Ten Quick Thanksgiving Dinner Tips for Busy Travel Nurses

As travel nurses, when it comes to setting the Thanksgiving table between three day, 12-hour shifts, we could all use a little help! Whether you’re hosting this year or just bringing the pumpkin pie, here’s our guide to an easier way!

Prioritize the Most Important Parts

The holidays can be stressful even if you’re not having your folks, your siblings, your aunts and uncles, and that one weird cousin (that you’re really not sure how you’re related) to your home. Be sure to identify the expectations you and others are putting on this holiday and be okay with determining what’s really important. If the 12-hour brined turkey is truly essential, then perhaps less side dishes would allow you to spend some time out of the kitchen. After these last few years of world turmoil and a pandemic, enjoying time with your loved ones may just come out on top, making those hectic holidays fade away to something memorable. 

Order Out, Plan Ahead

While your mother may shudder at the thought of not having a traditional Thanksgiving feast the way grandma made it, if you’re hosting, this is YOUR day to shine (and to set boundaries). If you hate cooking, there are a number of places that you can book your entire family gathering with no hectic grocery shopping before or dishes to wash afterwards. Be sure to keep your eyes out for restaurants, event spaces, and even zoos that advertise their holiday offerings to find the best option for you and your family. Also make sure that you give your family a heads-up if this is your first time eating out Thanksgiving and be prepared to say “you can host next year” if you come across any opposition. 

Easy Recipes

The Thanksgiving feast can be absolutely daunting, but there’s an abundance of quick, easy recipes to help you get the big ticket items on the table. There are also some great professional tips! We love the idea of cooking your bird in pieces as opposed to whole as it allows for better temperature control and seasoning. Most Thanksgiving turkeys end up cut before they’re placed on the table anyway, so just keep grandma out of the kitchen and no one will be the wiser! From grilling your bird, to easy sides, and leftover tips, we definitely recommend checking out ButcherBox’s Thanksgiving Day guide: https://justcook.butcherbox.com/thanksgiving/

Sorted Food Cookalong

While this particular video is supposedly for Christmas, it’s impossible to not mention this turkey inclusive Cookalong from Sorted Food. Just pick up the ingredients beforehand and follow along! The whole process takes 4 hours, from start to finish, with most of your dishes cleaned up by the end as well! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpFsebeKAcc Besides, what’s not to love about four men with British accents cooking at your side? Once you check them out, be sure to try their Sidekick App that has even more amazing, quick recipes, all designed to eliminate food waste and help you become a better cook!

Outsource the Hard Stuff

Ok, we get that you don’t want to shock your entire family by booking some restaurant reservations for the big day. This next tip is for you! We know that one of the most difficult parts of the Thanksgiving feast is the turkey, so why not outsource to the professionals? From roasted to smoked, chances are there’s someone in your area that specializes in this most unwieldily poultry. We definitely must give a shoutout to one of the best smoked turkey providers in the Phoenix, AZ area, Little Miss BBQ. Their smoked turkey breast has flavors that even the most seasoned home cook would struggle to achieve. If you can manage to pass up their brisket (I’ll admit, I couldn’t) they also have a variety of sides with smokey goodness. And don’t forget the smoked, yes you read that right, smoked pecan pie. Ten out of ten, would recommend. https://littlemissbbq.com/collections/thanksgiving-day-special

Friendsgiving Potluck Style

As travel nurses, there’s numerous holidays that we find ourselves alone or away from family. Whether you’re at home this year or 500 miles away, hosting a Friendsgiving is an awesome idea that both cuts down on stress and also helps out your fellow homesick travelers. For the potluck, we recommend that you give everyone a few choices, whether it be to make some sides, salads, starches, or desserts, to make sure that everything is covered. Leave plenty of room for creativity unless they ask for more guidance. If you’re hosting both family and friends, ask your guests to bring their favorite board games to break the ice! 

Make Ahead

We hope that this tip might help travel nurses in particular since we often have an inconvenient shift right before the day. Did you know that you can roast your turkey ahead of time? Cook it a day or two in advance, let it cool, then carve into pieces. While your heating up those sides the day of, put it back in the oven covered, with a little broth in the pan for about an hour to get it nice and hot! https://blog.williams-sonoma.com/time-saving-tip-roast-your-thanksgiving-turkey-ahead/ Other sides like Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes with marshmallows can be prepped and held in the fridge to be cooked the day of. We’ve even heard of a few folks that make their stuffing and freeze it weeks before the big day! So smart!

Use Cooking Cheats

There isn’t a cook who’s dreamed about fooling their grandmother by buying a premade pie and throwing it into a glass pie pan to make it look like you just took it out of the oven. But there are also some clever cooking cheats that can go a long way in making your meal quicker and easier (and sometimes even tastier)! From gravy granules to premade custards, to frozen peas (yes, they taste better than fresh peas sometimes) and using instant potatoes, finding clever cooking cheats can save you a lot of stress. We must give another nod to the amazing crew at Sorted Food for a few of these great tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oXUogSBrJs

Highlight the Favorites

Depending on your household and culture growing up, you may be in the category of “more is better.” We can speak from experience, having grown up with Thanksgiving feasts that normally included a minimum of ten sides, at least three different kinds of pie, five kinds of cookies, and at least two specialty drinks (non-alcoholic for us kiddos). After years of watching our grandmother struggle to maintain these insane expectations, we’ve realized it’s just not worth it. Be economical, putting quality towards those elements that are most loved (like the Mac and cheese) and perhaps its time to let the Brussel sprouts out to pasture if no one really likes them anyway. 

Make new traditions

For this last tip, we hope to encourage you to start your own traditions, whether it be something on this list or another completely new idea. We’ve had our share of the old-style, one host, massive feast tradition. Would you and your family be happier instead escaping to a lovely cabin in the woods with a couple cans of franks and beans and the opportunity to build some amazing memories passing the time playing super competitive games of Monopoly? Or perhaps family is something you struggle with and going home or having family over is no longer the healthiest option. You may instead find solace and rest this season in the arms of your friends or perhaps donating your time serving others at a food kitchen. Whatever new traditions you are inspired to begin, give it a shot. Thanksgivings come and go, but finding new ways to be thankful is a tradition you’ll never have to give up. 

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