I grew up having pretty traditional family Thanksgiving. Visitors from out-of-town, a huge turkey and all the trimmings, what seemed like as many pies as people. My mom prepared for days, no, WEEKS, for this one giant meal. The menu was always the same, because everyone had their non-negotiable favorites. It was predictable, delicious, and yielded leftovers for days.
When we moved across the country several years ago, my husband and I ventured back east for several holidays before we realized it wasn’t going to be feasible to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. I couldn’t imagine Christmas without my extended family, so we chose to spend Turkey Day here in Scottsdale, where we can enjoy the meal al fresco and savor the slower pace (and monetary savings!) of a holiday without a long flight, rental car, and traffic to boot.
Our first Thanksgiving in Scottsdale, I tried to recreate my mom’s Thanksgiving meal, less a few sides (we were serving a grand total of 3 since my MIL came to visit). We ate on our wedding China and used all the fancy serving dishes we rarely had a need for. Setting the table was the only part I enjoyed in the least, but the meal turned out fairly well so I deemed it a success.
Kids are game-changers! (duh)
By our next Thanksgiving here, we had a 7-month-old. I was working full-time and still figuring out this whole mom gig, and yet I took on the ginormous meal once again. At the end of the day, I was exhausted and felt like I might lose my mind. I had a rare few days off from work, and I spent the whole day…working?! Save for nursing sessions in between stirring and seasoning, I felt like I barely spent time with my daughter, and certainly not the rest of my guests. Lesson learned: this is not my idea of a holiday!
I broke with tradition in a way that I was sure would lower my “supermom” status (what ridiculous goal is that anyway?), and I ordered our next Thanksgiving meal from Whole Foods. It felt extravagant to me at first – like, do we need another reason to spend extra money this time of year? But, when you add up the cost of a turkey, sides and all the special ingredients – and dollop on the cost of your time and labor on top of it – buying the meal ended up not seeming so excessive. And you know what? I enjoyed my Thanksgiving Day! We went for a walk outside with my daughter’s new tricycle, watched football, I read a magazine during naptime…truly, so many things a relaxing family day should include in my book.
Last year, my son had just been born in September, so outsourcing again was a no-brainer. Each year I’ve outsourced, I surprise myself when I feel not a hint of guilt that I am not recreating the traditions of my own childhood that I truly loved. I mean, I do make a home-cooked dinner most other days of the year and hopefully my children will someday appreciate our everyday meals together. But on Thanksgiving, we focus our day on spending quality time together, rejuvenating our energy, and giving thanks for our many blessings. And my sister still makes her amazing pies, so at least we have that homemade element included in our feast.
If you’re looking to simplify one thing in your life during the crazy holiday season, I highly recommend outsourcing the heavy lifting of your Thanksgiving meal. To help you get started, I’ve compiled a not-even-close-to-inclusive list of local options, below. We’re in the very-little-kid stage, so ordering food to eat at home works best for us, but as the kids get older I can also see us enjoying a meal out at one of Scottsdale’s fabulous resorts or restaurants for our holiday…and then I don’t even have to clean up!
If you’re ordering the meal to eat at home:
You can never go wrong with Whole Foods, can you? The Scottsdale location offers a variety of turkey dinners serving 4, 8 or 12, organic options and even a vegan meal. Prices range from $69.99 to $249.99 not including dessert.
Best bang for your buck around that I have seen. Quality was not quite up there with Whole Foods, but it was still really good, and we had more leftovers too! Prices range from $29.99 for a boneless turkey breast meal for two to $79.99 if you go for a rib roast for 6-8 (with other options in between).
AJ’s does everything well. I haven’t tried their Thanksgiving feast yet because it looks like a ton of food for our relatively small party. Prices start at $159.99 to “generously” serve 6-8 people, including pie. They also offer just the turkey a la carte. Order by November 17.
If you’re venturing out:
AZ Central put out this great list of Valley restaurants serving special Thanksgiving meals in 2016 and many of the options are probably similar this year. But based on how much I love their champagne brunch, my first choice has to be Rita’s Kitchen at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn.
Happy outsourcing! What are some of your tips to ease the crazy and enjoy more family time during the holidays?