Thanksgiving is just over a week away! Feeling short on time already? Believe us when we say you are not alone. We talked to a ton of real people—customers, employees, friends—to crowdsource actionable ideas that make holiday cooking less stressful and more enjoyable. Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that spending more time with family and friends is what really matters. And food.
Follow our peaceful holiday meal prep tips if you want to experience:
General Cooking Tips to Stress Less
Applicable to all holidays and regular days, too.
Tip #1 ‒ Read the entire recipe front to back first.
Have you ever had this experience? You reach the middle of a recipe and realize you don’t have a key ingredient because you didn’t read, then you rummage through your cupboards to find a workable substitution? We’ve all been there. Thoroughly reading all your holiday recipes will save you some serious headaches.
Tip #2 ‒ Use the mise en place method.
Peaceful cooking begins with not being rushed. Mise en place is French for “everything in its place,” but in the culinary world, it means to prep all of your ingredients and set them in small bowls so they’re ready when you need them. Start by reading the recipe, then chopping any ingredients the recipe calls for, except those that should be cut last minute, such as onions. (Fun fact: The same compound in onions that makes you tear up is actually good for you. Turns out, about 10 minutes after an onion is sliced, it has mostly dissipated. That’s why you should always cut your onions right before you cook them.)
Tip #3 ‒ Clean as you go.
There’s no other way to describe this one than a total game changer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner or a 10 minute lunch; cleaning as you go takes the pain out of dishwashing. If you don’t allow food to dry onto utensils and bowls, they can often be rinsed clean with a bit of hot water. Those that require soap take even less time.
Tip #4 ‒ Use a pressure cooker, then a freezer.
If you want to really hit your stride, follow this one-two punch of a tip. Simply make a little more than you need, then freeze the leftovers. We’re not talking about an all day meal prep event that consumes a quarter of your weekend and leaves you questioning whether it was worth it. Just double an instant pot recipe you love, so that when you’ve had a stressful day and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll think to yourself, “Oh, that’s right. I froze a container of that delicious barley soup I made last week.” You save time on the front and the back. 👌🏽
Cooking for a Crowd
Let’s get this party started.
Tip #5 ‒ Shop in advance.
It can be slim pickin’s two days before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Try shopping at least a week before the day of the holiday for shelf stable or frozen goods such as flour, dry and canned beans, spices, stuffing in the box, canned cranberry sauce, frozen whipped cream, ice cream, etc. Refrigerated items can be purchased two days before and still be trusted to deliver freshness.
Tip #6 ‒ Roll call.
If you’re one of those people who tries to take on all the work themselves (even when someone asks if they can do anything to help), do yourself a favor this year and share the load. Assign someone to dish duty or chopping duty. You might be surprised; working together in the kitchen can be fun. Turn on a bit of festive music or come prepared with a stack of icebreaker question cards to get everyone talking.
Tip #7 ‒ Marinate smart, not hard.
Cooking an entire turkey is a job and a half. Cut back on effort by using your favorite salad dressing as a marinade. Chosen Foods Dressings & Marinades happen to be made with the best high-heat cooking oil around—avocado oil—so there’s no worry about using the broiler to get a nice crisp.
Tip #8 ‒ Make use of simple ingredient upgrades.
Like these simple recipe upgrades using Chosen Foods Mayos for a boost of flavor, from Sam the Cooking Guy.
Check out our Sam the Cooking Guy x Chosen Foods Youtube Playlist for more recipe inspiration here.
Tip #9 ‒ As potluck would have it…
A holiday potluck is never anything less than a festival of flavor (and texture). You already know how your aunt makes her mashed potatoes, but have you tried Jeremy’s mashed potatoes? Because he uses truffle butter. Potlucks open new doors to the traditions and recipes of your friends’ families. Bonus: If everyone’s assigned to arrive with a dish, you only have to cook an item or two. Win win.
Tip #10 ‒ Tackle challenging recipes with instructional videos.
There’s a reason why cooking classes exist. We all learn differently and for some, it can be puzzling to fully visualize a technique without seeing someone else perform it. That uncertainty has caused many a good home chef to back down from more advanced recipes. So, instead of floundering with a triple Bavarian dough knot (we made that up) and feeling like you’re in the middle of a Great British Baking Show technical challenge, don’t be afraid to take advantage of YouTube.
A More Mindful Holiday
You deserve to enjoy the best holiday season possible, especially after having missed so many events. By adding just a touch of mindfulness into the way we cook, we can easily save ourselves from stress and family arguments, while freeing ourselves up to enjoy the moment. Try extending mindfulness to the dinner as well, by slowing down to enjoy every bite and every laugh. The holidays only come once a year. Make this season a good one!