Stocking up for the big day
November 3rd, 2011
09:05 AM ET
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With Thanksgiving approaching, you've still got a tad of time on your side. Use it to wrangle your guest list into place (leaving room for a few day-of tag-alongs), stock up, and keep from getting your feathers all ruffled in a last-second scramble for plates, drinks, turkey and places to sit.

The Bird

If you've got a rough idea of how many meat-eating guests will be on hand, go with around one pound per person - one and a half if you'd like to ensure a stash of leftovers. A huge bird can be comically unwieldy, so consider sacrificing the Big Platter Presentation for the sake of sanity and back strain. Opt for two (or three or more if you have the oven space) smaller birds - and just remember to make sure you've got enough roasting pans, foil and other poultry paraphernalia on hand.

If even the teeniest turkey is too big for your crowd, consider paring down to parts - just a breast or a mess of drumsticks. That way, each person gets the meat style they prefer, it cooks more quickly and you're not stuck on a search for a six-legged Tom.

Stock Up

No matter if you're serving a mega-bird, a couple of capons or even a tiny Tofurky, we cannot possibly overstate the importance of having stock on hand. Whether you opt for chicken or vegetable, it cannot hurt to have some around to saute sides, stir into stuffing, smooth out gravy or tater lumps and add flavor to just about any dish. It comes in cans or, even better, shelf-stable boxes, and what you don't use for T-Day, you'll burn through before the year is out.

Some Buying Guidelines:

Turkey: 1 lb per person, 1 1/2 lbs if you'd like leftovers (this takes the skin, bones and giblets of a whole bird into account)
Stuffing: 3/4 cup (pre-cooked volume) per person
Mashed potatoes or other starchy vegetables: 1/3-1/2 pound of raw potatoes (or squash) per person, 1 whole sweet potato
Other vegetables: 2-4 ounces or 1/2 cup per person
Salad: 1 cup per person
Beverages: 1-2 8 oz. drinks per hour per guest
Ice: 1 lb per person

Other Essentials:


Roasting / baking dishes
Baster or basting brush
Napkins (paper or linen)
Tablecloths and placemats
Serving platters, bowls and utensils
Carving knife
Plates and bowls
Aprons (for additional cooks)
Oven mitts / potholders
Containers for leftovers*
Kitchen towels
Paper towels
Hand towels
Bathroom tissue
Dish soap / hand soap


Oil (olive and canola)
Kosher salt
Sugar (white and brown)
Cream / milk
Herbs (fresh and dry)
Onions, celery, carrots
Coffee / tea
Mixers (especially club soda in case of spills)
Beer / wine / spirits

Soul Saving

*Butter tubs, plastic take-out containers, baggies, Tupperware and all manner of resealable food-safe containers are a MUST if you don't care to end up swimming in gravy and green bean casserole on into '12. Some leftovers are dandy - perhaps even more appealing than the day-of meal - but if guests are bringing dishes as well, you just might not have the storage space.

Take a tip from the best Thanksgiving hostess we've ever know, the very dear, departed Miss Ellen Robinson (we called her Mama Diva) and assign at least one or more people to container duty. Then do NOT allow guests to leave without taking something delicious with them. It's equal parts generosity and strategy.

Previously - T minus 22 – Quick, simple vegetable sides and all T minus Thanksgiving coverage

Got a Thanksgiving query or dilemma? Need techniques for roasting turkey or just looking for recipes to bust up your holiday rut? Wanna know what one of our anchors eats for T-Day? We're here to help. Post your question in the comments below and we'll do our best to assist.

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. trey

    looking for informations today went to a site i want to try something new this year frying a turkey sounds good to me;

    November 23, 2011 at 4:06 am |
  2. Beanz

    pass the tofurky yo!!

    November 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  3. sharath

    Dual and multi graded pressure filters, Softeners and DM Plants, Reverse osmosis plants,Boiler water treatment chemicals, Effluent and sewage Treatment plants.

    November 5, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  4. Thomas

    Last year my girlfriend decided to buy a fresh turkey from our local farmer's market.

    $88.00 just for the dead turkey. WTF!

    Don't think we will be doing that again. :)

    November 4, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Bill

      That is not a bad price for a heritage turkey. Why eat the standard, hormone filled American crap with artificially enlarged breasts. Old world heritage birds have smaller, darker breasts, and fattier more succulent dark meat. Worth the cost for me any day!

      November 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
      • Hey Bulldog@Bill

        Soooo less Paris Hilton, more Rosie O'Donnell?
        Meh, no thanks.

        November 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
      • Thomas

        That turkey we were sold was not worth 88 fricking dollars. It was a scam and my GF fell for it.

        November 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • ala-kat

      I wasn't going to buy a turkey, but last year ended up in Publix about an hour before closing for some milk. They were pushing their fresh turkeys to any takers. Scored a 14 lb fresh (never frozen) turkey for less than $9. Think I may be low on milk again this year.

      November 6, 2011 at 1:24 am |


    November 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ned Flanders

      You're yeling, that's the devil's doing right there.

      November 4, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  6. Sandy

    This article has bad advice: always pick a bigger bird over several smaller birds. Why? Because the same poundage will yield more meat on the single bird (you only have one skeleton, not several, to account for).

    November 3, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Denny

      Except you are wrong, too big of a bird and it takes to long for the dark meat to cook and the white dries out. I never buy bigger than 12lbs. I would rather have a properly cooked turkey for a little more money that a turkey that is cheaper but inedible.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:19 am |
      • Denny

        Sorry that should read 15lbs.

        November 4, 2011 at 9:22 am |
      • Runnybabbit

        Brine it and no matter how big the bird is, it never dries out. I've done it that way for 14 years :)

        November 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
        • rubytu

          Brining is important. I bought a 22 lb. bird for 3 people. I cook for two days for Thanksgiving and not again for a week! Turkey, turkey, and more turkey. I even fill up an extra roasting pan with stuffing. Oyster stuffing.

          November 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  7. 6 Legged

    LOL with the 6 legged turkey –

    MY MOM USED TO COOK ONE AT THANKSGIVING !!!!!!!!! (Between our house and the neighbor's house full of kids, we'd need 6 turkey legs – so every year my Mom would pin the extra legs on the sides of the turkey. JUST before serving, my Dad would go through a whole speech about how he and the neighbor kids' Dad (John) had hunted and hunted in the woods until they found a 6 legged turkey.

    We were sooooo gullible back in the early 60's – LOL – yes, we bought that line!!!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • diddly-do-do

      Hahaha! Thanks for sharing!

      November 4, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Thomas

      One of the few pleasures of being a parent is being able to mess with this like this. LoL

      November 5, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  8. Thread Police@Brian

    Quit being a cheapskate and buy ad space somewhere.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Thread Police

      .... yeah .... gone now sucka!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
      • Tha Chikin

        I heart you guys! And I am not sucking up here! I REEEALLY do!!

        November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  9. Tha Chikin



    November 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Ned Flanders


      November 4, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  10. ps

    Disgusting! Leave the turkey alone! Your girth will not see a dent, trust me!

    November 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Pennylane pub

      I think you forgot the "m" in the middle of your username.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
      • ps

        If I were a woman, silly! I am actually a male turkey!

        November 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
        • Campstove Jack

          that makes you a gobbler.

          November 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Tha Chikin

      Sorry... but that Turkey had it coming...

      November 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  11. Anon_e_mouse

    Only a pound-and-a-half per person? OK, we do like leftovers, but still... I think there will only be nine of us this year at our daughter's house, since two of our children and their families won't be able to make the trip east; this means that we will only cook two 20-lb. turkeys instead of three or four. One will essentially disappear at the meal, along with the stuffing from both of them, while the breasts and thighs of the other will be sliced for sandwiches; the remaining meat will be chopped for use in soup made from the bones of both of them.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jake

      Yeah, I agree those portions seem tiny. Only 3/4c of my favorite part (stuffing) per person? We're a family of thin people and that just seems ridiculously little for the biggest pig-out day of the year!

      November 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Aubrie

    I have two college aged boys..... I get aluminum left over pans with lids and divide up the left overs for them to take home with them.... They LOVE having home cooked food for a few days afterward. Keeps me from having stacks of tupperware in my fridge. I keep the bones and make soup. Eating lite afterwards is a must for me.

    November 3, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  13. Diana

    I feel like that turkey is saying "OH SH*T".....

    I only eat turkey once a year. Sorry birdie.

    November 3, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  14. TurkeyTom


    November 3, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Tha Chikin


      November 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Thomas

      "They're *turkeys*, you dolt. ...They don't plot, they don't scheme, and they are *not* organized."

      Love that movie

      November 4, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Ned Flanders

      We're done for, we're done-diddly done for, we're done-diddly-doodily, done diddly-doodily, done diddly-doodly, done diddly-doodily!

      November 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. Kyon

    we do that anyways, i am still so sick of turkey

    November 3, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  16. Shelly

    Lets leave the turkey alone for the holiday. They don't deserve to be butchered for other's celebration.

    November 3, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Pilgrim

      They are delicious, therefore they deserve it.

      November 3, 2011 at 10:38 am |
      • Aturkey

        Agreed...we are delicious and serve a far greater purpose feeding people. What else do we do??

        November 3, 2011 at 11:05 am |
      • Pilgrim@Aturkey

        Eat. Breed. Sh!t. Maaaaybe evolve into something that flies – eventually. Then get eaten by something in the wild.
        So why not cut out the middleman and feed some of us (slightly more) tame creatures at Thanksgiving?

        November 3, 2011 at 11:11 am |
      • Cylon

        "Humans are masters of self destruction."

        November 3, 2011 at 11:14 am |
      • Tha Chikin

        Aturkey – Oooo! Oooo! I know!

        The answer is POOP!

        November 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
      • Pilgrim@Tha Chikin

        Od'd on the 'spresso this morning? :D

        November 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Robin

      I raise my own turkeys. They are well fed, get to run around a very large, secure paddock, and have a good life. They are quickly dispatched a few days before they are to be brined. I have no qualms about eating what I have raised, be it chickens, turkeys or lamb.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:17 am |
      • Eleanor

        I started raising turkeys a couple years ago, too, and this year will supply 15 turkeys to family and friends. We kept two to eat and eight for breeding stock. They enjoy a good life and we enjoy a tasty turkey.

        November 4, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Darth Cheney

      Enjoy your nasty tofu. As for me, I was genetically hardwired as a Homo Sapiens to crave meat, and I do not intend to deny myself my own human nature for a feast celebration.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Amy

      If God didn't mean for us to eat animals, why did He make them out of meat?

      November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
      • Ned Flanders

        True true! I’ve done everything the Bible says — even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!

        November 4, 2011 at 10:14 am |
      • cynmila

        almost choked on my lunch, that's too funny :)

        November 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • Aloisae

        This is not intended as a criticism of your choice to eat animals; however, the justification you used would also advocate human cannibalism which, for many reasons including but definitely not limited to health risks, is not acceptable in most cultures.

        November 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  17. volksmaniac

    The First Lady doesn't ever take a bad photo . She is just gorgeous in the above photograph .

    November 3, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Jokersmoker

      To me the photo looks like Bachmann when she was caught deep throating that corn dog.

      November 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
      • Pennylane pub

        To me it looks like any Republican/Teabagger with their mouth open, which means they are lying.

        November 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
      • Ned Flanders

        Watch Fox and be damned for all eternity!

        November 4, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  18. 7saturdays

    Well, good message, minus the creepy looking link.

    November 3, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • 7saturdays

      this was meant to be a reply to the spam comment.

      November 3, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  19. Hank

    Lets also remember those less fortunate as we prepare our holiday are a couple good ideas to help these people...

    November 3, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • AleeD

      Knock it off with the spam already.

      November 3, 2011 at 9:43 am |
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