Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, is just a week away and I thought that I'd share my menu and strategy for making the meal. I feel like I won't really have anything new to say, but being a home cook, I feel like the way I give my advice might be a bit more relatable than say, a Food Network Star might give his or her advice. Eh, I don't know. Whatever! I'm sharing so if you want to read on, you can. It's a free country, you know.
So when I plan a big meal like this ("this" meaning it's quite literally a feast where I use up all of my large platters for dozens of dishes, we all stuff ourselves until the buttons pop off our pants, and I anticipate enjoying the leftovers for a week afterwards) I like to have a game plan. I like to write down all of my ideas for dishes, making sure I include a few different carb dishes, a variety of vegetables, and one or two desserts. I probably go through two or three iterations, cutting dishes that seem redundant, scrapping ideas that seem too ambitious, etc.

Once I have a final menu planned out, I compile a grocery list. I go through each dish, making sure the grocery list is as comprehensive as possible. Nothing is more annoying than realizing you left something off the list and you have to go back to the store on Thursday morning. That just sucks. So after I have my list, I organize the items by category (dairy, meat, produce, etc.) so that it's easier once I actually go shopping. I will be doing all of my shopping this weekend.
We usually grab the turkey about two weeks before Thanksgiving, just because we specifically look for a smaller sized one. Our Thanksgiving dinners usually consist of six diners so we don't need a fat toddler-sized bird. Plus, smaller turkeys taste better to me. They cook up faster and retain more moisture.

Since the morning of Thanksgiving can be really hectic, I like to make a few things in advance, things that taste just as good when made ahead of time like cranberry sauce and pie. This year, I had a plethora of vacation days left at work so I actually took the few days before the holiday off. So, I'll probably be working on the desserts on Tuesday. And Wednesday morning, I'll brine the bird. On Wednesday evening, I'll do a lot of prep work, like toasting bread for the stuffing, chopping up vegetables, grating cheese, mincing garlic, prepping the serving dishes, etc.
Here's a quick recap:
2 weeks ahead: plan menu and buy turkey
1 week ahead: write out grocery list
weekend before: go grocery shopping
Monday and Tuesday before: make cranberry sauce and dessert
Wednesday: brine the turkey and do a bit of prep work
Thursday: the big day! Roast the turkey and make all of the yummy side dishes. Eat.
I can't wait. Plus, once the meal is over, we can decorate for Christmas. I love this season. By the way, if you want to see a DIY Thanksgiving bunting, head over to my travels blog.


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