8 Tips to Organize Your Life This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and while I'd love to say that wine is the answer, it's only part of the solution. Staying organized is key, and with a few quick and simple tips, you get can organized and stay that way. With these tips, tricks, and hacks, you can make masterpiece-quality meals with ease. Order in the kitchen goes a long way!
1. A Place for All
Think about how you use your kitchen and its layout. Kids' snacks in a low drawer, condiments on the fridge door, plastic plates and cutlery within easy reach. Don't keep oils and spices far from your prep area—you'll end up sprinting every time you cook. Have two separate kitchen zones? Buy two of each staple (olive oil, salt, paprika) and keep one for the dairy side and one for the meat side.
2. Color Code It
Everyone's got those meat/dairy/parve stickers, but take it one step further; Label your cutlery drawers and shelves. Well-meaning guests won't put the dairy dishes on the meat shelves if they see a "meat" sticker. Stick labels on the bottom of once-a-year platters and serving pieces. Don't remember if that huge silver plate was used for the Thanksgiving turkey or the Shavuot cheesecake? Flip it over. The sticker will be your guide!
3. Buy in Bulk
The holiday season is a huge baking fest for most of America. (For me too, and I don't bake—ever!) Use this time to stock up on flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking chocolate, nuts, and cake mixes. No kitchen space to store it? Flat, under the bed, storage containers are a great life hack. (Yes, yes, I did once keep a stash of sugar under my bed.)
4. Remove, Reduce, Recycle
A few weeks before the big day, clear out your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Remove anything that's expired, anything in the fridge that's past its prime, and anything freezer burned. Make a list of overstocked items (8 cans of tomato paste, anyone?) and plan recipes to use them. Recycle any jars, bottles, and containers that you'll never use.
5. Be a Basket Case
Use washable baskets to corral smaller items. Baking supplies in one (can't lose the sprinkles!), rarely used spices in another. Smaller bottles, bags, and jars will stay close by, and won't end up in the black hole of the pantry. Choose rectangular baskets, and measure your space before you shop. Wire shelf inserts are a great way to double your space; Each "shelf" can hold a 3-4" high basket.
6. Menu Madness
Everyone loves Thanksgiving and everyone loves to bring their own masterpiece to the table. Write your basic menu early, note what pot or pan it cooks in, plan a platter for each dish, and decide if you're going to keep, freeze, or hand out the leftovers. Planning a potluck? Set up a family chat or email and have family members sign up with their specialties. Don't want Aunt Rachel bringing her dry stuffing? Tell her you've found an insane recipe that you're dying to try, and request chocolate chip cookies. (Can't mess that up... unless you're me.)
7. Tablescape. Or don't.
When you're planning the big day, decide in advance how you're going to serve. Turkey carved in the kitchen or set whole on the table? Buffet or seated dinner? Kids table or one giant crowd in the dining room? A huge bouquet of flowers may not make sense here. Think about your crowd and your wallet. A roll of butcher paper down the table and mini buckets of crayons are a welcome activity. Draw turkey hands, write what you're thankful for, or just doodle. The roll of paper and crayons will set you back less than $10!
8. Gimme Some Oven(space)
Way before the big day, plan out the oven situation. The bird will occupy the hot box for a good few hours, so plan around that. Make your mashed potatoes early in the day, and warm them in the crockpot. (Add a splash of liquid) Consider serving the green beans room temp and stir frying a vegetable to save precious space. Read your oven manual! Some ovens automatically shut off after a certain amount of time. That's super no beuno on a marathon cooking day!
With the right tips and techniques and a little bit of time, an organized kitchen can be yours. A few hours spent over one afternoon can last for years. Learn what works for you and stick to it! Have other ideas? Let us know in the comments.
Trouble planning your Thanksgiving meal? Check out our Ultimate Turkey Day Menu!