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Ways to Make Sure Side Dishes Are Completed On Time

Follow these tips to help make your Thanksgiving meal countdown a success and hopefully, lessen your stress this holiday season.

Do you have "side dish stress" at Thanksgiving? You're not alone. Getting all those little casseroles and accompaniments on the table at the right temperature and on time is a challenge for many holiday party hosts.

Tip 1: Organize Your Cooking Space

A clean, organized kitchen is essential to a smooth holiday meal. Think about all cooking methods available in your home and plan your side dishes accordingly.

For example, you'll be roasting the turkey in the oven at a certain temperature, try to make a casserole that cooks at the same temperature you can pop in there with it. If you've got a slow cooker, use it!

And if you've got the counter space, consider prepping sides like vegetables or casseroles that just need to be reheated ahead of time, then setting up sternos to warm them 30 minutes before the meal.

Tip 2: Make a 60-Minute Countdown Cooking Plan

A plan of action only works if you can easily follow it. Take the time to write it down and pin it up in an easy-to-see spot in your kitchen. Aim to have all prep done by this point and devote the final hour to simple finishing touches so you're relaxed and ready to enjoy the holiday meal.

Tip 3: Prep Some Food and Equipment in Advance

Being prepared on Thanksgiving Day will help you feel more relaxed and confident about making the meal. Peel and chop whatever you can the night before, create your own seasoning packets that are pre-measured and can be added directly to dishes without worry, and make sure you've got pots and pans you need cleaned and located.

Another good idea? Set up your Thanksgiving table a few days before your holiday meal. Not only will you not have to worry about setting the perfect table, you'll also know ahead of time if a napkin ring is missing or if an extra glass needs to be purchased. No last-minute surprises!

Tip 4: Put a Planning Timer in your Pocket

You probably have an oven timer for cooking, so why not use a timer for planning? Many mobile phones have a built-in timer or you could purchase a small portable timer to help you stay on track on Thanksgiving Day.

Tip 5: As a Last Resort

Much of the stress of Thanksgiving meal preparation is due to that fact that many people are actually making 3 meals in 1 when you consider leftovers. If you're really overwhelmed, try this:

Make only the amount of food that you know will be consumed at dinner if you can predict what your family will eat.

Clean up the kitchen as much as you can while you prep. Clean up later on will be easier if the dish washer has been emptied and readied for a new load, and the garbage is empty so there's room for waste to go out without hassle.

Pop extra side dishes into the oven after the meal or during clean up to keep your leftovers safe and out of the way until the dishes are done.

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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