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100 Thanksgiving Cooking Tips for Making it Through the Marathon

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100 Thanksgiving cooking tips will take the stress out of planning and cooking America’s biggest meal of the year. From menu planning to clean up, find a few ideas to help make your Thanksgiving less stressful.

This post is sponsored by Depend® Brand. All opinions and statements are my own.


Thanksgiving dinner is one of, if not the biggest meals of the year for most American families.  It can be extremely overwhelming to plan, cook, serve, and then clean up after this massive meal!

Thanksgiving is a marathon of food, friends, and family. But with a little planning ahead and a few non-traditional ideas, these tips will help make your Thanksgiving less stressful and more enjoyable. 

One thing there’s absolutely no time to stress over? Incontinence. Whether you’re doing the cooking, the eating, or both, if you experience bladder leaks, Depend® Fit-Flex® Underwear will give you one less thing to worry about. It’s ultra-soft and made for all-day protection, so you can feel confident knowing you’re protected for the marathon ahead.

In addition to having the products you need, making slight adjustments to rich foods can help to decrease irritation on your bladder. Read along to see how I make it through my day and get some tips to make your Thanksgiving cooking seem like a walk in the park.


100 Thanksgiving Cooking Tips to Make it Through the Marathon

1. Plan Your Menu: The key to not getting overwhelmed is to plan everything well in advance.

2. Print out a November menu planning calendar at least a month ahead of time. Start planning when you cook dishes for freezing.
3. Finalize invitations and figure out how many people you will be cooking for.

4. Set a budget and stick to it. You don’t need to go broke cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

5. Ask guests for any allergies or other health concerns you should plan around.

6. If dealing with incontinence, plan to avoid recipes with dairy and super heavy ingredients that sometimes irritate the bladder. Make a blueberry crumble for dessert. Skip the milk and butter in mashed potatoes and roast them instead. Serve whole grain dinner rolls instead of white dinner rolls.

7. Decide on the main dish: turkey, ham or both? How much will you need?

8. As long as you are cooking, cook 2 turkeys or 2 hams for lots of leftovers.

9. Cook a couple of smaller turkeys instead of one large one. They will cook faster.

10. If most of your family likes the white meat, cook a couple of turkey breasts rather than a whole turkey.

11. Plan on 1 pound per person for Turkey and 1.5 pounds per turkey if you want leftovers.

sweet potato recipe

12. Plan out the side dishes: green bean casserole; sweet potatoes; corn; dinner rolls; stuffing; mashed potatoes, cranberries, etc.

13. Choose your dessert menu – pies, cakes, tarts, cheesecake?

14. Pick out a few family favorites but try a new recipe, too! It could become a new tradition. Serve stuffing in apples this year!

15. Include a few kid-friendly side dishes like macaroni and cheese and cupcakes if you will be feeding little ones.

16. Print out or copy every single recipe and put it in a sheet protector and then a binder.
17. Go with a potluck if you have a lot of people to feed!

18. Ask guests to sign up to bring their favorite Thanksgiving side dish and you provide the main dish.

19. Plan how you will cook each dish: oven, fryer, grill, slow cooker, etc. (see non-traditional cooking methods below for ideas to free up oven space!).

20. Purchase extra to-go bins for guests to take leftovers home.

21. Decide if you will cook stuffing in the turkey or out of it.

22. Figure out how long the turkey needs to cook. Hint: about 20 minutes per pound unstuffed, and a little longer if it’s stuffed.

23. Print out our Thanksgiving cooking planner to plan out when to cook food ahead of time. (Also see below for tips on that!)

24. Don’t forget the ice! For some reason, you will always need more ice on Thanksgiving.

25. Use dried herbs in recipes instead of fresh herbs. This way you can avoid shopping the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

26. Set out all your recipes and check cooking temperatures to see what can be cooked at the same time in the oven.

27. Plan for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning! Decide now what it is. These Turkey Cinnamon Rolls are easy to make.

28. Also plan ahead for dinner on Wednesday night. Take out is a great idea as you may be prepping for Thanksgiving.

29. Order side dishes, the main dish, desserts from your favorite restaurant or grocery store to cut down on what you need to cook. Just do it early so you don’t miss the deadline.

30. Go Shopping Early. Watch the sale ads starting November 1st for the best deals. There are often great sales early in November.

31. Make a master list on your phone or some other digital format so you can keep track of what you have and what you need.

32. Shop at least 2 weeks early to avoid the crowds.

33. Go shopping a couple of times. There is a lot of food to buy so break it up according to what is on sale.

34. Freeze meats and other fresh food to keep until cooking day.

35. Pick up Depend Fit-Flex to help keep you dry and comfortable all-day long. You’ll thank me later!

36. Purchase a couple of jars of gravy. You can never have too much gravy!

37. Don’t be afraid to make things from a box. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy can all be made easily and quickly with a little help.

38. Set aside space in your pantry for all of the Thanksgiving groceries so you don’t lose them.

39. Cook Ahead as Much as You Can.

40. You can get pretty much everything you need for Thanksgiving ahead of time! Just freeze, thaw, and finish on Thanksgiving Day.

41. Cook your turkey ahead of time; slice it up; and freeze in a plastic storage bag. Thaw the day before then warm up in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.

42. Bake pies ahead of time and freeze until the day before Thanksgiving. Thaw and serve.

43. Make the pie filling and make the crust before-hand. Freeze both. Cook on Thanksgiving while the turkey cooks.

44. Prepare casserole fillings a week before and then freeze in plastic bags. Thaw and then put the casserole together on Thanksgiving Day.

45. If making homemade dinner rolls, make the dough and freeze. Or you can bake the rolls completely, freeze and then thaw and serve.

46. Set a reminder to start defrosting the turkey up to a week before cooking.

47. Use Non-Traditional Cooking Methods: The oven may be the work horse on Thanksgiving, but it’s not the only tool in your kitchen you can cook with.

48. Cook casseroles, stuffing, and even bake bread or dinner rolls in a slow cooker.

49. Make turkey gravy in an Instant Pot to save room on the stove.

50. If you are cooking for a small crowd, cook up a turkey breast in an Instant Pot, too.

51. Use your toaster oven to bake smaller casserole dishes or even pies.

52. Check your rice cooker to see if it has other cooking functions to help make space.

53. Use an electric roaster to cook the turkey rather than the oven.

54. Fry your turkey with a turkey fryer! Afraid of the oil? Check out an infrared roaster instead.

55. Skip the mashed potatoes and roast potatoes (or other vegetables) in the oven while the turkey cooks (not the whole time!).

56. Spatchcock the turkey and cook it on the grill. Here is some info on spatchcocking poultry.

57. As long as the grill is fired up, use it to cook ears of corn instead of making corn casserole.

58. Make homemade whipped cream in a jar instead of with a mixer. Pour desired amount of heavy cream and sugar into a jar, put the top on and let guests or kids take turns shaking it until the whipped cream forms.

59. Get Ready the Day Before: There is a lot you can do to start getting ready the day before Thanksgiving.

60. Empty your refrigerator of everything except necessities to make room for food.

61. Make sure turkey, and anything else that was frozen ahead of time, is defrosted fully.

62. Brine turkey, if you want to cook it using that method.

63. Set the table, especially if you have a seating chart for guests.

64 Run and empty dishwasher so it’s ready to go the next day.

65. Empty all trash cans so there is plenty of room for trash.

66. Chill wine and other beverages.

67. Get out all of your serving dishes, platters and utensils and make sure you have enough for all your food.

68. Label all of your serving dishes so when someone asks to help, they will know what food goes into each dish.

69. Find and sharpen the carving knife for the turkey.

70. Set out a few games or other activities to keep kids occupied.

71. On Thanksgiving Day, let all your hard work come together, but with a few shortcuts.

72. If you are making a lot of mashed potatoes, wash them in your dishwasher on a short rinse cycle! Just don’t use any soap.

73. Microwave potatoes or cook them in an Instant Pot instead of boiling them for mashed potatoes.

74. Cook stuffing in muffin pans for individual-sized servings and for crispy edges all around.

75. Plan to start cooking 6 hours before you want to eat.

76. Set out snacks like chips and dip or veggies and dip to snack on while cooking. Make sure to include this on your plan above!

77. Place cups, utensils, plates, and drinks outside of the kitchen to keep it free for cooking.

78. Assign the task of answering the doorbell to let guests in to someone who is not cooking.

79. Use a thermos to keep gravy hot. Just refill that cute gravy boat as needed from the thermos.

80. A microwave is a great place to set a casserole in to keep it warm if it’s done a little early.

81. Slow cookers will keep casseroles and other dishes warm, but don’t forget to set it warm so it doesn’t overcook the food.

82. Set a time on your phone to remind yourself to sit down and relax. This should be fun for you, too!

83. Clean Up: When the fun is over, it’s time to get that mess cleaned up quickly and easily.

84. Buy high-end, really nice disposable plates, silverware, napkins, and cups to cut down on dishes.

85. Use disposable baking dishes for casseroles and desserts. Just toss when done.

86. Set out a very large trash can in a prominent place, so everyone knows where to throw things away.

87. Fill a cooler with hot soapy water to let items soak and not take up space in the sink.

88. Assign a clean-up crew. You can alternate tasks for holidays, too.

89. Hire a cleaning service to come in the day after Thanksgiving to clean up the mess. Go out shopping while someone else cleans.

90. Leftovers: Don’t let that turkey go to waste! Plan out how to use leftovers.

91. Send leftovers home with your guests in the containers you planned out a month ago (see the top list!).

92. Make Hot Brown sandwiches for lunch the next day. Search the internet for lots of recipes for these.

93. Make sub sandwiches with the turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. It’s a thing!

94. Use the turkey carcass to make homemade broth. Freeze for use later.

95. Make homemade turkey noodle soup with the turkey carcass or broth.

96. Make a Cornbread Chicken Casserole using leftover turkey instead of chicken.

97. Top the above recipe with leftover mashed potatoes instead of the cornbread mix for a turkey shepherd’s pie.

98. Freeze leftovers and reheat in a month or so and relive the magic of your amazing Thanksgiving dinner.

99. Freeze any leftover open bottles of wine in ice cube trays to use when cooking at a later point.

100. Next year, let someone else do all the cooking!

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