Is the Thanksgiving panic setting in? If so, you’re not alone. ‘Tis the season for many over-worked Americans to fret over how they’re going to throw together a huge meal in a limited window of time.
Earlier this month, The Salt took your pulse on cooking for the holidays with an (unscientific) survey. About 36 percent of you said you consider this season of cooking to be fun, while 9 percent said it’s stressful. But for the majority — 55 percent — holiday cooking is equal parts fun and stressful.
It’s not so much the act of cooking that seems to make us anxious, but rather getting it all done in time. When we asked readers what kind of tips they’d like, many requested help with shortening the time and preparation of the Thanksgiving meal.
It’s 2014, and the Internet is primed to come to your rescue by helping you buy back some of the time you might spend in a parking lot or standing in line. Fortunately, the options for ordering prepared food or ingredients online have improved dramatically the last few years. And online retailers are adapting accordingly. “There’s been a shift toward fresh, individual meal components – organic potatoes, all-natural kale and fresh Brussels sprouts – and a shift away from pre-prepared, fully cooked dinners,” Tony Stallone, Peapod’s vice president of Fresh Markets, tells The Salt.
If You Don’t Want To Cook At All:
Grocery stores have been offering fully cooked birds, pies and sides for many years. But the selection and quality of these items is improving, as is the ease of ordering. Whole Foods Market says last year’s Thanksgiving orders exceeded 100,000 and they’re on track to surpass that this year. But be prepared to pay more than what you’d pay for DIY Thanksgiving.
An organic turkey dinner from Whole Foods with all the fixings like mashed potatoes, biscuits, mushroom stuffing and more for six to eight people will run you $129.99. You can also pick up a non-organic turkey dinner for $10 less.
If you’re not going organic, Kroger’s offers an Express Turkey Dinner for six for $44.99, while Albertsons has a Holiday Dinner you can order online that feeds six to eight people. Publix offers a Regular Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, gravy, potatoes and cranberry sauce for seven to 10 people for $39.99.
If you live near a Safeway, you can pick up a complete Thanksgiving dinner for six to eight people with turkey, ham, or prime rib, with just 24 hours’ notice. However, beware of their Holiday Hotline number for ordering – it was closed Tuesday morning when I called after 9:00 a.m.
If you just need a few ingredients and live in a place that has Instacart, you can get a delivery. The company’s partnership with Whole Foods allows for same-day delivery within mere hours, even on Thanksgiving day. Instacart delivery is free on the first order and $3.99 for a two-hour delivery or $5.99 for a one-hour delivery. The two have even paired up to curate useful Instacart shipments like “Thanksgiving Shortcuts.”
If you’re game for something showy and need the meal shipped, you can get a designer dinner from Williams-Sonoma, created by Food Network chef Tyler Florence. The dinner serves 12 and will arrive by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving if you order by Friday, Nov. 21. But it comes with a hefty price tag: $399.95.
If You Want To Cook And Buy Local:
Type in your address at LocalHarvest and the site will show you where you can find nearby meats, produce, dairy and other items produced nearby. It’s a good place to find staples like eggs as well as the more obscure products to spice up your meal like Lemon Maine Sea Salt. Some products come with free shipping, indicated by a small badge on the product’s page. (If you’re planning to order a turkey from a local farm, do it pronto, as most farms’ supplies are by now running low.)
If you live in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New Orleans or Brooklyn, you can order local produce with free shipping on orders over $30. From hand-baked bread to cold brew coffee to flowers for the table, GoodEggs promises your products are coming from a vendor who supports sustainable agriculture.
If You Just Need Ingredients Fast:
Google Express can get you last-minute basics (like flour, sugar and breadcrumbs) or condiments from Costco, Giant Food or Walgreens. Best of all, same-day delivery is available every day of the week. But you won’t find perishable products on the list; get your turkey elsewhere. Normally, shipping is $5 per order (except alcohol which is $3 per order), but with their current promotion, you can get three months free delivery on certain orders over $15.
If You Want Gourmet Sides
For those with gourmet taste, take a spin on OpenSky, which touts products like the Vegan Divas Deluxe Package ($115), an easy, if costly, answer for hosts looking for desserts to please everyone’s diet.
The site FoodShed will find you everything from aged artisanal cheeses to Brussels sprout relish from small producers. The downside is that while it artfully curates the food, it’s not a marketplace. Instead, it will direct you to find the product locally or order direct from the supplier.
If You Dislike Online Shopping
Make it easy on yourself by sticking with an online ordering service you know. Amazon sells food three ways: via individual food items, PrimePantry and AmazonFresh (if you live in a region where it’s available).
Amazon tells us the most popular products from their Thanksgiving store include coffee and gourmet hot cocoa, baking supplies like vanilla extract and sides like canned veggies, chicken broth and gravy.
If You’re Cutting Down On Food Waste From Leftovers
222 Million Tons App
As we reported this week, Americans waste about 35 million tons a year. So before you hit “Add to Cart” on one of the sites above, check out the iPad app 222 Million Tons to make sure you’re not overdoing it. The app calculates how much food a family can reasonably eat depending on the number of people and their diet.
If You Want To Potluck
The Salt’s unscientific survey found that 45 percent of holiday meals today are potluck-style with different people contributing to the meal. In addition, 66 percent of you said that potlucks make things easier. To detangle your never-ending email chain of who’s bringing what, you can use ThingToBring, a free iOS app that helps you list items and assign who will bring it. For those who use an Android phone, don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to download the app, there’s also a website.
Alison Bruzek is an intern with NPR’s science desk.