Ah, Thanksgiving…The unofficial start of the “Holiday Stress Season.” Whether you’re looking forward to the holidays or dreading them, stress can too often spoil the good times of this festive and fun season. Luckily, a little pre-Thanksgiving planning can make all the difference! Here are a few tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a little more organic and sustainable without the holiday hassle!
#1: Go fresh. Choose local. To start your Thanksgiving planning, create a simple harvest menu using what’s fresh in your local area in early to mid-November. Yes, there are some turkey day staples that you won’t want to give up no matter where they’re sourced, but choose as many fresh and local organic ingredients as you can. They’ll taste great, and it’s the perfect reason to check out your neighborhood farmer’s markets before they close for the season. As a bonus, you might be able to source your ingredients for less than supermarket finds.
#2: More prep, less pressure. The key to less stress leading up to the grand carving? Starting early. Shop for all your necessary nonperishables early and since the kids will be out of school, have them participate in cleaning and decorating. Got a dessert you have been tasked to make? Start with piecrusts. Prep each in their own pie pan, wrap tightly, and freeze. Turkey Day faves like cranberry sauce, gravy and pie shells come pre-made if that’s more your style—you can often find organic versions, too. Just stick with pre-made foods in glass jars, since some cans are lined with bisphenol A.
A few days prior to the main event, go shopping for the perishable foodstuffs and start doing the prep work: Scrub, peel, and cut up organic veggies and put them back in the fridge so they’re ready to go. Make pie fillings and put them in the fridge. If you’re looking for some citrus-inspired treats, try making the fillings for our Pumpkin Pie with Citrus Whipped Cream and Grapefruit and Coconut Angel Pie! You can even measure out dry ingredients and seasonings and put them in marked, covered containers so all you have to do is dump and stir at the last minute.
Another prep tip? Set out any necessary supplies, including extra plates and cutlery. Not enough plates? Skip the paper. Look for natural, biodegradable plates and flatware instead.
#3: Pace yourself when cooking. Thankfully, most side dishes taste just as fine made the day before as they do cooked same day. A few even benefit and deliver on flavor more from sitting in the fridge overnight! Once you have your menu set, make a list of which dishes you can cook beforehand. Keep your recipes simple, so you spend less time in the kitchen and more time celebrating with those you love.
#4: Delegate, delegate, delegate. It works at the office, and it works at home, too. Assign guests and family members to take care of specific dishes and tasks. Send out your assignments the week before Thanksgiving, and challenge your family members to use as many organic ingredients as possible in their dishes.
#5: Make room in the fridge. Work on eating up (or composting) as much as possible out of your refrigerator from now till Thanksgiving Day, to allow room for all the ingredients, prepared dishes, and, eventually, leftovers. Turkey sandwiches, anyone?
#6: Procure and/or thaw your turkey. When shopping, plan for about 1.3 pounds of turkey per person at the meal, and look for organic or heritage-breed birds, which are getting easier to find in regular grocery stores. If you can’t find one, check to see if any turkey breeders in your area have birds available for local pickup. And one highly important turkey tip: If your bird is frozen, put it into the fridge to start thawing 4 or 5 days before you plan to eat it. Yes, it really will take that long to thaw!
#7: Roast—and carve—your turkey on Wednesday, not Thursday. Take the stress and worry about getting the turkey cooked on time along with everything else by going ahead and making it a day ahead. Try our Orange Sage Turkey Brine recipe for a delicious marinade of organic ingredients.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 by Jean Nick at the Rodale Institute. It has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.