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Hosting Thanksgiving? Here's how to plan ahead

Here's a quick look at everything from defrosting the bird to finding deals.

WASHINGTON — Hosting Thanksgiving is no easy feat. The weeks-long food preparations, deep cleaning intensives and the panic that comes with entertaining guests. 

Amid inflation this year, worries about placing a Thanksgiving bird on the table add to hosts' list of concerns. Despite this, planning is the key to a successful and stress-free Thanksgiving. 

Here are a few tips for organizing a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner.

Who's coming over?

It's all about the guestlist when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving. While some guest may flake, having a general idea of how many people are coming is essential before you begin grocery shopping. 

Taking the extra step of sending confirmation texts to potential guests can help you finalize the guestlist well before Thanksgiving Day.

Turkey or no turkey? Finalize a menu

Planning Thanksgiving meals all starts with a pen and paper. Write down all the dishes you plan on serving — including all the side dishes, charcuterie boards and desserts.

When brainstorming recipes, keep in mind that the oven will mostly be off limits the day of Thanksgiving. Find dishes that can be prepped ahead of time or even served at room temperature. 

If you're budget is pinched for a turkey this year, you can also alternate for a roast chicken instead. 

Higher holiday prices aren't just the result of inflation. Over 47 million birds have been affected by avian flu in 43 states this year, according to the Department of Agriculture. 

Prices for certain types of poultry, including turkey, were up nearly 17% this October compared to last October, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. But there's still hope for a reasonably priced bird — that number doesn't account for common seasonal retailer discounts ahead of Thanksgiving.

MORE: Turkey prices were up 17% in October, but Thanksgiving shoppers will likely see discounts

Shopping lists and where to find Thanksgiving deals

Inflation is on everyone's mind this holiday season, and stores know it. Several stores announced deals and discounts ahead of Thanksgiving this year.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, announced in early November lower prices for traditional Thanksgiving items, an offer they call "this year's Thanksgiving meal at last year's price." 

RELATED: Walmart plans to sell some Thanksgiving items at last year's prices

Also joining the promise of lower prices this Thanksgiving is discount supermarket chain Aldi. It announced it would be offering Thanksgiving grocery staples up to 30% off, in order to match pre-inflation prices from 2019 as part of the "Thanksgiving Price Rewind" promotion. 

RELATED: Aldi stores matching 2019 prices for Thanksgiving

Discount retailer Lidl, which has more than 170 stores on the east coast, said it will again be selling a Thanksgiving basket that can feed up to 10 people for less than $30. 

With a game plan in mind, you can shop for groceries more intuitively too. 

RELATED: What's open, closed on Thanksgiving 2022?

A helpful tip to organize grocery shopping is to create two lists for the items you'll need to buy. One will be dedicated to groceries that last more than a week, while the second will be easily perishable foods and final groceries. 

Check kitchen equipment

You'll need more than an air fryer to whip up Thanksgiving dinner -- though it's not bad thinking. Make sure you have all the kitchen equipment necessary for your planned meals to avoid a nightmare situation. 

Aside from checking all the kitchen tools work, check you have enough silverware, dinnerware and proper seating for all the guests you plan on having over. 

Often an afterthought in the midst of food prep is serving dishes. For the over-the-top planners, delegating what food goes in which serving dish can help tame chaos the day of Thanksgiving.

Too much work? Try a potluck

Potluck-style Thanksgiving dinners can help ease the workload and the impact to the host's wallet. 

If you're set on having a potluck-style dinner, ask guests what dishes they plan on making in order to better prepare. Offer friends and family the opportunity to take on dishes that might overwhelm you — such as the "perfect" dessert or casserole. 

Saving time 

Preparing dishes ahead of time can ease up the workload for Thanksgiving Day. Side dishes like mac and cheese, stuffing and desserts can easily be made days prior and reheated for dinner. It will not only free up time but space in the kitchen. 

Turkey 101: When should I defrost my turkey?

The centerpiece to a Thanksgiving dinner -- and often the most overwhelming part. 

Defrosting a turkey all depends on the size of your Thanksgiving bird. The USDA says for frozen turkeys, you'll need about 24 hours in the fridge for every four to five pounds of turkey. That's about: 

  • 1-3 days for a 4-12 pound turkey
  • 3-4 days for a 12-16 pound turkey
  • 4-5 days for a 16-20 pound turkey
  • 5-6 days for a 20-24 pound turkey

The thawed bird can hang out in your fridge for one or two days before cooking. 

When do I know my turkey is done?

For first timers, this is often the most perplexing question. With a cooking thermometer, read the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. 

The USDA says a ready to eat turkey should read 165 degrees. There's a catch — if you stuff the turkey, the center of the stuffing needs to reach that temperature too. This can be difficult for large birds.

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