Simple strategies whip Thanksgiving into shape

QUEEN OF FREE: CHERIE LOWE

By Cherie Lowe

Earlier this month, my husband and I returned the edits on our manuscript for a new book we’re writing together. After hitting send, I stood up, stretched my sore neck and shoulders and looked around.

The sink brimmed with dirty dishes. Glancing outside, I noticed our yard sorely neglected. Weeds and tall grass surrounded our entire house and summer’s playthings remained in the yard. Don’t even get me started on the laundry. Somehow if I miss a day or two of keeping things up, the laundry room morphs into an ocean of dirty towels and socks, jeans and T-shirts.

I spent the next two days digging out and then I realized something. The holidays are almost here.

Halloween is our simplest holiday. We purchased costumes on clearance last season so I wouldn’t need to come up with anything creative there.

But following close behind comes Thanksgiving. The day of the turkey probably requires more prep work than any other seasonal fest. There are guests to invite, a menu to plan, groceries to be purchased and decisions to make. For example, will you use your grandmother’s china or opt for disposable tableware this year?

Whether you plan to host or simply fill a space at your mama or grandmama’s table, you may want to begin planning ahead, too. Thinking about your plan prevents future freak out. Get your Thanksgiving whipped into shape with these simple strategies.

Invite your guests, more

Most family gatherings don’t require fancy invitations. However, things get tricky when trying to determine exactly who will arrive and when. Having a solid headcount allows you to plan accordingly for food, chairs and extras.

If your celebration is a pitch-in, you’ll need a good way to track who’s bringing green beans and who’s covering the rolls. You can keep a pen and paper list or maybe this year, you can go digital. Evite — a free online digital invitation system — allows guests to RSVP and make comments. Or if your friends and family all have Facebook accounts, consider creating a group where members can interact with each other.

You can also make good use of a platform like SignUp.com where you create the event and the list of items you need prepared and then send out an email to your friends and family. From there, they can choose which items they’ll bring.

Clean out fridge, freezer, oven

Early in November, it’s time to go on a clean sweep. More than likely your kitchen appliances work overtime during the holiday season. Give them some TLC before enlisting them into action. Clear out space for soon-to-be leftovers to reside. Scrub the interior of your oven where that piece of sausage fell off the last pizza you cooked. You know, the one you forget about it until you turn your oven on and smell a less than favorable burnt aroma. Make room in your freezer for turkeys, pies, and anything else that can be pre-made before your celebration. Pitch the popsicles and make way for the feast.

Consider the bird

While basting your turkey is still weeks ahead, the main attraction of the meal requires the most forethought. Will you purchase a pre-cooked turkey? A frozen turkey? A turkey breast? It’s not a bad idea to measure your oven to decide what size you can roast, keeping in mind other items might be cooking at the same time. Now is the time to also research local options where you might be able to buy a farm fresh turkey. If you wait too much longer, you won’t be able to place an order. Hatch a plan for delicious.

Start a grocery list

Keep a running list of the items you’ll need to purchase always at hand. If you’re anything like me, you’ll forget it if you don’t write it down. The in-store prices are already beginning to tumble, alluring in savvy shoppers. Stick to your list when you’re in the store to prevent overbuying and overspending. I’ll warn you now. The deals will be downright irresistible. Stay strong and stay on target.

Stay tuned. I’ll have shopping strategies, price comparisons and more in the weeks to come. There’s no time like the present to begin your turkey day plan. Spend time working ahead so you can enjoy a stress-free holiday.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net