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Thanksgiving Tips: Let's get organized!


Thanksgiving is about family and togetherness, but it is also a food holiday, so the pressure is on to make a delicious and memorable meal. As the gateway to the holiday season, Thanksgiving is a time to pull out all the culinary stops and make an impression. Most importantly, it is the time to be thankful.

It's easy to let the stress of trying to remember every detail become overwhelming, but with a little planning, you can avoid the logistical pitfalls and enjoy the holiday as much as your guests. Here are a few tips that will help you create a fantastic food memory for your family and friends — and yourself.

Make a 5-Day Plan. Think ahead and plan out five days in advance. You can begin making side dishes such as cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole earlier in the week that can be refrigerated until the day of.

Make a Storage Plan. Your oven will be crowded, and so will your refrigerator. Take advantage of resealable bags. They lie flat, stack and are see-through so you know what’s in them. Also, if you’re marinated something, you use less marinade when using a resealable bag.

Buy in Bulk. Don’t forget to plan for the leftovers. Use some of the bulk items for the big day, and some for the next day to stretch the leftovers into something new. For example, cubed stuffing makes great croutons for a Turkey Caesar Salad with a few dried cranberries.

Make a “Day of” Plan. Because the oven is crowded on the big day, balance the menu with cold, room-temperature, stovetop reheat and oven reheat dishes. This will help with multi-tasking and assure that cold dishes are cold and hot dishes are hot when ready to serve.

Organize the Clean Up. If you are planning a large party, designated a "dump area" for the dirty dishes, such as the garage or the laundry room (this is also nice if you have an open-plan home where your guests can see the kitchen from the dining area, keeping the dirty dishes out of sight until the meal is over). Have a separate bin for plates, glasses and flatware. This will make the clean up much easier and the kitchen won’t be overwhelmed with after-dinner clutter.

Set a Budget and Shop Early. Start early to take advantage of Thanksgiving savings — now is the time to stock up on sales of canned pumpkin or bags of onions. Keep an eye out for day-old bread at the bakery, which you can cube and put into resealable bags and freeze until you are ready to make stuffing. One of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes is Sweet Potato Pie and sweet potatoes are in season and cheaper this time of year.

Remain Happy and Calm. Happy cooking makes a much better meal. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Thanksgiving is a day of togetherness. Let your friends and family help share in the meal preparation.

Be Traditional, but Get Creative. The holidays are a tradition, so don’t stretch too far away from America’s favorite table trimmings, including mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and stuffing. But, don’t be afraid to gives these dishes a creative twist. Consider adding sour cream and parmesan cheese to mashed potatoes or including dried cranberries in your green bean casserole.

Take Advantage of Technology. My husband — and tech advisor — Matthew, wanted me to share some online tools and smartphone/tablet apps that can help with your planning and organization. The nice thing about a number of these tools is that you can share items and work collaboratively with others. For instance, you can build your menu and then share with friens and family to clarify who is doing what and when. That way you won't have three people showing up with mashed potatoes!

All-in-One Organizer/Digital Memory:

Evernote

To Do Lists/Task Management:

Wunderlist Any.Do Remember the Milk ToDoIst

Grocery Shopping List:

OurGroceries GroceryIQ

I hope these tips help you have a stress-free — or at least less stressful — Thanksgiving.

Cook with love. Give thanks. Have a great holiday!

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