Save the Day With These Last-Minute Thanksgiving Tips

November 23, 2016

Unless you’ve been in a turkey coma since last year, you’re probably well aware that Thanksgiving is upon us. For the Martha Stewarts among us, most of the work is likely done. The turkey is brining, sides are pre-made, and the oven will be humming early tomorrow morning while the focus turns to dessert. No last minute Thanksgiving for these go-getters.

And then there’s everyone else. While most have likely done some work, Procrastination Nation is gearing up for a challenge.

If you’ve left everything to the last second, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is your last-minute Thanksgiving will actually be cheaper than it would have been 30 years ago. This report from the American Farm Bureau claims the cost of the annual meal is higher than ever, but it doesn’t take inflation into account, so the $28.74 price tag for a T-day dinner in 1986 would actually be $63.39 in 2016 dollars (compared to about $50 today).

Now for the bad news: having left everything at the last second, it’s going to take everything you’ve got to make sure the meal is a success. Adding to the pressure? Trying to stay under budget. Is the likelihood of success probable? Perhaps not. Possible? Definitely. Here are some last minute Thanksgiving tips to make sure your mad dash of a meal goes as smoothly as possible.

Make a plan (better late than never).
First of all, get up early and take an inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. You may even see some things you meant to use last Thanksgiving (canned pumpkin anyone?) Now that you know what you’ve got, start making a list. Once you’ve got a list, you may want to consider ordering groceries on the web. Safeway has a promotion going where you can get $5 off, plus free delivery for your first order. If you order by 8:30am, they promise same-day delivery.

Make sure you use your creativity. If you bought some pie crusts in October with the idea of making a fresh berry pie but decided to freeze them instead, those crusts will still be good for Thanksgiving—just remember to check the process on how to defrost them. Do you have blueberries you were planning on using for a smoothie? They’d be great for a delicious blueberry cobbler.

Leftovers. You’ll need them.
Start thinking about the day after. We all know turkey, cranberry, sweet potato sandwiches the day after are as important as the big meal itself, so make sure you cook large enough portions to have leftovers.

Dump the turkey.
Yes, this might be shocking to your guests, but the laws of physics are working against you here. A frozen turkey takes 3-4 days to thaw, and about 12 hours to brine (you need to brine your turkey if you want it to be anything other than a dry, inedible mess). Protein alternatives include pork or beef roasts, ham, or even a couple fresh chickens if you can’t say no to poultry (brine is still your friend here).

Don’t forget the hardware.
In the scramble for getting food, it’s easy to forget there are a number of smaller items that go into cooking the perfect meal. You’re already behind, so don’t forget to put these items on your online order list, or, better yet, enlist one of your guests to brave the store so you can focus on throwing together dinner. If they’re headed to a discount retailer like Target or Wal-Mart, make sure they know store brands are the way to go for things like aluminum foil.

Outsource the booze.
You’re already barely keeping it together, so don’t try to go to the liquor store in the middle of haphazardly juggling your menu. When you send your intrepid guest out to get the items above, make sure they’re over 21 years old so they can get some Ocktoberfest brews and the Beaujolais. The best part? You can always pay them in… that’s right, booze.

Okay. Breathe. You can do this! And if it doesn’t end up being successful, there’s always wine. And a promise to yourself not to procrastinate next year.

Want to share your story about a time when you rose to the occasion (or came crashing down to Earth)? Leave it in the comments!