Meal Planning Tips

thanksgiving-kitty-in-the-kitchenThanksgiving is almost here and even though we have an entire year to prepare, it seems like I am always down to the wire those last few days trying to get my grocery list together and tackle the dreaded grocery store! I do love to catch the good sales that happen right at the last week and the majority of my shopping list are fresh items anyway so I don’t want to shop too far in advance. For our family, Thanksgiving is more than a turkey dinner. I make a ton of appetizers and we snack throughout the day before we eventually eat Thanksgiving dinner and dessert. Then for the next several days we enjoy a feast of all sorts. Not just basic reheated leftovers, but creative creations of turkey melts and appetizers, turkey pot pie and any other culinary creativity we can come up with while we relax, sit by the fire, binge watch movies, play games, eat some more, maybe do a little black Friday or cyber Monday shopping. All of that to say, my grocery list is huge!! Because I have been doing this for so many  years, here are a few organizational things I do to reap the benefits of shopping as late as possible, while keeping my plan from becoming a procrastination nightmare.

  • I keep a Thanksgiving Menu saved on my laptop. Really! The main dishes that are non-negotiables. You may think you won’t forget about those mashed potatoes but when you go to write your list you’d be surprised what you accidentally forget to write down!
  • I keep a side list of possible appetizers and sides that I can choose from. (also saved in the same place on my laptop)
  • I keep a typed “Needs” list of all of the cooking necessities I will possibly need to cook the food I have on my lists. This is an inventory check so I can write my grocery list based off of this.
  • You guess it! I also keep a saved grocery list. This may seem silly, but most of the items on my list are going to be on my list next year too.  Having the ready-made list means I can  simply cross things off that I already have in stock and the rest is ready to go once I add the sale items and any new recipe or appetizer ingredients I may be trying for the first time this year.
  • Shop during early morning hours or late night hours when the crowds are dwindled down. Unfortunately this means you will be shopping with the stock crew, but this is also beneficial to you because you will tend to get the fresher items as they are being restocked, and the items that employees that can help you with items that have depleted on the shelves are right there too. Just make sure to show them some extra appreciation for their help.
  • If you really don’t like to people at all, or you just wanna rock it millennium style and show Grandma how it’s done “these days”, you can do all of your shopping online using one of the grocery store “click & pull” services by going online and selecting all of the grocery items you want and paying for them online. Somebody else goes through the store for you and endures all of the things about grocery shopping that you are trying to avoid, and you get to show up about an hour later and load your groceries into your vehicle. If you’re funny about picking your turkey size and/or your produce you can do a combination of both. This is precisely what I have tried for the first time this year. I purchased my turkey and some produce. You usually have to spend a minimum of $25 to get your turkey at a sale price anyway. Since this year I will be traveling almost 3 hours to my daughter’s house, everything else will be purchased online at a grocery store near her house so I don’t have to haul all of the groceries, or shop when I get there. Whoever invented this service is amazing!!
  • Print the Menu. This helps keep me on track on Thanksgiving when I’m preparing appetizers and getting the big meal underway.

With a little bit of organization, your Thanksgiving is sure to go smoothly. The only thing you can’t prepare for is the unexpected uncontrollable, but you can be mentally prepared to adjust. The craziest Thanksgiving experience I have ever had was the year my oven decided to quit on the night before Thanksgiving. I went to put my pies in the oven and it was cold inside. Thanksgiving day I prepared an entire meal in an electric roaster, a toaster oven and a BBQ grill. Although it was tough, I saw it as an opportunity to flex my muscles as a cook. The meal came out beautiful, and was timed perfectly with no delays. I saw this as a win! The very next week I bought a new stove with double ovens!

Whether or not you have double ovens, check out this handy multi rack tower for your oven! This cures the problematic game of tetris around the big bird. This is Genius!!! An absolute must for Thanksgiving and Christmas!


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