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Thanksgiving Day time savers for busy moms

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Thanksgiving hostess tips

We don't want to alarm you, but Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us fast. Very fast. Before you know it, the turkey will be going into the oven. Are you ready? Here are some easy time savers to help you be ready.

Thanksgiving

Going, going, going. It doesn't feel like you will ever have a chance to get ready for Thanksgiving, does it? Whether it's a new baby, a pregnancy, a busy job or all of the above, you can have time with a few easy time savers for mom.

Create a written plan

Before you do anything, formulate a plan. Putting this on paper will help you plan how to do it all. Whether it's scribbled on a scrap paper at lunch or on an envelope in the pick-up line at school, this will help you assess what needs to be done for the big meal.

The important points to include are timing, menu (including appetizers and desserts), decoration and entertainment, including the best Thanksgiving entertainment -- football!

But don't get too bogged down writing the list. This should be a 5-10 minute excursion done at least 10 days in advance.

Do Ahead

Tasks like shopping for groceries can be done over the weekend in advance of Thanksgiving. This will help you avoid some of the holiday crowds and their associated pushing and shoving. We all know how quickly a grocery cart rammed into the shins can put you in the holiday spirit, right? Make sure you bring your list with you to help speed through the store and save time.

At home, the dinner table can also be set in advance. Kids young and old can be recruited to help clean and decorate the house. Give the kids each a list of tasks to do and check off. For younger kids, set them up with a craft, such as rolling silverware in napkins or making place cards. This will involve them in the preparation while keeping them out of your hair.

Some side dishes, including mashed potatoes, can be made in advance and just heated up on Thanksgiving day. Think of all the prep time that will save! Use the internet to search "make-ahead side dishes." Check out some great side dish recipes here.

Simplify

Even if you are a crazy, must-make-it-myself cook, there are some store-bought products that can help you simplify your Thanksgiving cooking regime, allowing for a happier, more relaxed day.

Hit Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (or a similar natural foods store) for jarred olives and pickles for a relish tray. Take advantage of their jarred bruschettas, array of cheeses and frozen appetizers, which will save you time without losing out on taste. Mixed nuts and chocolates can also be a good addition.

For the turkey, Jennie-O recently released a bird that goes from freezer to oven to table in the same time as a regular bird. It even comes with a gravy packet, in case you don't feel like making gravy. Best of all? The turkey is fool-proof. A little pop-up timer tells you when the turkey is cooked and the meat is juicy and tasty. Can you a imagine the benefits of this? For starters, it makes for a Thanksgiving where you don't have to feel up a cold bird.

Delegate

As a busy mom, you can't afford not to delegate. You've already passed off on duties to clean and decorate to the kids, but what about the party guests? Assign guests something to bring along such as wine or dessert to make your life easier. But giving them a specific item to focus on, it makes both of your lives easier -- no guess work for them, less prep work for you.

Skip the chaos

One of the the greatest time-sucks in making Thanksgiving dinner is getting caught up in the details -- complicated recipes, crafts and more. Just STOP! No one will think less of you as a mother if you skip the cranberry souffle. In fact, as the old adage goes, less can be more.

Are you ready to get started? Stay organized and keep it simple and you will save a lot of time this holiday.

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