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A Buying and Storing Guide for Your Thanksgiving Groceries
Getting ahead on your Thanksgiving shopping packs plenty of benefits — shorter lines, first dibs on essential ingredients, plus more time to spend with family and friends. It also requires a bit of planning. If you’re buying salad greens days ahead, will they be springy and crisp in time for your feast? And what about the bacon for your Brussels sprouts — or the heavy cream for your mashed potatoes?
For most foods, it’s perfectly fine to stock up several days ahead as long as they are stored properly. Some ingredients, however, are best saved until the last minute. Use this guide to plan your shopping so your haul stays its best from our stores to your table.
Storing Tips for Thanksgiving Essentials
- Get organized. Thanksgiving groceries, especially turkey, can require serious kitchen real estate. Organizing your refrigerator, pantry and countertops before you shop will guarantee that every item in your haul has its rightful storage spot.
- Use the produce drawers. The humidity level in this often-overlooked space is actually different than the rest of your refrigerator, and it will help keep your green beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and salad greens crisp.
- Handle greens with care. To keep your salad greens nice and crisp, don’t wash them in advance. Until you’re ready to use them, refrigerate in an open plastic bag and add a few paper towels to soak up any loose water.
- Butter is safe at room temperature. Butter will last longer in your refrigerator, but it can also be stored safely at room temperature for 1 – 2 days. If you’re baking recipes or serving rolls, having softened butter at the ready can be a game changer.
- Some ingredients are happiest in the pantry. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash do not need to be stored in your refrigerator. When stored in a cool, dark space like your pantry, these ingredients can last several weeks.
- Buying a fresh turkey? Read this: Our fresh turkeys are kept in a deep chill to maintain a crust of ice on the surface. This ensures that you can safely store your bird at home until you’re ready to cook. Keep your turkey deep-chilled (35°F) in the coldest spot in your fridge, turned down as low as possible, or store in a secondary fridge. Over time, the ice will easily melt and your bird will be perfect by Thanksgiving.
Your Thanksgiving Game Plan
4 weeks ahead: Stock the freezer.
This early in the game, it’s all about the freezer, aka the treasure chest that saves Thanksgiving. Clear out room, because you’ll need the extra space. Pick up turkey drumsticks and wings from our Meat department, roast them and use them to make turkey stock — freeze it now and use it for gravy, stuffing and soup later. You can also prep and freeze discs of pie dough, pumpkin bread and cranberry sauce.
3 weeks ahead: Plan your menu.
Get ahead of the curve by knocking out your Thanksgiving menu planning early. Start with the big questions like: How many are you serving this year? Are you cooking the entire meal from scratch or do you plan to assign out a few dishes? Next, start pulling your recipes.
2 weeks ahead: Prep your kitchen.
Your biggest grocery shop of the year is coming up soon, so it’s never too early to get your kitchen organized. From baking supplies to the turkey itself, Thanksgiving essentials can take up precious pantry and fridge space. Set aside some time to go through every nook and cranny in your kitchen.
This is also a great time for an equipment check. Check out your kitchen supplies to make sure you’ve got a roasting pan and a reliable kitchen thermometer. (You know, those things you tend to pull out once a year.)
1 week ahead: Create your shopping list.
If you have a lot of items to buy, which you probably do, making a grocery list ahead of time can save you serious stress. First, use our Holiday Servings Calculator to figure out how much to buy based on the number of people you’re feeding. Next, take a look at your menu and start building your list. Double-check your pantry and fridge to make sure you’re not duplicating ingredients you already have on hand, like spices, flours and stock. .
5–7 days ahead: Hit the store.
If you haven’t done your shopping, now’s the time to do it. Skip the lines by hitting our stores early this year. We also have special sales on turkey, wine and other Thanksgiving essentials — be sure to shop by Sunday, before Thanksgiving, to save on your entire feast.
After crossing the items off your list, be sure to pick up the turkey you reserved a week or two ago. At home, you can also start thawing out turkey stock, pie crust and anything else you made and froze a few weeks ago.
4 days ahead: Choose your serving dishes.
Take a moment to dig out the serving platters you want to use — we promise it will save time later. Label the bottoms with their intended dishes: serving spoons, baking dishes and place settings you might need. If you’re worried about table real estate, lay everything out to get an idea of how much space you’ll need.
Don’t forget to take time to relax. You’re about to enter full-on Thanksgiving prep mode.
3 days ahead: Start prepping.
If this is the first time you’re seeing family and friends in a while, why not get as much prep work out of as possible? This way, you’ll have plenty of time to spend with them on Thanksgiving.
If you have turkey stock on hand, make your gravy and refrigerate until Thanksgiving. It will intensify in flavor, plus you’ll thank yourself for the saved time.
If you have time, you can also cook your stuffing, casseroles and mashed potatoes, and refrigerate them until Thanksgiving. They reheat well, and they’re just as, if not more, delicious since the flavors will have had time to develop.
2 days ahead: Prep, prep, prep.
Assemble pies and store in the refrigerator; make a dip for crackers for an easy appetizer to enjoy with family and friends. You can also start brining your turkey.
The day before: Make the final touches.
Bake your pies in the morning, then store until tomorrow. Keep in mind that any pies that contain eggs or dairy — like pumpkin, custard, mousses or chiffon — should be refrigerated as soon as they’ve completely cooled. Fruit pies, on the other hand, can stand at room temperature for up to two days.
Meanwhile, clean and trim veggies such as green beans and Brussels sprouts, and cook your stuffing, mashed potatoes and casseroles if you haven’t already. Lastly, brine your turkey. For wet and dry brines, you’ll need to start the process at least 8 to 24 hours before cooking.
Thanksgiving Day: Game time!
Roast your expertly brined turkey (this always takes longer than you think — remember to factor in resting time once the turkey’s out of the oven). Cook or reheat your sides and set out your appetizers. Enjoy the day and the incredible meal you pulled off, thanks to your careful planning.
It’s Time to Order the Turkey
It’s November — let the countdown to Thanksgiving begin!
The first item on your to-do list should be to order the turkey if you haven’t already done so. Remember that if you are getting a frozen turkey, you’ll need a day for every four pounds to defrost it safely in the fridge. That 16-pounder will take four days. Procrastinators, set a reminder on your phones now!