Thanksgiving Meal Menu: Meal Ideas to Make Ahead of Time

A traditional thanksgiving dinner takes a lot of work and a lot of time to prepare. Some dishes simply must be prepared the day of the feast; nobody wants reheated turkey for Thanksgiving. Other dishes, however, are well suited to early preparation. Once your menu is finalized, plan which items you will make ahead of time and work out a schedule to optimize your time in the kitchen.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning: Bread Rolls

Dinner rolls and other breads are easy to freeze ahead of time. Freeze fully-baked rolls and let them defrost the day before Thanksgiving, or freeze unbaked rolls and bake them just before dinner, while you’re letting the turkey rest before carving. You can purchase frozen rolls that are ready to defrost and bake if you don’t have time to make them from scratch.

If you make your bread rolls close to Thanksgiving Day, there is no need to freeze them. They will still taste fresh and soft for the holiday as long as they are properly stored; keep them at room temperature in an airtight container or sealed bag. Plan to supply enough rolls for each guest to have two with dinner, plus extras for leftover turkey sandwiches.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning: Pies

Making your pies ahead of time will leave your oven free for the turkey or for last-minute baked dishes. Many one-crust pies such as lemon meringue and custard pies require that you bake the pie shell ahead of time, then fill the cooled shell with filling. You can bake the shells several days before Thanksgiving and refrigerate them, adding the filling at the last minute to avoid a soggy crust. Pumpkin pies are the exception, requiring baking after they are filled.

Fruit pies and other two-crust pies are more time consuming and are often served warm. They will keep well if made before hand, but will require reheating before serving. Warm them in the oven during dinner and they’ll be ready just in time for dessert.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning: Vegetables

A cold vegetable platter makes a perfect starter, giving guests something nutritious to munch on while they visit and wait for the Thanksgiving feast. You can purchase a pre-made platter at most delis and grocery stores to save time and effort. If you are making your own veggie plate, customize it to the tastes of your guests. If carrots are always the first thing to disappear, and nobody ever touches the celery, then double the carrots and leave off the celery. This is a luxury you won’t have with a store-bought platter.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning: Save the Easiest for Last

Many side dishes are easy to prepare the day of the festivities. Leave those for the last minute and take care of the labor-intensive projects in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Sit down to Thanksgiving dinner feeling relaxed and thankful, ready to enjoy the guests gathered around your bountiful table.

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