How to Create a Thanksgiving Shopping List and Not Forget Anything

Heather says:

Here we are, two weeks out from Thanksgiving and it’s time to get serious about making sure we’re ready for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Today it’s time to make your Thanksgiving Day Dinner shopping list and because I firmly believe that with rare exception, businesses should be closed on the holiday. Let’s try really hard to not have any reason to run out for one last thing.

Making the list today will hopefully give you time to take advantage of some sales and spread the cost over at least two grocery runs.  In many households this makes the expense a little easier to absorb. Unless you’re paid monthly and then well, it won’t help at all, I’m sorry.

First grab your Thanksgiving Day Menu and all of the recipes, even if you think you know them by heart.

How to create your Thanksgiving Shopping list

Next open up a spreadsheet in Excel, Google Drive, or Open Office -have you ever tried Open Office? It’s free and compatible with Microsoft products, so you don’t have to shell out mega bucks for their proprietary software. There’s nothing for me to disclose, I simply love the tool. If you don’t want to install Open Office.

Once you have your spreadsheet open, list your recipes across the top, one per column. Under each recipe list the ingredients. If a recipe calls for apples, list the number after the ingredient apple x 3 or chicken stock x 2 qt. This won’t take up the whole spread sheet.  This creates mini-shopping lists for each recipe.

Next take a good look at your guest list for a rough headcount and then pull up this post: How to Estimate How Much to Make for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Now, multiply or divide each of your recipe ingredient amounts as needed for your Thanksgiving Dinner.

On the lower half of the spreadsheet start new columns. I like to divide my list up by grocery store departments: butcher, dairy, dry goods, produce, etc. Cut and paste each item into the appropriate column combining when appropriate ie 2 apples for the dressing  + 14 for the pies = 16 apples.

Save and print your grocery list and don’t forget to shop your pantry before heading to the store. (This just means crossing off the items you have on hand). Don’t forget, if you rarely bake to test your baking powder to be sure it is still effective.

Check your spices, too.

Oh and if you have a lot of company coming to stay, don’t forget extra toilet paper. Yes, it’s important, you’ll thank me later.

Remember, it’s still too early to buy your produce, save that for Thanksgiving week.

Just for fun, what recipe are you most looking forward to this year?

Serving Dishes and Large, Company Meals -Countdown to Turkey Day 2014

Heather says:
I hope you had a great weekend. (I did, we took a mini-vacation and I feel rested and truly happy, even after painting the living room yesterday -pictures at the bottom of the post to not annoy people who don’t care.)


The holiday craziness kicks off in two weeks. I’ve noticed that many schools are out for the entire week of Thanksgiving this year. When did that start?

So far in our Countdown to Turkey Day we have:

  • Decided when and where
  • Located the dining room table and extension(s)
  • Reserved chairs and place settings, if necessary
  • Invited our guests -begin confirming and getting a head count
  • Created our Soft Thanksgiving Menu Plan
  • Begun working on getting the house company ready by paying attention to daily / weekly chores

Today, depending on how your house and kitchen are organized may be simple or quite the dive into storage.

Grab your Thanksgiving menu plan and at the very least your mental inventory of serving-ware. If you have moved, held a yard sale, or gone on a donating / purging binge, I do recommend that you lay eyes on each piece you plan to use.

Next to each menu item assign a serving dish AND the appropriate serving utensil.

Do not forget your cranberry sauce, gravy, butter, and if you put out crudites or antipasti before the meal, don’t forget those items need a dish, too.

If you find yourself short on serving-ware – begin looking.

If you have lots of storage in your home, check out your local thrift stores for cookware; you still have a little bit of time to find a bargain. If storage is at a premium, go ahead and use disposable/ recyclable roasting pans. Just be careful with this option if you are sitting at a table and passing dishes rather than serving from a buffet. You really don’t want Grandma to end up with a lap full of cornbread dressing.

Got it? One dish for each item + one serving utensil.

See, we’re getting there with this year’s Thanksgiving preparation. How are your plans coming along?

How did the room turn out? Pretty well. I still need to swap out the ceiling fan, the last person to live here was a smoker and the nicotine stains look terrible. I also need to paint the door. Someone had a dog that clawed up that paint, so the afters are rather cropped.. The flooring will all be done at once, in the beginning of next year… after I have finished all of the walls and baseboards in the house.

I don’t have a shot of the same angle… but you get the idea of how rough it was when we first started working on this place.






November 6, Finalize the Guest List

Heather says:

Remember November 1 when I told you to sit down and write down your tentative guest list? Have you officially invited your guests? Well, it’s time to do so. Emily Post’s guideline of two weeks’ notice is coming up, plan on getting the word out before Thursday.

I want you to remember that the reason for etiquette is to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. (Sometimes this means only lessening the amount of discomfort, some situations are rough!) If there is someone you know that has no clue that you plan on inviting them to your Thanksgiving dinner, don’t invite them in a manner that creates pressure to please you. They may be extremely shy, they may have prior obligations, they may just be in a foul mood. Whatever the reason, don’t add guilt to that mix. Invite via email or a handwritten note, if at all possible. This helps eliminate any pressure to say yes to your face, when they really want to say no for whatever reason. This no-pressure means of inviting your guest will help prevent any uncomfortable situations, not all, unfortunately.

Yes, it’s nice when people step out of their comfort zones and try new things, but as an introvert, sometimes there are days where, even though I know it would be good for me, I just can’t face strangers and have to be “on.”

Whatever your method, make your invitations and keep a list of your confirmations and their allergies, if necessary.

The guest count is only an estimate.

Life happens.

Sometimes it is the flu and sometimes it’s just someone being inconsiderate, but no shows will happen. And sometimes people call at the last minute to see if they can bring their cousin who has two kids and just happens to be in town (even though they knew they were coming three months ago).

Things happen, being ready for them ensures bumps in the road don’t turn into disasters.

We will pick back up with the Countdown to Turkey Day on Monday morning. I’m heading out on a quick little getaway and I’m really excited. The move has been an adventure, but everything is settled. The house I was renting has a new tenant *whew*, the one I’m living in is coming along, and now it’s time for a short break from work and responsibility to recharge. (See, I’m learning to be less of a work-a-holic, but it’s a process.)


Let’s Practice – Countdown to Turkey Day 2014

Heather says

Today is pretty short and sweet, you have two goals:

1. Take your soft menu plan from Monday and go over it. Are there any recipes you haven’t tested? Is there a cooking technique in one that you haven’t tried? Have ever even roasted a chicken?

If the answer is yes to any of these, pick a day this week or weekend and practice. Don’t stress yourself out on Thanksgiving itself. You have enough to think about without worrying if a recipe will come out well or not.

If you’ve never mashed potatoes before, serve that as a side on Sunday.

If you’ve just moved, not naming any names Heather, and you don’t know your oven very well, do the toast test and get used to it. (I learned this from Nathalie Dupree and it makes a lot of sense. You buy a cheap loaf of white bread and arrange the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350 and place the baking sheet on the center rack. Then observe the bread as it toasts. What zone gets brown first? Which areas take the longest to toast? These clues let you get to know your oven’s hot and cool spots. Take a picture of the toast to help you remember and tape it to the inside of a cabinet door near your oven in for a reference the next time you bake something.

If you’re trying a gluten-free version of something you’ve only ever made with wheat flour, please give it a trial run.

2. Throw away, recycle, or donate three – five things that are just taking up space in your house. (And if it’s a set it only counts as one, no cheating.) Why? You’re going to have guests and the holidays are coming, you’ll appreciate the extra space.

While I’m thinking of it, how is that dining room table looking? Is it still clear from Sunday? No? Fix it.

Are you getting excited for Thanksgiving 2014?


Plan Your Thanksgiving Menu

Heather says

Countdown to Turkey Day 2014Today is pretty simple, it’s another pen and paper exercise. We’re going to create the soft menu plan for our Thanksgiving dinner. Why do I suggest this method instead of getting everything set in stone right away? This allows time to go over the menu a couple of times and really think about it.

Here is my Thanksgiving Menu Plan printable (don’t laugh it has the old site design, but it still works).  The menu plan printable has three columns, one for your ideal menu, another for your guests’ ideal, and finally we have the great compromise.


If it’s going to make too many people angry that there isn’t any green bean casserole, will it really hurt you to provide green bean casserole?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes holiday meals tend to feel like a potluck? This tends to happen when recipes are chosen at random. Meat? Check. Vegetable? Check. Starch? Check. The seasonings in one dish may not complement the flavors of another which leads to the potluck effect.

Back in 2012, when I last did the great Turkey Day photo shoot, I had an Italian theme:

In this example, the turkey has a fairly neutral seasoning, the shallot and rosemary gravy is where we start to get interesting. The rosemary in the gravy is also in the potatoes and butternut squash. The savory nature of the meal shows in the risotto, the stuffed mushrooms, and in the earthy flavor of roasted Brussels sprouts.

Typical Thanksgiving here

The usual Thanksgiving menu around here has a Lowcountry / Cajun theme with the Andouille sausage in the cornbread dressing showing up again in the collard greens. The cranberries in the cranberry sauce show up as dried cranberries in the broccoli salad and again in the apple and sage dressing.

This year, I’ll be adding a gluten-free hashbrown casserole.

Here is a post with some resources for vegetarians.

If you are only serving a few people, consider reducing the number of side you create. I recently posted a recipe for sweet potato risotto with bacon and blue cheese. If you substitute parmesan for the blue cheese, you’ve got a great dish that presents a lot of the flavors we typically associate with Thanksgiving dinner without the work of several side dishes.

If you are having guests bring sides, talk to them about the recipes. Not in a micro-manager I have to control everything way, but rather to discover what the main flavors will be. When you know what people are bringing you can adjust the recipes you choose to ensure there is a flow of flavor throughout the meal.

What will you be serving for Thanksgiving 2014?