This Weekend: The Secret to Making Thanksgiving Go A Whole Lot Smoother

Thanksgiving is next week and the whole holiday will happily hum along if you do a few things in advance: 1) Let the seams out of your favorite pants; 2) fill some index cards of questions to ask distant cousins at the dinner table; and 3) do this one other very important thing before next Thursday.

When it comes to preparing for Thanksgiving, we count towels to make sure we have enough for our guests, festoon our mantels with garlands, and make our meal plans and shopping lists and check them twice. But it’s all too easy to neglect the work-horse room of the hour, the kitchen. This weekend we’re going to make sure we don’t make that mistake. We’re going to get our kitchens ready to hum for the biggest cooking day — no, week — of the year.

De-Clutter

No room can fulfill its function if it’s crammed with flow-hindering clutter. This is especially true of a kitchen that you have to dig through while you’re preparing a large feast. Address these common kitchen hot spots where things tend to multiply and accumulate and remove everything that doesn’t belong, is too old, never gets used, or is a duplicate:

  • Junk drawer
  • Pantry
  • Dishes
  • Gadgets and tools
  • Serving utensils
  • Spice rack

This list will help.

Refresh Your Shopping List

De-cluttering your kitchen will allow you to see what you need and what you really don’t for your Thanksgiving prep. Now that you know all three half-used French onion cans are stale or expired, write them on your list. Now that you also know you have all the condensed milk you’ll need for three years of key lime pies, cross that off your list. You remembered you always have to ask your neighbor for an extra cake pan — jot down a reminder to finally buy your own.

Clean Out Your Refrigerator

Many Thanksgiving cooks begin preparing and cooking a few days out from the main event. You’ll need room in your fridge to stock things, so start making space now. Sort through leftovers, discarding that are too old to eat and making plans to finish off what’s still good. Revolve your weekly meal planning around using up ingredients you have on hand so you can use them up. Finally, take stock of the condiments that may need re-filling.

Next, actually clean your fridge. It lifts a weary cook’s heart to put things into and get things out of a sparkling refrigerator. Give yourself that gift.

Thank Yourself For What’s Already Done

Take a moment and pat yourself on the back for the weekend tasks you’ve already done that have helped get your kitchen in the kind of tip-top shape you’re proud for even your mother-in-law to see: Your oven is spotless and even your garbage cans are pristine. Go you!

Everything Will All Work Out

Even if you didn’t get to sorting your spatulas and scrubbing your oven, don’t forget to keep your eyes and heart focused on the really important things. When it’s all said and done, an “imperfect” Thanksgiving with a late meal, a messy kitchen, and the place tags you never had time to calligraphy is anything but a disaster when it’s full of laughter and the warmth of being with the people you love.

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