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A Beginner’s Guide to Thanksgiving, Part 1: What to Buy

What you need to buy to host Thanksgiving dinner, and where to get it all.

Thanksgiving dinner should be fun occasion for all to get together to eat, drink and be merry in a carefree, stress-free environment, right? Ha. Wrong. If you’ve offered to host dinner then buckle up and get ready for a busy night of cooking and hosting (hopefully) helped along by this beginners guide to Thanksgiving dinner.

Before you can do any cooking you’ve got to get all your ingredients together and deciding where you’re going to get everything from is the first real challenge. Focus on the turkey first as this will be your biggest purchase of the whole event and you want to make it count. Tesco, Morrisons or even Aldi will all be relatively safe bets to pick one up so close to the day, be it a whole bird or just a turkey crown (for smaller dinners definitely stick to just a crown, quicker to cook and with less waste it makes more sense for a smaller setting). Sainsbury’s will usually offer a more limited selection due to the size of their store on Market Street but you might just get lucky and find exactly what you’re looking for there as well. There may still be time to get a last minute order in with Minick of St Andrews butcher on Bell Street but getting this close to the day you might just be out of luck to get yourself what most would consider the best turkey in town. If you choose to go with something other than turkey however, such as a roast beef for a more British Sunday lunch twist on the meal, this would be the place to go. Just please, wherever you do end up choosing, make sure you get there soon and don’t leave it until the day or you may just find that Deliveroo will be doing all your cooking for you.

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Now that the main part of your Thanksgiving feast is sorted, let’s talk about those side dishes and starters. For this beginners guide I’ve planned out a meal of butternut squash soup to start, followed by turkey with mashed potato, baked sweet potato and green beans, finished off with a pie, be it pumpkin or pecan. For the vegetables this you’re going to need plenty of white onions, a few red onions, a large butternut squash, enough potatoes and sweet potatoes to suit the number of hungry guests you’ll have round and enough green beans to go around. Luckily all of these things can be readily found in every supermarket in and around town so don’t stress too much about this part so focus on your dessert first.

Whether you choose to make the pastry (butter, flour, sugar and egg, not too hard even for the most amateur of cooks) or buy a premade pastry case you won’t struggle to find what you need, the filling may be slightly more difficult to source. Tesco has a specialist American foods section at the back of the store which should make baking yourself a pumpkin pie a breeze with a can of pumpkin filling and some warming autumnal spices to go with it, so this is probably your safest bet to guarantee there’s a pie fresh from the oven for your guests to swiftly devour. The pecans should also be relatively simple to find about town assuming everyone else hasn’t beaten you to it, then all you need to do is find a recipe you particularly like the look of or have brought over with you from back home and then you can bake to your heart’s content.

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Lastly, what student Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without some alcohol? Remember to buy your wine, beer and whatever else you want to drink in advance of the night to avoid the horrible realisation you have guests due in five minutes and half a small bottle of gin to last you the whole night. If all of this running about from shop to shop carrying heavy bags sounds like a hassle then why don’t you treat yourself to a little bit of 21st century goodness and do your Thanksgiving grocery shop online. Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda (not in St Andrews but they happily deliver and often are cheaper than the competition) can bring your entire load of shopping to your front door for you and let you just crack on with cooking.

To summarise:

  • Buy your turkey (or whatever main component you fancy) as soon as you possibly can
  • Source your dessert ingredients early as well to avoid pie based disappointment
  • Remember all the vegetables you’ll need for all courses of the meal
  • Booze. Intoxicating beverages. Do not forget these.
  • Consider doing a large grocery shop online for convenience

Now, how to cook all this stuff into something resembling a meal? Check out Part II.

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