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I need help planning an *easy* Thanksgiving Dinner


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#1 JessReplanted

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:13 AM

By Thanksgiving, I will be only a couple of weeks away from having a baby.  We are far away from extended family, and we generally do holidays by ourselves, which means that I do all of the cooking. I suggested to my family that maybe we should go out for Thanksgiving this year, but they all want to have Thanksgiving at home.

 

What would you do?

 

Are there ways to make Thanksgiving easy?

 

I usually cook a ham, and maybe turkey breast in the crockpot. I also make mashed potatoes, home made stuffing, corn, rolls, and a couple of pies..

 

The more I think about it, maybe I should just insist that we go out for dinner!



#2 melissamathews

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:15 AM

Ham steaks, mashed potatoes, veggies, frozen rolls and pies :)

#3 plain jane

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:23 AM

Dh cooked our last Thanksgiving dinner all on his on. Didn't get any easier than that for me. ;)

He did a turkey, a ham, mashed potatoes, several kinds of veggies and gravy on his own but skipped rolls. He bought stuffing (gasp, I know, but I couldn't exactly complain when he was doing all the work) and the cranberry sauce. Wasn't as good as homemade, but we survived. ;)

He also bought the pies. :)

I vote buy as much as you can and see if dh is willing to cook the rest?

#4 Julie Smith

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:26 AM

Once long ago I decided to host Thanksgiving. I just went to the grocery store and ordered a thankgiving in a box. They made the turkey, and 3 side dishes (you got to choose from about 5) and 1 dessert. You would pick up the box and then take it home and just heat it up. 

 

You could even get the top of the line box which included serving dishes. 

 

The grocery store would make everything fresh. They took over a few local restaurants the day or two before for the cooking. 



#5 Pawz4me

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:30 AM

Sure you can make it easy.  You can buy entire pre-made Thanksgiving dinners from grocery store delis here.

 

Depending on the weather, we may be at the beach in our RV for Thanksgiving.  If so, I'm thinking I'll get a small Honeybaked ham to take with us, microwaveable mashed potatoes, frozen yeast rolls.  I'll probably make a pumpkin pie ahead of time.  Not sure about veggies yet.



#6 jenangelcat

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:33 AM

Make everything in stages.  This year I made cranberry sauce one day, pies a couple days later and buns the night before.  The day of, I spatchcocked a turkey which cooked in under 2 hours and came out absolutely perfect.  Best turkey I've ever made.  You can make sides ahead of time as well but mashed potatoes and stuffing are fairly easy.  Ask for help if you need it.



#7 Zuzu822

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:37 AM

Once long ago I decided to host Thanksgiving. I just went to the grocery store and ordered a thankgiving in a box. They made the turkey, and 3 side dishes (you got to choose from about 5) and 1 dessert. You would pick up the box and then take it home and just heat it up. 

 

You could even get the top of the line box which included serving dishes. 

 

The grocery store would make everything fresh. They took over a few local restaurants the day or two before for the cooking. 

 

I was going to suggest this as well, or making a turkey breast in the slow-cooker rather an entire bird (which I see you aready do). My other thought is to buy boneless, skinless turkey breasts and cook them with stuffing in the slow-cooker. I've seen recipes like that on Pinterest. Add baked potatoes and a squash and you're done.

 

Recruit the kids to make the pies.  Or make apple crisp and a pumpkin custard to avoid fussing with pie crust (I have also seen organic/natural premade crusts, though!)

 

But...I'd really consider the grocery store option.  :thumbup1:  



#8 JessReplanted

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:37 AM

Thanks for the ideas.

 

Maybe I will order part of the meal and then make a few things that we really like myself.

My husband does not cook at all, and he would have no idea how to prepare even the frozen or boxed stuff.  :lol: 



#9 Julie Smith

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:43 AM

Thanks for the ideas.

 

Maybe I will order part of the meal and then make a few things that we really like myself.

My husband does not cook at all, and he would have no idea how to prepare even the frozen or boxed stuff.  :lol:

 

I don't cook much. I was surprised how easy it was. 

 

1. Turn oven on X temperature.

2. Put in oven for X amount of time.

3. Take out and serve.

 

(Depending on the model you bought they had instructions to put the food in a fancy container.)



#10 regentrude

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:57 AM

If the family wants dinner at home: have the family cook!

I am serious. One year, I had my right wrist in a splint and could not even hold utensils. Except for the turkey which DH did, my 5 and 7 y/o cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner: mashed potatoes, candied yams, carrots, rice. I only gave directions, but did not lift a finger.

It was a fabulous experience for them, and they were so proud.



#11 Jaybee

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 10:58 AM

I don't know about stuffing, but dressing (I'm Southern!) can be made ahead and frozen, then heated up for the dinner. Yeast rolls can be made ahead, but drizzle them with butter, cover, and freeze before the last rising. Then take them out to thaw and finish rising (loosen the wrapping) a couple of hours before you put them in the oven. Pies can easily be made ahead and frozen. Then take out to thaw, and if desired, heat on low heat in the oven while dinner is being eaten. Of course, those are pies like pumpkin, pecan, French coconut, and apple. I suppose cream pies could be frozen; I mean, Sara Lee does hers that way. :p Corn is easy to put together at the last minute. So the harder, more time consuming dishes could be made ahead over time and put aside. If they are wrapped well, it will be no problem going ahead and starting on them now if you have freezer room. That cuts down considerably on the last-minute work. Then use your crock-pot for the meat, get a salad or cranberry sauce from the grocery deli, and let hubby and kids wash the dishes! (Or use pretty Chinet.)



#12 Laura Corin

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:00 AM

I cook a three-bird roast.  I get it frozen from Aldi and roast potatoes alongside in the same dish.  Very easy. Steam some beans and I'm done.

 

L



#13 Ellie

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:17 AM

Make these ahead of time, and heat them up in the oven:

 

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes Recipe

5 pounds potatoes, paired and quartered (9 large)
2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese (I don’t think they carry these anymore in this size, so I just use a regular package minus a bit)
1 cup dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons onion salt (this is optional for my household. I often just use more regular salt)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

 

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water in dutch oven until tender. Drain well.
Mash until smooth.
Add cream cheese, sour cream, onion salt, salt, pepper, and butter. Beat with whisk or potatoe masher (I use my KitchenAid) until smooth and fluffy.

 

Place in refrigerator container. Cool and cover.

 

Recommended storage time: Two weeks.

 

To Serve: Place desired amount of potatoes in greased casserole. Dot with butter and bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes or until heated through. If you use the full amount, heat in 2 quart casserole.

 

(These can be reheated in the microwave, or in a crockpot on low that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray. They need about 3 hours to heat through if they have been cold. If you are going to need them heating shorter than that, make sure to microwave them some. Also, if it will be longer than 3 hours in the crockpot, they might start getting a bit dried out and crusty, so be sure to stir them or add just a bit of water.)



#14 marbel

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:20 AM

I'm not having a baby, but we expect to be traveling at Thanksgiving this year so we are having Thanksgiving at our house a couple of weeks early.   So that would be my suggestion:  just reschedule the holiday.

 

Or, to do it on the day, I agree with those who say buy some of the stuff already made.  Trader Joe's gravy is fabulous!   Costco has great pies and dinner rolls.     Mashed potatoes can be made the day before to make things a little easier.  Or buy boxed (my sister used those for years).  Skip the stuffing/dressing or make it two days ahead and reheat.  (I do mine in the crockpot.)   To me, turkey and ham are so easy to bake, and you might like having the leftovers, but ham steaks and/or crockpot turkey breast sound good too.  Or roast a couple of chickens instead of a turkey - just easier to handle. 

 

ETA: I see Ellie posted the make-ahead mashed potatoes.  That is just about the recipe we use.  But I've never seen one that says to use within 2 weeks.   Mine says to use within 2 days!



#15 freesia

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 11:51 AM

This is what I'd do for easy:
Your turkey in crockpot.
Stove Top Stuffing
Kids peel potatoes, you boil and mash
Frozen green beans, cooked and buttered/salted
If you want salad, buy one of those pre-made salad kits.
Buy the pie(s)

And seriously, of course your dh can make Stove Top Stuffing, and boil potatoes and green beans. Your 10 yo could, too.


Going out is a great idea, too, if that is what you want.

#16 bolt.

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 12:43 PM

Turkey in oven: no basting, don't even open the oven, just calculate the time, and do the first 15 min or so at 500, then drop to 325.

Stovetop stuffing
Pre-made or instant potatoes
Package gravy
Microwaved veggies
Canned cranberries
Bakery pies & rolls
Spray whip cream
Plenty of butter

#17 LucyStoner

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 12:50 PM

Kids cook. Dad helps. Mom sits on couch and maybe answers a question or two. Not hard. Even if the food is blah, it will be a great memory.

#18 Susan C.

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 01:06 PM

One year we were invited for Thanksgiving dinner, and they had to back out the night before....

 

I went to a grocery store the night before Thanksgiving... so I couldn't defrost a turkey. I bought a whole smoked turkey that only had to be rewarmed in the oven, pies and rolls from the deli (usually cheap at Thanksgiving), ingredients for green bean casserole, Stove Top Stuffing, and potatoes (I do not like instant).



#19 Susan in TN

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 01:12 PM

Go out for dinner. 



#20 zoobie

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 01:19 PM

I make all the side dishes ahead and heat them up while the turkey finishes. You could do a turkey breast in the crock pot and prep the sides slowly ahead.

If you want to go out and "they" don't, "they" are responsible for planning and executing the dinner! ;)

#21 plansrme

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 02:14 PM

I vote for insisting on going out. We did that once, and it was the Best Thanksgiving Ever. Plan something special for afterwards--make a Christmas ornament or see a movie or walk around the neighborhood or put up Christmas decorations.

#22 justasque

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 02:35 PM

Ask the family to help.  All of them.  Make the preparation part of the family fun.  You can eat the meal on Friday, and use Thursday for family cooking day.  You littles can make pies ahead of time, and the dough for the rolls ahead of time too.  For mashed potatoes, you can steam the potatoes in the microwave then have the littles mash them.  Buy a ham, skip the turkey (or vice versa).  Your dh is capable of anything the littles can do, and once you have four littles, a smidgen of kitchen skills on his part could be a huge family asset down the line.  

Remember though - a kid-made pie will look like a kid-made pie.  Embrace it.  This meal may not make the cover of Gourmet magazine.  It's about the process, the working together, the laughter, and all the things that may go wrong that will make good family stories for years to come.



#23 Ali in OR

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 04:09 PM

Have Thanksgiving with friends--either their house or yours--and split who does which dishes. Take the ones you really enjoy doing (we love making pies on Wednesday) and hopefully they'll be willing to do some of the more time consuming ones for you. We usually have Thanksgiving on our own and have had some years where we did roast chicken simply because we have trouble eating up a whole turkey. You could even decide to have spaghetti or something else non-traditional.



#24 DaffodilDreams

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 04:21 PM

Several years ago, dd and I both came down with a bad case of strep right before Thanksgiving. I hadn't bought a thing for dinner because we were supposed to travel out of state to be with my SIL. SIL had a new baby who had lots of complications, so we didn't want to risk sharing our germs despite antibiotics. Who knew if dh was contagious at that point, right? So, we bought our entire meal already cooked from The Fresh Market. It was so good that we've ordered from them ever since. I do make a few sides on my own, but the turkey and some sides still come from them. I love that I'm not too tired from cooking all day to enjoy my family.

#25 Alessandra

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Posted 19 October 2013 - 04:22 PM

I did a t'day during a nauseous-all-the-time pregnancy. I ordered everything except a turkey breast from a local gourmet supermarket. it was all delicious -- I could have had the turkey form there too. Only disadvantage -- not as many leftovers as when I cook. 

 

I'd put in a strong vote for keeping it as simple as possible. Keep in mind that you often have to order a bit in advance.

 

Here is last year's menu

http://kingsfoodmark...giving-2012.pdf



#26 bthatch

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 10:39 AM

You could always order a ham or turkey to be cooked, stuffed, and ready to go along with some of the bigger items and pick them up the evening before or morning of. That way you will still have dinner home but you don't have to do all of the cooking. If you still want to cook everything at home, prep everything a day or 2 before that doesn't need to be done the day of. You can set it all up and put them in the pans/dishes you will cook them in, cover them up, and then cook them when you are ready to go!

 

A few simple recipes to switch some stuff up is baking asparagus, spreading them on a baking sheet, and squeezing a bit of fresh lemon over them, and then slicing lemon and putting a few pieces on the pan with it...cook until lightly brown or how you like it! (quick and simple)

For potatoes, you can dice them, mixing some basil and butter in, instead of doing mashed potatoes (doesn't take as much time as it does to mash) 



#27 tess in the burbs

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 10:48 AM

We went to Cracker Barrel last year.  We didn't wait long, and we got a little of all the basic, including both turkey AND ham!  Everyone was happy and all we had to decide was WHEN to go.  In your situation, make it easy and cheap.  We could have gone out to the $40+ fancy place but Cracker Barrel had a nice plate for cheap and it did the job of a traditional turkey day dinner



#28 SailorMom

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 11:37 AM

We're going to be in our 28 ft camping trailer at an RV resort on Thanksgiving - DH and both DS's are going to the Dallas Cowboys game.  They have to leave for the game around 2 pm-ish, so we're eating at about noon. 

Anyway - I have a miniscule oven, itty-bitty fridge....

I'm going to brine a turkey and DH will be frying it outside.  Makes cooking a turkey really easy and fast, and it will be stored in an ice water bring in a large water cooler for 24 hours = no need for a fridge.  I'm going to pre-make cranberry sauce (two days before), bring pre-made rolls, make garlic mashed red potatoes in a crock pot (possibly start them the night before), jars of gravy (kinda have to with a fried bird),  and make the sweet potato puffs at home and freeze them - no fridge while they that all I'll have to do is heat them up in the oven before we eat. 

How does this apply?   Well - almost everything can be made before - even weeks before - if you freeze it.  I personally can't tell the difference in mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes if they've been frozen, nor rolls if they are frozen par-baked. Cranberry sauce is good for days.  Jarred gravy works just fine and saves a lot of stress.

It's possible you could even make some of the sides now and freeze them, along with pies.  Also - I always buy Pillsbury pie crusts and just make the filling.  I never have time for crusts....  I also think Marie Calendar frozen pies are pretty good....

Usually I don't have a lot of cooking to do the day-of a holiday which leaves me open to actually hang out with our guests (we usually have about 15 guests - this year is going to be very weird....).

Lastly - make the kids and DH clean up.  If you do the cooking and pre-cook all this stuff, they can clean. 

Also - I think kids and DH should pitch in on cooking!!!!  :)



#29 Annie G

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 12:17 PM

Living 850 miles from family, I spent the past 20 years cooking holiday meals for the six of us. About 5 years ago I said enough. Nobody wanted to go out for a holiday dinner so I changed the menu.  Now for Thanksgiving we have stuffed shells (made ahead), salad, garlic bread, and a nice dessert or three. All made ahead.    We often do the same at Christmas though a couple of times we've done Mexican  food instead. It's easy to make that in advance.   

 

I just felt  the traditional meal was too much work. And the family loves our new tradition.  



#30 Cera

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 12:30 PM

Definitely order dinner.  Everybody gets to eat at home like they want to and you don't have to cook.  Around here all of the grocery stores offer an option to order the full meal from the deli (just heat and serve) as do some of the larger chain restaurants (like Mimi's).



#31 FaithManor

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 12:37 PM

My suggestion is to get a couple of already stuffed roasting chickens. Pop them into the oven with carrots, potatoes, and onions, and buy a pumpkin pie from the bakery and some cookies for the kiddoes. Give yourself a break. Plus, the above is very delicious so no one can complain. It's also not all that expensive at least not in the Midwest. I could do the whole meal with the two chickens and bakery rolls, pie, and cookies, for around $21.00. Plus, if your family is smaller and does not contain teenage boys, you'll have some chicken leftovers and veggies for lunch the next day.

 

Faith



#32 MrsJewelsRae

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 01:09 PM

Btdt! I host all the holiday meals since we have the best location- one year I was 38 weeks pregnant! This year I decided to get everything done ahead of time as much as possible. I cooked up 2 turkeys a day or 2 before, made the gravy, carved it all up and put it all in my big slow cooker. Carrots were chopped and put in the small crock pot, squash was baked and just needed reheating, same with the mashed potatoes. Baked 2 pies. The day of most everything just needed to be heated and we pulled off dinner for 20 fairly easily! :)

#33 Susan in TX

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 08:24 PM

If you have a Boston Market, you can order Thanksgiving dinner. They will deliver it.

 

Susan in TX



#34 KungFuPanda

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 09:12 PM

If you have a Boston Market, you can order Thanksgiving dinner. They will deliver it.

Susan in TX


I did this one year when we were displaced due to renovations. I'd do it again. Even if I cook I'm getting their cranberry sauce.

I've also done Rachel Ray's (original) one hour Thanksgiving. The pumpkin soup is a huge hit and the turkey breasts are just too easy .

#35 Incognito

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 11:58 PM

One year I was pregnant and sick and had my DH pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to go with canned corn, canned cranberry sauce, stove top stuffing, and maybe some sort of mashed potatoes.  Anyways, I always smile when I look at our family picture with the meal - it actually looks as legit as other years' Thanksgiving pictures, but I remember... :)

 



#36 KatieinMich

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 11:43 AM

Thanksgiving dinner is at my house every year with all the kiddoes who can make it here.  I try to make it as easy as possible so we can enjoy the day with games and movies and not all day in the kitchen doing dishes.

 

DH is really fantastic and is standing there right beside me washing and cleaning up which is so helpful. Enlist your DH help in the clean up or use some festive paper plates and napkins and toss it away, saving your energy for the dishes and casseroles.

 

In your situation this is what I would do.

 

Make a list of must haves. THen pare that list done to what you can do ahead of time.

 

The potatoe recipe Ellie posted is fantastic.  Make it whenever you have the energy between now and Thanksgiving day and freeze it.  If you remember to defrost it on Wednesdasy, fine, but if not you can cook it from frozen.  I choose a casserole dish that wil fit in my convection/toaster oven.

 

Gravy from a jar is just not good in my opinion, but maybe that works for you.If not there are make ahead gravy recipes online.  I

 

Turkey breast is just as easy to cook as a whole turkey, but there is much less clean up afterwards.  If you are a white meat family, consider that.   Yes, turkey can be made ahead of time and reheated.  Not perfect, but it works. 

Maybe a roasting chicken will be fine for you.

 

Dressing.  I doctor up stove top.  Earlier in the week I fry up some sausage along with celery and onions.  Thanksgiving day make up a box of stove top, add in your precooked items and pop it all in the oven for 45 mins or so. 

 

Veggies.  Choose oneor two you all love with the criteria that it is  easy to cook.  Maybe some frozen peas are fine, maybe you just want/need a can of corn. Whole green beans with some sliced almondsand a little bit of butter are perfect in my opinion.  Easy and perfect. Cook some baby carrots in a small amount of butter.  Add some brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Yum.

 

Sweet potatoes would not be missed by most of my family. 

 

Homemade rolls are essential to me, but my kids think canned crescents are just fine. :huh: Or buy some from the store.

 

Dessert doens't have to be pie.  There are not a lot of pie lovers in my household.  Make something you can do ahead of time and freeze or buy a pie at the store and call it a day.Apple crisp or Better than Pumpkin pie dessert would be pretty easy and go well with turkey.

 

Cranberries are canned here as DH grew up on them.   Easy.

 

Or go with some alternative. White Lasagna.  Baked mac and Cheese and a ham is our Christmas dinner every year.  Easy peasy and back to family time.

Pan fried Turkey cutlets, side salad, squash soup and bread would be fantastic.

 

Don't exhaust yourself over a meal that takes hours to cook and 20 minutes to eat.  It's just not worth it. 

 

Hugs.

 

 

 

 

 



#37 Orthodox6

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 02:34 PM

Grocery store pick-up feasts were invented for this purpose.

 

Congratulations on the baby!  Being at home for Thanksgiving is a good idea, in case you suddenly are called elsewhere!  :001_smile:



#38 Laurie4b

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Posted 26 October 2013 - 04:13 PM

Now that I've learned that the health recommendations are NOT to wash the turkey, cooking turkey is easy. I use Reynold's oven bags. So take the gizzard, etc. and neck out of the turkey, put it in the bag, and stick it in the oven. Hard to get simpler. Dh can do that. You can buy instant mashed potatoes.Dh or your kids can read the directions. If there is an item or two that your family absolutely loves homemade, then focus the attention on that item and buy the rest premade, even the gravy.

 

 

 I like homemade whole cranberry sauce and it's easy and my kids have done it for years (they're now teens). They also make the pumpkin pie filling (again, it's just a matter of following directions.) Those would be my "must -haves" but every family will be different. You can buy frozen pie crust.




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