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Thanksgiving Shortcuts and Time Savers

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

pumpkin pieContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

You start out with the best of intentions. You’ve gathered an entire board of Pinterest posts showing adorable Thanksgiving table decorations, mouthwatering recipes and gorgeous accessories to make for your front door, side table and fireplace mantle.

But the months of get-ready time you had have now dwindled down to a few weeks, and you’re starting to seriously look at those “Thanksgiving Get-Away” ads from the airlines. Don’t panic! You can have a beautiful, delicious holiday without pulling a month’s worth of all nighters — or fleeing across state lines.

Here are ten simple Thanksgiving shortcuts that won’t cut into your already-busy schedule or your dreams of making the gathering memorable.

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10. Let someone else cook the turkey

NEW BRAUNFELS SMOKEHOUSE turkey

I get it. For you, turkey absolutely, positively has to be the star of the show on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean you have to shop for it, clean it out, wash it, season it, or get up at dawn to get it into the oven. A smoked turkey will give you that gorgeous ooo-and-ahh reaction, without all the work.

You can order a fully cooked, smoked turkey big enough to feed a crowd. All you have to do is warm it!

9. Use nature’s bounty instead of time-consuming crafts

Cornucopia with produce

Pinterest is a crafter-lovers best friend — and worst enemy. We get to see so many wonderful ideas, but we also get overwhelmed with projects we want to do, need to do, absolute have to do!

If you’re looking for Thanksgiving shortcuts, cutting down on the Pinterest and craft magazine holiday projects might be a good place to start.

Sure that handmade turkey centerpiece is adorable. But it also takes a good three days to make! Make it easier on yourself by decorating with nature instead. A pretty bowl or basket filled with fresh fruit or colorful gourds is every bit as beautiful as a complex craft. Placecards created by writing names on tiny pumpkins looks adorable, and not a single guest will miss the individually crafted Pilgrims and Native Americans you pinned last summer.

8. Make a master shopping list

grocery shopping list

Instead of making a dozen shopping lists for each trip to the grocery store, farmer’s market or craft store, sit down with all of your recipes and projects and make one master list. Then use two colors of highlighters to mark everything as “buy in advance” or “buy now.”

Save your list on your computer or phone, but also print out a couple of paper copies. Keep one posted in your kitchen, put the other in your purse, and make off what you buy on both. That way you (and your family) will never have to wonder what you still need or already bought. Trust me, this will save you countless trips to the store for “one more thing.” It’s also a great way to see if your plans are a bit too much for your budget, kitchen space or guest list, so you can make changes before you start shopping.

7. Delegate

people cooking

Yes, I know most of us want to do it ALL ourselves when it comes to Thanksgiving, but it’s time to let that control go! Not only do you need to let other people help with the cooking and the table setting, you need to ask for it. Let Uncle Bob make the mashed potatoes. Ask your best friend to move the vegetables from the pots to the serving dishes. Have cousin Pat check on the rolls and take them out of the oven when they’re done. The more people helping, the faster the work can get done and dinner can be served.

6. Opt for semi-homemade

mashed potatoes and gravy

This one is the hardest for me, but I’ve had to adjust to save my sanity. Here it goes: NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE HOMEMADE. I know, painful, right? Especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. But it’s an amazing sense of freedom too.

It doesn’t mean you need to open cans and boxes to heat and serve (although that’s okay, too.) Semi-homemade is about using something like stuffing mix, then adding some fresh vegetables, extra sage or fresh broth. Or grating orange peel into premade cranberry sauce. Mixing store-bought gravy with some fresh drippings. It works, and no one will care when the plates are full!

5. Prep in advance

Zipper bags of ingredients for cooking

A couple of days before Thanksgiving, grab a big box of zipper bags, and all of the vegetables. Peel, cut or chop everything you can do in advance, and put them into zipper bags pre-measured and labeled for each recipe. Stack them flat in the fridge. That way all you have to do on Thanksgiving is pull the bags out and start assembling dishes. You can even measure out the herbs and spices for each recipe and have those ready in small labeled bags.

3. Use an oil-less turkey fryer

CHARBROIL oil less turkey fryer

If you decide that you really must cook a turkey for it to feel like Thanksgiving, there is still another option that will save you time, let you sleep in, and free up your oven for other dishes. You can fry your turkey…and you can do it with only one tablespoon of oil. Really! I watched my neighbor cook a 16 pound bird in just about two and half hours. Amazing.

Here’s the scoop. Up until recently, turkey fryers required gallons of oil. It was messy, expensive, not-so-healthy and a fire hazard, too. Thankfully, a new generation of oil-less turkey fryers use infrared heat to give you the same quick-cooking and rich flavor, but with only a spoonful of oil mixed with your favorite rub.

3. Let the kids make the table decorations

toilet-paper-roll-turkey

If you want a homemade, crafty touch to your Thanksgiving table, let the kids make the decorations. Sit them down with contruction paper, markers, tiny pumpkins and other craft supplies and let their creativity take control. You show them specific Thanksgiving projects to make, or give them art supplies and see what they make. No, it won’t be perfect. But it will be just right for a holiday based on thankfulness for family and friends.

2. Buy the pie

pecan pie form River Street Sweets

Making a pie is fun. Sometimes. But maybe not so much when you’re also trying to do the rest of your Thanksgiving preparations. Ordering gourmet pies can take one big stress off of your holiday prep. Order them all, or save one or two to make at home.

1. One word: Potluck!

potluck

Where in the rule book of holidays does it say that one person has to make ALL the food for Thanksgiving? Yes, maybe your mom or your grandmother did, but we lead different lives now. What matters isn’t who cooks….it’s who’s around the table. So if a potluck will make it easier to invite people or will let you enjoy the holiday too, then why not invite everyone you want and ask them to bring something to share? All those faces around the table will just be one more thing to be thankful for.

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Thanksgiving is supposed to be fun for the host, too. Decide what’s most important to you, then look for ways to make the rest easier.

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