How to Plan Your From Scratch Thanksgiving Feast
Read along for the best tips and ideas for creating and making a completely from scratch Thanksgiving menu for your friends and family this year.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, you’ve most likely started to tentatively plan your menu and day. Thanksgiving is such a fun time to enjoy the kitchen and all of the cooking and baking that can be involved.
It can also be a great opportunity to practice your skills at cooking from scratch! Imagine the delicious feast for your friends and family with fresh and real ingredients, that you made entirely yourself. We’ve gathered up the best tips for you to be successful in planning your from scratch Thanksgiving dinner.
Even if you aren’t hosting family and in charge of making the entire spread, you can still use these tips to plan any dishes that you are asked to bring or volunteered to bring.
What is ‘From Scratch’ cooking?
From scratch cooking is knowing each and every ingredient that’s going into your food. Its using whole, fresh, seasonal ingredients, and cooking, combining, and flavoring them to create delicious dishes. Food made from scratch is better for you, tastes more delicious, and can be fun and fulfilling to make.
How does this relate to Thanksgiving? Well, instead of buying a pre-made pumpkin pie from the store, you make one from scratch. When you do you buy an actual pumpkin, roast it, puree it, etc. Instead of making a green bean casserole with canned mushroom soup, store-bought canned green beans, packaged onion crisps, etc., you use fresh green beans, fresh mushrooms, cream, and more! Then top it off with some home fried onion bits.
The point of ‘from scratch’ cooking isn’t to stress you out or make you feel time crunched like you need to pull out your hair (there is enough of that over the holidays already) but rather its simply to challenge you allow you to appreciate you food in its entirety. Take it as an opportunity to hone your cooking skills. Set aside the time and invite a friend or family member to join in with you while you cook. Put on some music, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy it.
Obviously there are different levels of from scratch cooking. As long as you are making a genuine effort to use real ingredients, and make your dishes as homemade as possible, you will be golden.
How to Plan Your From Scratch Thanksgiving Menu
Write it down
Grab a piece of paper to write down your ideas and your plan. It will be much easier to refer back to your notes rather than trying to remember everything off of the top of your head. Grab your planner or calendar. Keep it close by so you can refer back to it over the next couple of weeks.
Start with the basics
First, you’ll want to decide what direction you’ll be going in with your menu and food this year. Are you going to have a traditional menu with roasted turkey, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie? Or are you planning on mixing it up this year? Get a general idea of the types of food and drinks you’d like to have, and the overall feel of the meal, then write that down.
Make a menu
Now, plan your menu. Once you have a general idea of what style of food you want you can start to decide what kind of dishes to add in to create a menu. Consider whether or not you’ll have any appetizers, salads, what the main dish will be, different sides, drinks, and finally, finish it off with a few ideas for desserts.
Don’t forget drinks! Of course, you can always stick with water, or even opt out of having from scratch drinks and just buy your favorite store bought varieties. But if you would like to try and do some from scratch drinks you can consider things like homemade kombucha, sparkling apple cider, homemade eggnog, homemade hot cocoa, all natural and homemade punch, and more!
Jot down recipes ideas
If you have family members or grandparents or anyone you know really that has made a from scratch dish before that you loved and that would fit well with your menu, call them up and ask for the recipe! They will most likely appreciate the phone call and would be happy to share their recipe.
Sometimes getting recipes off of the internet can be scary, because if you’ve never made that recipe before you won’t be completely sure of whether or not you’d like it. And its even more scary when you’ll be making it for the first time for a crowd! That’s why getting recipes that you’ve tasted before and loved from friends and family is a great option.
If you are still needing more recipe ideas, hit up Pinterest! Go to your favorite ‘from scratch’ cooking and recipe blogs that you’ve tried recipes from before and enjoyed, and see if they have any dishes that you’d like to try. You can search things like ‘green bean casserole’, or ‘homemade pumpkin pie’.
Choose what dishes you want to make
Once you have a good amount of dishes and recipes to choose from, go ahead and decide which ones you think you’ll want to make. Deciding can be the hardest part. Some things that might help you with your decision are to choose recipes and dishes you’ve either already made before, or you have eaten before and know are delicious.
You can also make your decision based on what the recipe calls for. Cooking from scratch is time consuming and sometimes stressful if you are not used to it. Therefore you may be more inclined to choose the simplest recipes with the least amount of ingredients, which is totally fine!
See what can be made ahead of time
Like mentioned before, you don’t want to be too stressed out on the day of Thanksgiving. There are plenty of ‘from scratch’ recipes that can be made ahead of time and frozen. There is also usually prep work that can be down before the day of, such as chopping vegetables, organizing and measuring ingredients by dish, etc.
There are also things that can you can simply make beforehand. Homemade pie crust is great made ahead of time and frozen. You can even make some whole pies beforehand like apple pie and freeze them, then just bake using your favorite frozen pie recipe.
Make sure to jot in your journal the different dishes and steps that can be done ahead of time.
Plan your Thanksgiving week
On the same note, make a quick plan of your Thanksgiving week. A great place to do this is your monthly planner or your calendar. Use your notes from before and see what can be made the day before Thanksgiving or even a couple days before? Is there anything you can get prepped, like slicing and dicing vegetables, measuring out ingredients, etc. to save you time on the day of? Write those things down on the specific days you want to do them so you won’t forget.
If you’re going to be cooking a turkey that’s currently in your freezer (likely if you raised your own or purchased a turkey from a local farmer) be sure to make a note of when you need to take it out of the freezer to thaw. A good rule of thumb is to give it a day to thaw for every four pounds of turkey. Take note of anything else that may need to be removed from the freezer or even the fridge to come to room temperature.
Make sure you have all of the kitchen tools and gadgets you will need
If you’ve never made a full Thanksgiving menu from scratch before you might be missing a few kitchen gadgets and tools that will be helpful that you wouldn’t have thought of. Once you know what dishes you’ll be making, be sure to look over the directions to make sure you have all of the necessary kitchen tools, such as a turkey baster, meat thermometer, appropriate size dishes, etc.
This will give you enough time to head out and get the things that you need. If you’re thrifty and enjoy shopping for kitchen tools at your local thrift store, it can sometimes take more than one shopping trip to find what you’re looking for. If you know what you need ahead of time you should be able to get all the necessities before Thanksgiving week rolls around.
Make a grocery list
Of course you won’t be needing groceries for a little while, but its a good idea to make a list of the groceries you will need to get so that you’ll be ready the week of to head to the store. You can also stock up now on things you can get ahead of time, like grains, anything frozen, etc. so that you won’t have to make such a big trip in the busy weeks before the holiday.
Be sure to take account of what you may already have on hand. If you have your own garden you might still have some fall produce, such as carrots and cabbage that can be used, or maybe you have home canned goods that can be used in different recipes.
That’s all! Once you’ve gone through the steps above you should have a very good plan in action to cook a delicious, from scratch Thanksgiving feast for your friends and family. Be sure to start planning as soon as possible to relieve some of your stress in the days prior to the holiday.
Here are some resources, from scratch recipe ideas, and more to get you moving in the right direction.
Cooking from scratch can be fun and challenging and so very rewarding! If you’re up to it and with a little planning and preparation you’ll be able to create a beautiful and delicious from scratch Thanksgiving menu for you and your family to enjoy.
All this being said, don’t stress about your Thanksgiving dinner. All will not be lost if you forget to thaw the turkey or you never got the baster. There are easy ways to work around things like that.
In addition, do what you can! If you are not accustomed to cooking from scratch and you don’t feel up to cooking a full spread, then don’t. Try making your favorite dish completely homemade and that’s it. Be realistic about what you are wanting to do and what you can do.
Its important to remember the reason for the season. To come together with your friends and family to celebrate and show your appreciation for all of the blessings in your lives, good, homemade food included;)
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