By Nancy Mattia, CTW Features
Make a grocery list
Getting everything down on one list will keep you organized and guarantees you won’t forget to buy all the ingredients you need. Store the list in the Notes app on your phone so it’ll always be handy.
Start shopping early for non-perishables
If you don’t wait until the last minute to shop, you’ll have time to keep your eye out for sales of any canned or frozen foods you need for the meal. You also won’t be vying for that last can of cranberry sauce with other Tuesday-before-Thanksgiving shoppers.
Cook as much as you can in the days and weeks ahead of the holiday
Leave the turkey or roast beef for cooking the day of the gathering but get some, if not all, of the side dishes and desserts, done well before then. Making food in advance works especially well with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pies, says Rona Gindin, a food writer and restaurant reviewer based in Orlando, Florida. “You can even cut and bag fresh vegetables and make sauces and dressings ahead.”
Turn on your slow cooker
To free up space in your oven, plug in your slow cooker. In the days leading up to the dinner, you can use it to prepare many of the side dishes, including macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and mashed potatoes. Set up the slow cooker in another room to save on kitchen counter space while you’re preparing the rest of the meal.
Consider serving store-bought dishes
There’s no rule that says if you have people over for a holiday dinner, all the food must be made from scratch in the host’s kitchen. If you’re short on time or talent, consider buying precooked foods from a local caterer or grocery store, many of which offer complete holiday dinner menus.
Be ready with the necessary equipment
If you’re cooking anything on the day of the holiday, assemble everything you need in one place beforehand so you’re not scrambling later. “Let’s say you’re going to make gravy,” says Gindin. “Put all the things you’ll need on the counter while the roast is resting—a bowl for pan drippings, a measuring cup for the flour, a wire whisk, even the gravy boat.”
Write out a production schedule
Work backward and figure out when each food needs to be ready, says Gindin. It will prevent a bottleneck in the oven a half hour before serving dinner.
Have a sense of humor
If something goes wrong—the mashed potatoes have the consistency of glue—the best thing to do is laugh it off. No one’s holiday dinner will be ruined by the mishap, including yours.