cut potatoes and store them covered in water in the refrigerator. Some people recommend making the mashed potatoes in advance, but I think pre-made mashed potatoes don’t taste nearly as good as fresh. Storing cut potatoes in the fridge for a day or two won’t impact flavor. Just be sure to cover peeled and cut potatoes in water in the fridge to prevent them from getting brown and slimy.
You can also cut onions and celery for stuffing, and if you make candied yams with fresh yams, you can peel, cut, and cook your yams or sweet potatoes. I use my mother’s candied yam recipe, which uses canned yams, so I prepare my yams on the day, since using canned yams makes the dish so much quicker and easier.
PRO TIP: I know this photo shows pre-cut veggies being stored in plastic containers, but an even better option is to store prepped ingredients like these in disposable plastic baggies. This way, you can add your ingredients to your recipes and immediately throw away the storage bags. It’s wasteful, but you won’t have tons of storage containers piling up in the sink during the Thanksgiving dinner rush.
From Martha Stewart
To make food prep easier, consider getting this handy vegetable chopper to quickly dice vegetables like onions and celery for stuffing. This gadget will definitely save you tons of time and effort, especially if you’re expecting a crowd for dinner.
MAKE-AHEAD TURKEY GRAVY
You can’t make gravy before roasting the bird, can you? Well, actually, you can, and it’s a pretty good idea! Why would you want to do this? If you have experience cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you may know that you don’t always get enough drippings to make a tasty gravy, and if you smoke, fry, or grill your turkey, you won’t get any drippings at all. Plus, it’s no fun rushing to make the gravy at the last minute while you’re trying to get the rest of the holiday meal together, and making your gravy ahead of time ensures your gravy turns out perfectly – no last minute mistakes to worry about here!
From The Kitchn
SLOW ROAST YOUR TURKEY WHILE YOU SLEEP!
Now, this is a strange idea, but The Splendid Table insists that slow roasting your turkey overnight is the easiest way to cook a perfect, moist, delicious turkey every time. Plus, you won’t have to wake up super early on Thanksgiving to get the turkey in the oven on time, and this method frees oven space for other dishes like yams and green bean casserole. The only downside to this method seems to be that you can’t cook your stuffing in the bird. If you don’t mind cooking your stuffing separately, give this turkey cooking method a try!
From The Splendid Table
Prepping food early can make holidays so much easier and allow you to spend more precious time with family and friends. These Early Thanksgiving Prep Ideas will help you host Turkey Day with much less effort, so you can actually enjoy the day instead of spending all your time in the kitchen!
MORE THANKSGIVING HACKS
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My Mom’s Super Simple Tender + Flaky Pie Crust Recipe
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