Last-minute grocery shopping

Published 2:54 pm Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is the No. 1 item that brings customers back to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day?

David Conner, manager of the Farm Fresh on N. Main Street, finds it hard to come up with an answer.

One thing he does know is that it’s not the turkey.

“They’re definitely not getting turkeys at the last minute,” he said Tuesday.

As Conner talked, he walked around the store, making sure all the Thanksgiving essentials were in stock. He stopped to pick a cured ham up off the floor and return it to its proper place.

Farm Fresh will be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Conner said. In that time frame, he expects to sell a lot of turkey bags, plastic wrap and aluminum foil. The store’s bakery and deli likely will sell pre-made pies, rolls and fruit trays by the dozens on Thanksgiving Day, Conner said.

“They come in that morning for the freshest product available,” Conner said.

Other last-minute items typically include seasonings, canned vegetables, cranberry sauce and other dishes that can be prepared the day of the meal, Conner said.

Those who are preparing food items at the last minute should use food safety precautions. Cooks needing advice on turkey preparation can call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854. The hotline will operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Among the most important food safety tips provided by the USDA are the following:

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling food.

The safest way to thaw a whole turkey is in the refrigerator, so allow 24 hours thawing for each 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.

Have one or more food thermometers on hand. You will need to measure the temperature of your turkey, other meats, seafood, side dishes and casseroles. You should use a conventional thermometer, even if your turkey has a pop-up indicator.

Have plenty of paper towels or clean cloth towels on hand for cleaning of surfaces, drying hands, and for blotting dry fresh fruits and vegetables after rinsing. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washer.

Make sure you have shallow storage containers with lids on hand for safely storing leftovers.

If guests offer to contribute a dish to the festivities, ask them to bring items that don’t require refrigeration, such as bread, rolls, beverages or cookies and cakes without cream or egg fillings.

Plan to have a cooler on hand full of ice where you can keep beverages, freeing up refrigerator space.