We tried. Really, we did. But Team Green Bean Casserole is fierce.
No matter how many recipes for tasty twists on turkey (sorry, Country Living) or new ways with mashed potatoes (I know, Better Homes and Gardens) arrive in my mailbox each fall, these attempts to shake up our family’s predictable — but loved — Thanksgiving menu are no match for the passion cranberries from a can inspire.
I have hosted Thanksgiving for several years, and being the organization freak that I am, early on I concocted a holiday planner to prep and manage (both the meal and my sanity).
- Guest list. Even with an open-door policy, it helps to know who’s coming so you can plan for food preferences, sleeping arrangements and activities accordingly.
- Grocery list. Since we (ahem) make the same dishes each year, I have a master grocery list just for those ingredients, plus anything additional we need to feed houseguests for the weekend (sandwich fixings, snacks, cereal, etc.). Then all you need to do is a quick once-over to cross off items you already have and you’re out the door to the store.
- Shopping list. Everything non-food related that needs to be ordered, picked up or purchased before the big day. That knife you broke last year? Those guest bed sheets that ripped in the wash? Don’t forget to replace them ahead of time.
- Notes. I keep a running list of things I want to remember from year to year: the oven runs cold, 20 lbs. of mashed potatoes is WAY too much and you’ll be eating them for a month, cousin Vinny is allergic to soy sauce, etc.
- Recipes. Although I have a set system for storing recipes (shocking, I know), for Thanksgiving, I pulled all of the recipes used for the holiday into one Microsoft Word document, ordering them based on when to start preparing each one. For example: The pies are first, since I bake those the night before, and so on. Then, just print it out and you have all your instructions in one place.
- Schedule. My mother has a magical quality whereby anytime she prepares a meal, every single item is ready and perfect at the exact same moment and at the precise time she predicted we’d sit down to eat. The magic dust ran out before it got to me. So, I sat down with each of our Thanksgiving recipes and — gasp — forced myself to do some math and figure out when things need to go in the oven, be put on the stovetop, start being chopped, etc. I also factored in getting myself ready and dressed, when to set the table, etc.
- To-Do List. There are lots of odds and ends that come with hosting a big meal, especially when it involves hosting houseguests. This checklist helps me plan accordingly and not forget anything (or kill myself doing it at the last minute). With a preschooler in the house, I have even less time to plan ahead than I used to, so this is a lifesaver. I modify this list year-to-year and then transfer all my to-do’s into my Things app so I always have it with me.
Happy turkey day planning! We’ll be rocking the sweet potatoes with marshmallows instead of Ecuadorian yams with an herbes-de-Provence glaze — and that’s just fine by me.