Thanksgiving is the ultimate food event of the entire holiday calendar. It is the perfect time to gather around family and friends and enjoy tons of delicious food, while giving thanks for all our blessings. However, Thanksgiving can also be a time of high stress and little prep time due to the amount of dishes being made and mouths to feed. You can either hire someone to cook the food for you, or you can try to tackle the challenge yourself. Either way, your favorite Knoxville catering company has broken down the steps of planning the best Thanksgiving ever!
Start Planning in Advance
The key to putting any event together flawlessly, is having a game plan set in advance so the day of the event runs simple and smooth. With most of the stores closed on Thanksgiving, you have to be prepared for anything that might go wrong. Here is a list of items that you’ll need to devise a plan of action for before the big turkey day arrives:
- The Invites: Before you do anything, make sure you know how many people you plan on having over for your Thanksgiving meal. This way, you can plan out how many place settings you will need, how much food to make and what drinks to purchase. Consider if you want your holiday to be a small family affair, or a big blowout with friends, neighbors and extended relatives. Also decide what time you’d like your guests to arrive and what time you are planning on eating. If you’re smart, you’ll assign side dishes or desserts for the guests to bring so there is less work for you.
- The Menu: This is the main event that will bring everyone around the table. What’s Thanksgiving without a big turkey? Or ham if you prefer? Your guest of honor for Thanksgiving Day will be the food, no question about it. By planning your menu in advance, you can easily make adjustments for children in attendance and dietary restrictions. Make sure to have all of your recipes printed and ready to be close at hand while you are cooking. Read them before, too, because it’s been a whole year since you’ve last made them. To make things even simpler, create a grocery list of ingredients and be sure to go shopping at least two days before Thanksgiving. Many stores may run out of holiday essentials, like canned pumpkin, French onions and cranberry sauce, so just in case, it may be a good idea to order a turkey and a few other items to ensure you don’t end up without the star of the show!
- The Décor: Decorations for your holiday feast are truly up to you. Some people like a simple look, just sprinkling the table with colorful leaves and lighting candles. Other people may like a more extravagant theme, featuring lawn decorations, pumpkins and a fall cornucopia. Some might think it’s even early enough to have Christmas decorations up. Whatever you decide, be sure to set up the décor well in advance of Thanksgiving Day to get yourself settled in the holiday cheer. Set out place settings for each individual so guests know where seating is available, and so you can do a bit less on the day of!
Day of Preparation
It’s Thursday morning and time to start implementing that plan you came up with. About the time that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is going on, get everything prepared to be cooked, then take some time to enjoy that last bit of peacefulness before the madness ensues. This means doing all of the prep work for your dishes, so they are ready to go on the stove or in the oven at the appropriate times. Be strategic when you cook certain dishes, so that you don’t end up serving some cold. As a guide for time, try to have everything finished by the time your turkey is done cooking and ready to be served! By doing all of the planning earlier in the week, as mentioned above, you only need to focus on getting the meal cooked and enjoying your guests!
Many people take the morning of Thanksgiving to work off as many calories as possible before the big meal. Communities often have turkey trot 5ks and races. These races often tie in the aspect of giving, with proceeds going back to charities and worthy causes.
Speaking of worthy causes, many people choose Thanksgiving as a chance to give back to those who are less fortunate. This holiday allows us to reflect on the blessings we are given, and many feel inclined to help out the homeless within their communities. Churches and community centers will set up soup kitchens with volunteers serving a Thanksgiving meal to those who wouldn’t have one otherwise.
If guests are arriving much earlier to the meal, you may want to put out light appetizers to hold them over. These can be finger foods like a charcuterie board, with mixed meats, cheeses and crackers so your stove is left open for the main course. It may be helpful to set out a beverage station so that your guests can serve themselves. Set out a large basin filled with ice with bottled beverages to ensure that they are served cold.
Finally, turn on one of the many football games and get ready to eat!
During the Meal
Don’t lift a finger… unless you are lifting a little bit more of that delicious food into your mouth! This is what the holiday is all about, right? Wrong. Although the turkey, stuffing and pie have been labored over all day, don’t forget to give thanks for the blessings you have and the people around you. Enjoy your friends, family and the holiday you are able to share together. Take time to catch up with the loved ones you don’t see often and share with everyone what you are most thankful for. Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy those around the table with you and the yummy dishes on the table in front of you. Don’t forget the wishbone! Make sure to dig that lucky bone out of the carcass and let it dry out a few days before making your wish.
- Watching the Shows: Chances are, you may be feeling a bit full after the big meal. Thanksgiving television programming is many people’s favorite part of the day, and it’s the only day of the year that it’s acceptable to spend on the couch. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade happens in the morning and is followed by The National Dog Show. The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins will for sure be playing each other in their classic rivalry. The game this year will kick off at 4:30 p.m., eastern time. Not a sports fan? There are countless movie marathons happening throughout the day, and Christmas movies will begin their rotation on air.
- Clean Up Duty: The worst thing about cooking a big meal is the cleanup. There are dishes to be washed, trash to be thrown out and leftover food to be wrapped up. Although you wouldn’t want to make your guests help, they’ll for sure offer. Extra hands will make the process go by faster and less work to be done.
- Enjoy the Weather: Thanksgiving marks the end of the beautiful fall weather and welcomes in the colder winter months. Enjoy the last of the crisp fall air by getting outside! This may also help with that post-feast stuffed feeling. If you have quite a few children attending your Thanksgiving event, try having a flag football game by drawing team assignments out of a hat. This makes teams fair and ensures no one gets left out! One Southern classic that is always enjoyable is a game of cornhole. If you have multiple cornhole boards, consider starting a tournament. Sometimes, however, the best way to enjoy the weather is to sit on the back porch and just take the nap you’ll want after the big meal!
- Break out the Sweets: Is it time eat again? No meal would be complete without something sweet to seal the deal. You might have to take a few hours break, but the pies and dessert that come after might be just as important as the turkey! One way to make life a bit easier on Thanksgiving is to have each guest bring a different dessert. This way, everyone can have their Thanksgiving favorite and there will be plenty of extra sweets to share! If you’re looking for a boozy dessert, try out an alcoholic root beer float. This is a fun way to take on a children’s classic, only a bit upgraded. You can purchase alcoholic root beer at specialty liquor stores. Don’t forget to buy non-alcoholic root beer for the youngsters in the room, though!
- Deal with the Leftovers: Don’t let your guests go home empty handed! Before everyone heads home, pack up some leftovers of your guests’ favorite dishes. By giving out leftovers, you can avoid waste and food going bad. Plus, your guests can enjoy Thanksgiving for the few days that follow! There are numerous different recipes and ways to get rid of all that extra food. Turkey sandwiches and salads are a popular option, but our favorite is making a turkey noodle soup. You’ll need a pot big enough to let the turkey leftovers soak in. This way all the extra meat falls off the bone and into the soup.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Once everyone has left, go ahead and slip into bed so you can wake up early for Black Friday shopping! The Christmas season has officially begun, so that means there is shopping to be done. Sales on Black Friday often start early in the morning, so be sure and get ready to shop ‘til you drop! If you’ve really got your eye on something big, research the store’s Black Friday sales and see if you can get the item before stock runs out. Not much of a shopper? You should still get to bed early. Why? You may still be recovering from a day of festivities, but the biggest celebrations of all come in December, and you’ll want to be well rested!
With these tips and fun ideas, you are bound to have the best Thanksgiving celebration possible, no stress necessary. Still don’t want to face the hassle of a Thanksgiving feast? We understand. At All Occasion Catering, we’ve got you covered. The caterers at AOC, have years of experience for weddings, corporate events, tailgates and holidays. Yes, that includes Thanksgiving! If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays and want someone else to do the heavy lifting this Thanksgiving, AOC offers multiple holiday menus. All of our menus are customizable, and we even offer bartending services if necessary. To learn more about All Occasion Catering, or to have AOC cook for your next holiday celebration, visit us online.