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Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes & Tips

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes & TipsMake Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes & Tips

I love Thanksgiving for many reasons.  Its a time to see family and friends.  And it is holiday celebrated by all Americans.

This year, I am having quite a crowd at my house.  I’m excited about it, but a little nervous.  First of all its “Thanksgiving”, and we all expect certain dishes to be served.  Secondly, I don’t think I have ever prepared a meal for so many people!  Everyone will bring something but I am expecting about 30-35 people!  (I became a little more nervous since I just did a headcount!)  ;)

I don’t want to spend all of my time in the kitchen.  I also don’t want to be so tired from preparing the meal that I can’t enjoy the day.  So I decided that I needed to find some tips to make things less hectic.

Whether you are having 30+ guests or cooking for just a few, it might be helpful to make some dishes before the big day!

Here are a few tips I found:

  • Make ahead Mashed Potatoes: You can make mashed potatoes up to 1-2 days ahead.  Take them out of the refrigerator and let them stand at room temperature for 30 mins. before baking.  Reheat at 350 degrees in a loosely foil-covered baking dish for approximately 20 minutes or until the center is hot.
  • Mashed Potatoes in Crock Pot: You can also take your “made ahead” mashed potatoes and put them in your crock pot to reheat.  Start heating them on low about 3 hours before you are ready to serve.
  • Prepare Cranberry Sauce Ahead: You can make your cranberry sauce a week ahead of time.  Just store it in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare Stuffing Ahead: Prep your stuffing or dressing, (tastes good no matter what you call it!) a day in advance.  It will be all set to either bake or stuff inside your turkey.
  • Prepare and Freeze Stuffing in Advance: You can even freeze your “prepped” stuffing weeks in advance.  Take it out the night before and it will be ready for you to use on the big day.
  • Freeze Apple Pies: I haven’t tried this myself, but my mother used to freeze her apple pies.  They always tasted good!  No complaints there.  I’ve included the recipe below. :)

And also, here is my mom’s apple pie recipe:

Fresh Apple Pie

  • Pie crust
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or use half granulated and half brown sugar)
  • 1 to 2 tablesp. flour (if fruit is very juicy)
  • 1/8 teasp. salt
  • 1/2 teasp. grated lemon rind
  • 1 to 2 teasp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 teasp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 teasp. cinnamon
  • 6 to 7 cups thinly sliced, pared, cored cooking apples (2 lbs) – (use firm, tart, juicy cooking apples – my mother always used Rome apples, but Granny Smiths can also be used)
  • 1 tablesp. butter
  1. Lay bottom crust into a 9″ pie plate and refrigerate.
  2. Combine sugar with flour, salt, rind, lemon juice, nutmeg and cinnamon (amount of sugar depends on the tartness of the apples).
  3. Place half of the apples in pastry-lined pie plate, with the apple’s curved edges facing outward; sprinkle with half of sugar mixture.
  4. Top with rest of apples – heaping them into the center, then with the rest of sugar mixture.  Dot with butter.
  5. Lay your top crust on apples and seal the edges. Slit top crust.
  6. Bake 40 – 50 mins or until filing is tender and crust is nicely browned.

If you plan to make this pie ahead of time and freeze it for Thanksgiving, then you need to:

Make the pie as usual.  Some juicy fruit pies may require more thickening that usual when you freeze it, so you will want to up the flour, I would say double it.  Now you have 2 options – you can bake the pie, cool and freeze it.  Or you can freeze it unbaked (my preference).  If pie is unbaked, do not slit the top crust until you are ready to bake it.

When you are ready to serve your pie:

  • Unbaked frozen pie – slit the top crust and bake at 425 for 40-60 mins.
  • If your frozen pie is already baked – bake at 375 for 30-50 mins or until center is bubbling hot.

No matter what you cook or don’t cook, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy!

Gigi Howe

  • Laurie

    Hi Gigi
    I moved from NJ to MI a year ago and i STILL am missing my SHOPRITE!! I know just what you are feeling. Nothing here comes close and it makes me homesick to think about it.

  • Robbie

    Often when I cook for a large group. I will cook turkeys a day or more before, saving one to cook on Thanksgiving to give my house a festive holiday scent. If you cook extra turkey or extra drum sticks, separate the turkey into light and dark meat you you can cook them for different times, since the white meat needs less time. It is easier to slice cool turkey breast, place in aluminum pans and moisten with broth, reheat and serve with your “presentation” bird. If you do this a few days early you can use the bones to make a great stock and have plenty of turkey for left overs.

  • Gigi @ LRWC

    Hi Laurie, Where do you shop now? I wish ShopRite would open a few stores out our way! :)

    • Laurie

      Hi Gigi I shop at Meijer and find only a few good deals once in a while. I tell everyone about my ShopRite in NJ and the wonderful deals I got on a regular basis. Meijer is a big company too and when I do the survey at the bottom of my receipt I keep begging them to go out east and see how ShopRite does it! Do you think maybe we could get Shoprite to come out here and blow away all the competition??!!

      • Gigi @ LRWC

        Hi Laurie, Yes, lets try to get ShopRite to move west. Its funny, I was at Meijer yesterday and I was telling the cashier about ShopRite. He asked me where I was from, and I said NJ. He said that explains it, the stores out east have a lot more to offer to their customers. I’ll start begging Meijers to take a trip east too ;)

  • Gigi @ LRWC

    Great info Robbie, thanks!

  • Laura D.

    Hi Gigi! You sure are planning for a large crowd! Many years ago, when the buffet style crock pots came out I purchase one for under $30, a really great price (it has three individual pots). I also had my regular crockpot and an old crock pot. I swear these things have been my saving grace! I will make all the vegetables and mashed potatoes a day ahead, then in the morning, reheat them all in the crock pots. My usual head count for a family sit down dinner is 21-25, yes, ALL at the dining room table! I used to never get the chance to sit down and enjoy the company because I was always cooking and serving non stop all day. Heating five dishes up while I cooked and prepared the turkey, stuffing, gravy, rolls, salad, etc., gave me time to sit and enjoy the day in between the courses. While everyone is still enjoying the first course, I transfer all the crock pot dishes into china serving bowls. I fill the crock pots with water and let them soak in the kitchen. All of the side dishes make it to the table hot and ready, I used to have a problem with keeping everything hot. There just wasn’t enough stove and oven space. The only drawback is the crock pots all need to be cleaned and packed away. In the end, it’s a small price to pay to make the day seem longer and much more enjoyable. Best of Luck to you and your Holiday Adventure!!!

    • Gigi @ LRWC

      Thanks Laura! Sounds like you are used to cooking for a large crowd! Good tips on the crock pots, I’m definitely going to use them this year. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Jet

    Hi Gigi, i feel the same! I moved from NJ to VA and i am lost and depressed without my Shoprite!!! Nobody knows how i feel..

    • Gigi @ LRWC

      Hi Jet, Who would have ever thought!

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