This month our focus naturally turns to food. We think of our favorite dishes like homemade mac-n-cheese, stuffing and of course the desserts! We look forward to that big table set with all these pretty dishes piping hot just waiting for us to dive into them. As anyone who knows that has made a feast like this before there is a lot of work that goes into making it beautiful and tasty.
When you shop for the ingredients and items needed to make this big feast it can easily overtake your shopping list. Here we are planning a beautiful meal for those we love and keeping in mind the ones that are picky eaters, trying to be good and low carbing it, what the kids will want and what everyone expects. There are even some families that are particularly picky about how something is made. As if making all these dishes is just not enough labor as the recipe calls but now we have to also allow for personal twists.
For many of us the actually preparations and cooking starts several days before the actual holiday and long before that are shopping carts full of the supplies needed to pull it all together. Here’s some tricks that I have learned along the way to help:
There is an art to buying all you need for Thanksgiving week and having the place to store it all while you also prepare regular meals and fulfill needs every day leading up to it. I know my kitchen can easily bust at the seams with all that extra food hanging around and I don’t have the budget to just go buy it in one trip either.
As a result, I have found using a meal menu in November and December is a real money saver. I can plan out meals that use up what I have in the pantry now and make leftovers to save on cooking every night. It takes a bit to build it out but I love that suddenly I don’t have to hear “I don’t know” when I ask what everyone wants for dinner! Decision is made and I can walk into the kitchen to make dinner without being stressed over what to pull together that’s quick and everyone will eat. The other advantage of doing this in advance is it gives you a chance to clean out the pantry to start making room for the Thanksgiving week meals. I’ll look up recipes to use what I have in the pantry and start getting a little creative. Consider this pre-training for cooking the big feast!
For me, doing this lets me feel more organized about what needs to be on my list when I go to the store including what to order online and what I want to personally pick out. While I love ordering groceries online these days there are some things I really like picking out myself such as fresh produce, the turkey and other things. Admittedly sometimes it is still cool to actually push a grocery cart too.
If you’re having people over staying with you the week of Thanksgiving having a meal menu also helps here too. You can easily layout what meals to serve including breakfasts and lunches and know exactly how to increase or decrease for extra people that may show up.
I will actually keep two grocery lists this month. One of the regular stuff I need which again I try to keep smaller and use a lot of what I have in the pantry. The other is the list I need for Thanksgiving week or just Thanksgiving dinner.
The earlier I build the details of what I’m going to need for Thanksgiving week the more opportunity I have to shop for deals and find exactly what I want. Kuddos to those that can just walk in a grocery store and get everything in one trip and remember everything without a list. I am not that skilled and I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner for quite a few years.
When it comes to planning for everyone’s favorite dish or those special situations of picky eating I do the best I can and try to offer options. For instance I personally do not like marshmallows and brown sugar on my sweet potatoes but that’s a family dish that someone would complain if we didn’t have so it is accounted for on the shopping list and I make sure there’s other things for those that don’t like it. Our son has decided he wants to be picky lately and like most kids what he likes and dislikes changes on a daily basis. I know I’m simply not going to win that challenge so I make what I know he likes and if he eats great! If he doesn’t then well he’ll get hungry sooner or later and decide if being picky is worth it. The point is you will not be able to accommodate every one about everything that is made all the time or you will go insane! Do your best and don’t stress over it.
As recipes call for spices and herbs, consider going natural! The more pricey things like spices and herbs I have swapped for doTERRA essential oils. Seriously 1 – 2 drops Thyme is incredible and pennies compared to a whole jar of crushed thyme that will sit in your kitchen going stale. There are many opportunities to swap including: Black Pepper, Thyme, Rosemary, Coriander, Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Wild Orange and more! Save that money for your turkey or something special! The added benefit is no one can be allergic to these because they are 100% pure and there are added benefits to each one that are excellent for you. Experiment using them leading up to the holiday week to try it for yourself.
(To order doTERRA oils at a wholesale discount, click here: dragonspitapothecary.com/oils)
There are always dishes to do and counters to wipe. You can spend days cooking that big meal and it will be gone in less than 30 minutes with only a big pile of dishes to show it happened. It can seem the dishwasher is on double duty keeping up with the constant flow of dishes that are being used all this month and next.
There are a couple considerations when you clean your dishes that I want to put on your heart. First, have you ever considered what is in your dishwasher soap? Just because it rinses off in the washer doesn’t mean those things haven’t been absorbed or been left behind on that dish or fork you’re going to be using. Manufacturers put some scary stuff in our regular products! For this reason when you shop and add in those dishwasher tabs to your cart please consider a natural option.
There are a lot of times I make my own because its not only safer ingredients that work well cleaning but it is so cheap to do. Anytime you can cut cost and get a good product out of it that’s worth considering.
Here’s my recipe for dishwasher tablets (or you can leave as a powder): dragonspitapothecary.com/recipes
The other thing to consider about your dishes is when you consider using disposable plates and cutlery. Sometimes it entirely makes sense to do this when you have a large crowd or its a party where people are roaming. I totally get not wanting your good plates at risk for being broken or having to deal with a mountain of dirty dishes too. However, this holiday season let’s consider our waste footprint and cut back where possible on the paper and plastic use. Our planet is overrun with garbage and that isn’t going to be a problem we fix unless we actually start reducing what we use regularly.
We are stressed about so many things during the holidays. Taking the time before the holidays to pause, get organized and be ready can help a great deal in keeping things simple and more manageable.
For more tips, visit our Member’s Forum! This month members are sharing what they love best and how they keep it natural on their terms!