Just like last year, this week after Thanksgiving feels so incredibly short. Maybe because I’m tired of cooking and cleaning. Maybe because I see the calendar counting down to Christmas (and all the cooking and cleaning and shopping and wrapping and decorating that has to be done). So this week and month, since we’re knee-deep into the holidays, I tend to focus more on planning than prepping.

One of my favorite annual habits that I perform every year, the week after Thanksgiving, fits in with our Prep & Plan schedule. I call this my “Regroup Week”. What does this mean? A regroup week is when I stop doing any major Prep & Plan chores, like organizing closets, counting cans in the pantry, worrying about drinking water, etc. This is a week where I carve out time to sit down with a cup of tea and a notebook. I know we’ve been using our legal pads, but for this event I use a notebook that I pull out throughout the year after every major holiday or family event. It’s a cheap notebook I got at Dollar Tree. So there’s no reason to run out and purchase an expensive notebook with matching pens and washi tape (yes, I’ve done that). Or you can keep this in your notes app on your phone, on Trello, or any other place where you keep track of things you want to remember next year.

This notebook (either in print or electronic) will be for an annual review of holidays and other large family events. And, you’ll need a piece of paper for a shopping list. I am currently using the back of a bill envelope to write down the things I need at the grocery store this week. In this notebook, I mark a new page with the title Thanksgiving 2022. Below that, I begin listing things that worked and things that didn’t. I’m talking about food, cleaning, guests, etc–anything that you had to do or deal with on the day or through the weekend. In my case, I went to my sisters house for dinner, but had sleepover company stay for a few days so I had to cook other meals for. made dinner for. I use this list as a total brain dump. As I drink my tea, and eat a piece of leftover pumpkin pie, I write down anything I can think of that went right, went wrong, and what I would do differently next year that I know I’ll forget if I don’t write it down now. I also note anything I need to buy for the next round of company/guests, or for next year’s Thanksgiving. If I need it for next year’s feast, I can start looking for post-Thanksgiving sales (yes, they’re a thing!) or shop for it throughout the year. As I work in this notebook, I use the separate shopping list to write down anything I ran out of and need to pick up before Christmas. (This year I ran out of fresh sage leaves, cranberry juice, Coke Zero, and tissues)

What I Wrote in My Notebook:

  • Buy new pillow cases for the guest room
  • Reduce the number of pies. We had too many leftovers
  • Send my Thanksgiving linens to the dry cleaner
  • Buy new bathroom floor mats for guest room
  • Order new table pads for the dining room table.
  • Reduce the appetizers by one dish
  • Buy Aperol as soon as it’s back in stock
  • The gewürztraminer wine my step-father brought was perfect with the turkey. Buy 4 bottles (for 12 adults) instead of 3.
  • Make sure to have more lunch options, including a pot of soup, for the men while the women shop on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
  • Next year, make reservation for Sunday night dinner before Halloween.
  • Don’t buy the cheap cocktail napkins. There was a reason they were so cheap!
  • Maybe make 1 cranberry bread next year. 
  • Next year, buy extra ice in a bag and keep it in the outside freezer or a cooler on the patio. We went through ice faster than my ice maker could make it.
  • Running a load of dishes during the dinner worked great. It made clean up easier. 
  • I love Ina Garten’s do ahead turkey recipe. It was fabulous, and I am definitely doing that again next year. 
  • I had a 24 pound turkey this year for 12 people. I wouldn’t go any smaller than 22 pounds. It was almost all gone and I didn’t have enough leftovers for lunch while the women shopped on Friday and Saturday. While I have enough bones and leg meat for soup, I still like to add in white meat. 
  • This week, check the price of leftover turkeys at the grocery store. If I can find one at 29 cents a pound or less, I may grab one and throw it in the deep freezer. 
  • We ate at 3:30 pm, the earliest we’ve ever eaten. I would definitely do that again. We has some older guests who wanted to get on the road before it got too dark. 

So you get the idea…. it’s a list of all the things in your head that you’ll be grateful you kept note of when you begin preparing for next year’s holiday. 

TRACKING THE BUDGET:

Once I finish my list, and leave some room on the next page for things I’ll think of next week, I take the next few blank pages and tape in the receipts for everything I bought for the weekend. From laundry detergent, to the turkey, to the tickets for the lunch the women in my family attended on Friday afternoon. Yes, I keep all those receipts–but I didn’t always do that. Years ago, the habit was recommended by a Certified Financial Planner I know and it’s been eye-opening. Because I use one notebook for about five years worth of family events (I keep track of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Family Reunions, and birthday parties), it’s easy to see what I’ve spent over the years and track the inflation. As I plan for next year’s events, being able to see what I paid makes it easy to budget ahead. Yes, keeping receipts is kind of “extra”, but it does help me when I do the household budget for next year. It also helps me keep track of the “emotional” last minute purchases. I didn’t need the flowers. They were beautiful, but we ended up having to move them to the kitchen to make room on the table. Although they do look lovely on my desk as I write this post. 

So that’s the homework for this week. Start a Family Holiday Notebook and, if you still have them, add the receipts. From that work, begin a shopping list of things you need to replenish in your pantry for the week, for the upcoming holidays, and next year’s celebration. You can do this exercise in less than 30 minutes, and you’ve set yourself up for an even better prepared Thanksgiving 2023. 

If you’re interested in catching up on the Prep & Plan homework, read Prep & Plan: Week 7 to catch up on any homework you may have missed. If you want to keep up with the Prep and Plan posts, you can subscribe to the blog in the sign-up block below.


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