Holiday Meal Planning

Everyone seems to have at least one holiday meal that will never be forgotten…for the wrong reason. The neck and giblet bag cooked in the bird, forgotten eggs in the pumpkin pies, or our furry four-legged family member being the first to sample the holiday feast. These are just a few of the mishaps that can easily happen. A little planning will help keep things manageable and hopefully avoid any major holiday meal disasters.

Plan Ahead. Are you having a smaller get-together this year? With less to cook, it will be easier on you and your budget to limit the size of your holiday meal. Ask family members what dish they are most looking forward to and eliminate those that no one will miss. Make your list and shop ahead for the items that will keep. Follow instructions for defrosting the turkey and allow enough time and space in the refrigerator to do so.

Make Ahead. Preparing several last-minute side dishes can leave anyone feeling stressed. Fortunately, many can be made ahead of time. Mashed potatoes can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and reheated in the microwave. Add a little broth or milk, if needed. Gravy can be made ahead using rotisserie chicken: make a stock using the wings and carcasses, onions, carrots and celery, then freeze. One or two days before Turkey Day, make gravy with the stock, flour and oil. Reheat on the day of and add some of the cooked turkey drippings for extra flavor.

Simplify with Shortcuts. Making pies can be complicated and time-consuming. Before starting your recipe, be sure to read it all the way through and have all the ingredients in place. Dry ingredients can be measured out ahead of time and kept in a plastic storage bag until ready to use. To save more time, use a ready-made crust, or try pumpkin bars or an apple crisp instead.

While we may not have control over some holiday meal disasters – power outages, anyone? – we can try to prevent some common mishaps by keeping plans simple and finishing some tasks ahead of time. We will feel less stressed, less likely to make mistakes, and be able to fully enjoy our day with loved ones.


  • Cook’s Country, Oct/Nov 2020, page 3, Kitchen Shortcuts, Make Ahead Gravy Tip
  • Cook’s Illustrated, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, page 384, Make-Ahead Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

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