Listener ?: Meal planning
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Preparing a large holiday meal can be overwhelming and taxing!  The key to a smooth running and relaxing time is to have a plan of action.  Yes, a list. A list is the key to making sure all of the cleaning, shopping, prep work, cooking, etc. is done is such a way that you donít have to back track, re-do, forget or visit the grocery more times than necessary. In other words, how can I go to my own meal and not be frazzled and exhausted?!


The first thing I do is create a series of lists that encompass the entire meal.  They include when I plan on cleaning, the guest list, the menu, the ingredients I need and a time line for the entire week before and  the day of  the meal.


The following is a basic guideline to organizing the meal for Thanksgiving, whether you are cooking for a few or a large gathering.  Remember, it is never too early to create your list(s).  This ensures that all is ready and available without any last minute surprises.


  1. Create the menu: include information about the service ware needed (i.e. Turkey- platter and serving fork, gravy- gravy boat and ladle/pitcher, etc.), who is bringing what part of the meal and what table ware is needed to eat and drink the foods and beverages.   Donít forget the butter and salt and pepper


  1. If you are sharing the cooking responsibilities with others, assign their dishes as early as possible.  Make sure it is known whether they need to bring serving utensils along with them (no last minute searching for service ware or platters)


  1. Review all recipes (can be done this week) and create a detailed shopping list, including any plates, cups, decorations, etc. and when they need to be purchased.


  1. Shop early for the items that you can prepare ahead of time and then prepare them (i.e. cube bread for stuffing and freeze, make pies or at least the dough and freeze, cookie dough can be made ahead of time and frozen, etc.) 


  1. Due to stores being more crowded during the holidays, arrange time for shopping a couple of days ahead of time.  Then the few last minute items you may need to pick up will only take a few minutes.  I really work hard at avoiding stores close to the holidays- such a time sink.


  1. Make a couple of meals in advance, label and freeze.  Thaw in the Ďfrig, heat and serve for a quick meal during the busiest preparation times before the holiday.  I keep a container of homemade soup, lasagna, pulled chicken and cooked ground beef in the freezer for times such as these.


  1. Tables, chairs, plates, cups, etc. can be set up days before the event. I like to keep the day of the feast focused strictly on cooking, cleaning up behind me as I go and taking time to change and refresh myself before my guests arrive.


  1. Plan on finishing the cooking Ĺ hour before the meal is to be served.  I use this buffer in my mind to allow me the extra time I may need for the last minute details to be ironed out, such as finishing the gravy, welcoming family and friends, etc.


  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.  Kids as young as 6 can peel potatoes and load the dishwasher.  It has been proven that children that help in the kitchen eat a wider variety of foods.  So, it is a win, win situation.  There is extra help in the kitchen, they arenít running under foot and they may be willing to try different foods.


  1. Keep a sink full of clean sudsy water available at all times.  It makes it easier to wash hands and guests are more apt to pitch in and clean dishes.



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