Shop early and buy online.

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Thanksgiving is one month away, which means that families all across the country are beginning to plan their holiday dinner menu. While many Americans plan to have a smaller celebration than usual in light of the coronavirus pandemic—gathering with just close family or those who are in their "quarantine bubble"—the demand for turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, and plenty of pie is plenty high. If you're planning to host Thanksgiving this year, there are a few important things to consider before you head to the grocery store.

Thanksgiving produce
Credit: Louise Hagger

Plan a List in Advance

While it's always tempting to browse the aisles of the grocery store for new ingredients or other food, the more efficient you can be during your shopping trips, the less time you'll spend in the stores; in light of the pandemic, the less time you can spend in public, the safer you will be. Organize a grocery list by category before you head out the door, noting which produce, dairy, meat, and other ingredients you need to stock up on. In pre-COVID times, you may have brought several members of your family to help divide and conquer a long grocery list for Thanksgiving; however, experts advise designating one person to do all the grocery shopping during the holiday season to avoid excess exposure.

The Best Times to Shop

According to Instacart's trends expert Laurentia Romaniuk, grocery stores typically restock their merchandise overnight, so the best time to shop—whether it be in person or online—is first thing in the morning. "Sundays tend to be the most popular grocery shopping day and by Sunday evening, inventory can be low on many staples and popular items. To liken your odds of finding everything on your holiday shopping list, we recommend shopping mid-week when possible," says Romaniuk.

Order Non-Perishable Ingredients Online

While you may want to pick out your turkey, apples, and the other all-star players yourself, certain basic pantry ingredients such as canned goods, baking supplies, and other non-perishables are just the thing to order through an online delivery service such as Instacart, Amazon Fresh, or Peapod. "This is an especially great option for those looking to limit in-person trips to the store due to the pandemic," says Romaniuk.

Consider ordering nonperishable ingredients well in advance of Thanksgiving, too. Not only will there be fuller stock available, but you'll cut down on an otherwise long list of last-minute items. "Last year, we saw sales for many Thanksgiving-related food items and ingredients spike after the week of November 11, so we'd recommend purchasing any shelf-stable ingredients you might need such as canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie spice, and stuffing with plenty of time to spare before Turkey Day," says Laurentia Romaniuk.

Help Out Those in Need

If you have an elderly family member or neighbor (or anyone who is in a higher risk group), ask them if there are any ingredients for Thanksgiving you can purchase for them at the grocery store. This will help to eliminate their contact with anyone who may have coronavirus and will ultimately reduce the number of people in the grocery store at any given time.

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