Thanksgiving Planner for Busy Moms: Prepare Holiday Food Ahead of Time While Keeping Kids Busy

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but there’s no need to panic. Begin the food preparation a few days beforehand for a perfectly satisfying holiday feast. Start by creating a menu in advance and choose recipes that can be frozen or refrigerated for a few days before serving. Meanwhile, children can be kept occupied with activities that will enhance the holiday efforts.

Shop for Nonperishable Items Early

Grocery stores are hectic during Thanksgiving week, so pick up all nonperishable items the week before. Things like canned/frozen and baking goods, potatoes, onions, squash, pumpkins, drinks, and paper products can all be purchased early.

The Cook’s Daily Time Table

  • Sunday or earlier – Make any breads or baked goods and freeze.
  • Monday – Clear out the refrigerator.
  • Tuesday – Make cranberry sauce and stuffing and refrigerate.
  • Wednesday – Make side dishes such as squash or green beans. Any vegetables for salad or appetizer platters can be chopped and bagged. Frozen items can be defrosted overnight.
  • Thanksgiving – Take out all cold side dishes and let them warm to room temperature for 30 minutes before reheating. Prepare and roast the bird. Heat all side dishes and warm bread.

Turkey Time Saving Tips

Knowing what guests like is important. Save time and money by purchasing a large turkey breast instead of a whole turkey if most prefer white meat. If a large turkey is required however, order it in advance. Alternatively, buy a smaller bird and an extra turkey breast. The breast can be cooked in a crock-pot the day before and served sliced alongside the whole turkey for extra white meat that is juicy and tender.

Buying fresh is a wise idea but a frozen turkey is a good alternative. Be aware though, that it could take up to six days to defrost depending on size. Never defrost a turkey on the counter, or cook one that has not been completely thawed because it will take too long and cause the meat to become dry and tough.

A Note On Appetizers

Appetizers stave off hunger for a good hour or two and are great for kids. Two light appetizers are really all that is necessary for Thanksgiving Day. A vegetable platter is appealing to guests both young and old.

Store Bought Versus Homemade

There are many choices available for pre-made breads, stuffing, pies, and cranberry sauce. Buying these items can save time. Piecrust is indisputably handy. But, there’s nothing like being able to brag about a few great homemade recipes. When cooking ahead there will be time to try some of these, but always have back up cans of gravy, cranberry sauce, and a store-bought pie just in case.

Keep Kids Busy

Try these ideas for keeping the little ones occupied while you’re cooking:

  1. Dusting – Provide a couple of feather dusters and watch them entertain themselves.
  2. Decorating sugar cookies – Set them up at a play table with cookies and some frosting, sprinkles, and assorted candies and let them create.
  3. Outdoor decorating – Give the kids an old pair of sweat pants and jersey and send them outside to make a leaf-stuffed man for the front porch. A pumpkin can be used as a head.
  4. Chopping salad vegetables – For older kids, have them chop cucumbers, peppers, and other soft vegetables with a safety knife.
  5. Making place cards – Let youngsters create some nice place cards or other thoughtful gifts for guests with construction paper, leaves, and whatever else may be on hand.

The key to a great Thanksgiving meal is in the planning. Spread out the cooking over several days and get creative with kids activities. Guests will have a much better time when the host is more relaxed.

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