Whether you’re cooking the Thanksgiving meal for the first or the fiftieth time, it’s important to start with a Thanksgiving shopping list.
And since everyone can use a little help, we’ve put together this handy checklist to give you a starting point. It contains all the basic tools and ingredients you’ll want to have on hand—and you can update or add to it, from there.
How to Use This List
While everyone’s Thanksgiving menu is a little different, there is plenty of overlap—mashed potatoes and turkey are likely to make an appearance, for instance.
So while may not need every item listed here, chances are high that most of them will be handy.
Go ahead and choose your turkey recipe, as well as the Thanksgiving side dishes and Thanksgiving desserts you’ll want to make.
Make sure those ingredients are on your list. Then you can cross reference that list with ours, and add anything that is missing.
Next, go through your pantry, cupboards, and fridge to see what you already have. Make sure that you’re not doubling up on anything. If you have something that is on your list, cross it off.
Your kitchen will be full enough as it is, without double bags of flour, or an extra turkey baster!
Now it’s time to hit the store. We recommend doing your shopping no more than a week out from the big day—that way the fresh ingredients don’t go bad. If you happen to forget a key ingredient, be sure to consult our list of grocery stores open on Thanksgiving before you head out.
Hopefully, with this list and advice, your Thanksgiving will be much less stressful. Happy shopping!
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Supplies to Make Turkey
At most Thanksgivings, the bird is the star of the show. To get the skin crispy, while insuring the meat stays juicy, you’ll want these tools:
You’ll want to invest in a quality roasting pan and skip the disposable versions. But you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on one. Since you’re likely only using it once or twice a year, as long as it is sturdy, it will get the job done and last for years.
Get a quality (non-leaking) baster and use it throughout the cooking process—not just before you pop the pan in the oven. By basting the bird as it roasts, you’ll ensure the turkey doesn’t dry out. This step is very important if you have an especially big bird.
A digital thermometer is possibly the most important tool to have. It will keep you from serving an overcooked, dried-out bird—or worse, a dangerous, undercooked one.
When it comes to fall recipes, there’s a pretty standard mix of herbs you’ll use. These include plenty of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage.
Though dried herbs will work, they aren’t as pungent as fresh herbs, and the flavor isn’t as robust. Save the dried herbs for soup.
If there’s one ingredient you can never have too much of, it’s unsalted butter. We prefer unsalted because then you can control how much salt goes into a recipe.
This is especially important with baked goods. Butter can (and should!) be used in just about every single item you make on Thanksgiving. It will help get your turkey skin nice and crackly, and is a must in many side dishes and desserts, so plan to stock up on a couple pounds.
Supplies to Make Side Dishes
Although the bird (or Tofurky if you’re having a vegetarian meal) is the centerpiece, the sides are what people look forward to.
It’s a good idea to include a wide variety of options on your table. Some dishes are classics: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, and cranberry sauce for instance.
Your guests will also expect some homemade gravy and stuffing.
It’s a good idea to include a few new dishes each year, as well. Who knows, they may become classics! This year, corn pudding, a kale and pickled cranberry salad, and baked onions are going on our table, though they haven’t in years past. Here are more side dishes you may want to try.
After you make your selections, include those ingredients on your list.
Casseroles are a holiday staple, of course, and you need something to bake them in. It’s a good idea to have a few different shapes and sizes readily available so you can whip up several dishes at once.
Good rimmed baking sheets (aka sheet pans) make roasting easy and catch drips from pies before they burn to the bottom of your oven. The best sheets won’t warp when introduced to high heat.
If your kitchen needs a couple, now’s the time to get them.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Stock up on plenty of potatoes when you head to the store. We suggest getting russet potatoes for mashing or baking.
Waxier Yukon Gold are good for gratins or casseroles. Of course, you’ll want plenty of sweet potatoes for either sweet potato pie or for a marshmallow-topped casserole.
Potatoes have a decent shelf life, so even if you don’t use all of them on Thanksgiving, you’ll have some on hand for a future meal.
Check to see if your recipe requires fresh or frozen green beans. Both are tasty and healthy, but it’s worth getting what the recipe suggests. They require different prep and cooking methods.
Grab a hearty sourdough loaf a few days before Thanksgiving to make your own croutons, stuffing, and bread crumbs. The effort pays off in the taste.
Flour is necessary for two main reasons. It will be used to thicken up your gravy, and is also a big part of most pies and other baked goods.
Of course fresh or frozen cranberries go in your cranberry sauce, which is not difficult to make and tastes far, far better than that jelly tube you dump out of a can.
But the fruit can be featured in other sweet and savory recipes too, like salads, sides, dessert, and even drinks. Here are some of our favorite ways to use cranberries.
Supplies for the Desserts
On Thanksgiving, there’s always room for dessert. Whether you’re preparing a pie recipe, a batch of cookies, or maybe a three-layer cake, every sweet out there requires a few tools and ingredients before getting it in the oven.
Is one necessary? No. But you’ll save so much time and effort on everything from mixing batter to whipping cream that you really will wish you’d bought one years before.
And while there are cheaper options out there, unfortunately, you really do get what you pay for. Invest in a quality stand mixer, and for the next twenty years, every time you bake you’ll be glad you did.
**Bonus, they come in many fun colors and look great on the kitchen counter!
If you plan on doing a lot of baking, it’s a good rule of thumb to have three kinds: granulated sugar, brown sugar (light and dark are usually interchangeable), and confectioners’ sugar on hand. They’re not interchangeable.
Skip the store-bought whipped cream and make your own with heavy cream this year. It’s one of the easiest—and tastiest—additions to go along with your treats.
Whether you’re making pecan pie, adding walnuts to stuffing, or just setting out spiced nuts for folks to nosh on before dinner, you’ll probably want plenty of whole nuts.
The majority of pumpkin pie recipes call for canned pumpkin purée—not fresh pumpkin.
While typically we like to recommend fresh food, this is one situation where the canned stuff is actually better. It’s easier to use, you don’t have to bother with seeds or fibers, and there’s no difference in taste.
Whether you’re baking an apple pie or a different apple dessert, or maybe making an apple and celery salad, be sure to pick-up some fresh apples.
Before you buy them, check to see which type of apple your recipe recommends.