I have relatives coming for Thanksgiving and since some are staying for a few days, I have plans for 3 full days of large meals. With that in mind, I’m preparing ahead of time so I don’t spend all 3 days in the kitchen.
Here’s what’s in the freezer so far:
- Peach pie
- Blueberry pie
- Pecan pie
- Roasted butternut squash
- Corn casserole
- The turkey … it’s a whopper, 28 pounds
- Quart sized container of chopped fresh herbs for turkey
- Sweet potato casserole
- Frozen berries for pancake breakfast
- Frozen bananas for milkshakes
- Cooked ham, 11 pounds
- Roasted sweet carrots
Here’s the menu so far:
- Fruit and yogurt breakfast, juice and toast
- Sandwich and soup lunch – choice of BLT or grilled cheese, with either tomato soup or baked beans
- Roast beef dinner, roasted carrots, corn casserole, cornbread and rolls
- Dessert – cheesecake and pies with ice cream
- Bacon and eggs breakfast, juice and toast
- No lunch – I have a table full of munchies all day. Cheese and crackers, chips and dips, deli meats, cut fruit and vegetables, although any of these can be made into sandwiches if needed.
- Turkey dinner – with dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls and butter
- Dessert – pies, apple cobbler, cherry cobbler, ice cream
- Blueberry and raspberry pancake breakfast, bacon, juice
- Leftovers sandwiches for lunch with chips
- Ham dinner with macaroni and cheese, twice baked cheese potatoes, roasted root vegetables
- Dessert – chocolate banana milkshakes and leftover pies
Here’s what I suggest you buy now and prepare ahead of time:
- Turkey is 59 cents a pound at Publix. If you have a freezer, buy more than one. A 12 pound turkey will yield nearly a gallon of white meat, half a gallon of dark meat, a quart of drippings for other recipes, and a lot of bones and scrap meat that can be slow cooked for broth. You’ll get at least 20 or more servings for about $7. If you have room in your freezer, buy extra and use them for sandwiches, soups, stews, pot pies, and other meals for the next few months.
- Same with ham. It’s $1.89 a pound at Publix, fully cooked. Sliced in the deli is at least $8 a pound. I can slice my own ham and get 7 pounds for less than $14, divide it into one-pound bags, and freeze them. Then pull them out as I need them throughout the year. I can make about five sandwiches per pound plus have some extra for chef’s salads, so I’ll have somewhere between 40 and 50 servings for that $14.
- Carrots are BOGO for a pound at Bi-Lo. As far as I know, that sale ends Wednesday. I use carrots all the time in soups, stews, vegetable dishes, or just seasoned and as a side dish, so I bought seven pounds, cut and stored in freezer bags, and will probably buy more before the sale is over. Carrots keep a long time in the fridge and if I thought I wasn’t going to use them up quickly enough, I’d prep and freeze them.
- I missed a great price on potatoes last week at Publix. Not that they are really expensive anyway, but I will look for the best price over the next week and get lots of potatoes. I need them for a few holiday meals and they do freeze well when cooked.
What’s next to make ahead of time?
- I roasted a small turkey that I bought from Publix, separated the meat, and drained the rendered fat and drippings. I’ll make gravy and stuffing next from it. I buy day-old bread that’s either marked down at Bi-Lo or sold at the discount bakery, add onion and garlic and celery, then drench it with drippings that are infused with the herbs. Stuffing freezes well.
- Mashed potatoes as soon as I figure out the best price.
- Macaroni and cheese will also freeze well.
- Apple and cherry cobblers. I’m debating making the cherry cobbler a cherry-vanilla with vanilla pudding. The apple might either be a cobbler or a deep dish pie. I haven’t exactly decided.
- Pumpkin pie. This one is a big hit, so I’m making more than one.
- I can also buy the ice cream ahead of time. And the whipped cream.
- Pancakes also freeze well.
- The ham is fully cooked already, and just gets heated the day of serving.
- I also haven’t exactly decided if the roast beef night would maybe be steaks. When it gets closer to the day of, I’ll see where I have the best price. I have some nice steaks frozen already, but since I’m still not sure how many people will be showing up, it might be a roast.
- Homemade tomato soup and baked beans.
Things that can be made ahead of time, but only refrigerated:
- Dips, such as sour cream or cream cheese ones. I have some that I can assemble ahead of time but that are served warm so they won’t actually be made until the day of, like a hot melted cheese dip, an artichoke and spinach dip, and a smoked salmon dip.
- Homemade bread, rolls, and cornbread.
- Cut cheese, fruit and vegetables.
Things that can only be made the day of:
- Bacon. I could make that ahead of time, but I don’t want to. There’s nothing like filling the house with the aroma of fresh cooked bacon.
- Grilled sandwiches like BLTs and grilled cheese.
- Of course, the roasted turkey. You can make it ahead of time, but why?
Stuff you just buy because it’s too much trouble to make from scratch:
- Crackers, chips, tortilla chips
- Cranberry sauce (I’ve made my own … but since it’s used as a condiment and not a dish, who cares?)
- Croissants and sandwich bread
- Juices and jellies
Funny thing is, I actually don’t even know how many people will really be here for dinner and for how long. So, I’m planning on the maximum number every day. I guess that means that whoever is here will likely have to take home leftovers.