Thanksgiving Countdown: Turkey Drives, Travel, Covid, the Flu, and Food Safety

 

It's that time of year again. The Thanksgiving clock has started. And, hopefully your frozen turkey or Old Willy Bird is thawing out in the refrigerator by now. While everyone starts planning their dinner menus, holiday travel, and turkey drives, there are a few precautions to keep in mind.

Here are a few tips to help you plan for the holidays and get your gobble, gobble on:

 

1. Take Caution with Flu Season and the Coronavirus: Before you start heading to all the sales and stores, get your flu shot early, put on your mask and stock up on hand sanitizers and vitamin C. This flu season is supposed to be worse than last season. And, with Covid-19, take a few extra precautions.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

  • When you're shopping in the grocery store or department store, bring hand sanitizer or wipes with you. Wear gloves and don't touch your face or mask.
  • Use contactless payment methods for purchases or wear gloves if you are carrying cash and coins. Put the money in your wallet or purse and wash your hands if you touch it again.
  • CVS has a Minute Clinic if you want to schedule a flu shot by phone and stop in during your lunch hour. It takes about 2 weeks for the flu shot to take full effect.
  • Wipe down the shopping carts before use. Wipe your hands after touching carts and items you pick up and put back on store shelves. Other people have touched them, too.
  • Load up on antioxidants to fight off flu bugs. You can eat fresh berries at breakfast or have a healthy salad at lunch.
  • Eat an apple a day and drink your OJ to get your extra vitamin C.
  • Get plenty of rest. When friends and family visit, we tend to sleep less because there's so much to do. Create a shopping, food prep, and cleaning schedule. And, plan to get plenty of rest. Your body will thank you for it.
  • After leaving the stores and shops, wipe down your vehicle's interior with an antibacterial wipe. This helps you avoid bringing any germs home. 

     

2. Plan Now for Your Turkey Drive: A lot of stores may run out of turkeys early because of plant shutdowns in different parts of the country. Don't wait until the last minute. You can always buy or rent a small freezer to store frozen turkeys now before the big rush. And, you can always send frozen chickens if there are no turkeys left.

Note: "Turkey drive" does not mean use a restaurant drive-thru for turkey carryout. It also does not mean drive by turkey farm to "pick one out". But, driving to the grocery store and picking one out in the frozen food section, maybe, it's okay.

 

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3. Don't Forget the Vegetarians: When preparing for your church dinner or your own dinner with friends and family, don't forget the vegetarians. With shelters, most shelters serve vegetables and bread to vegetarians, or dishes like beans and rice. Another option is to serve Tofurky or Gardein turkeyless turkey. These are soy protein slices that taste just like turkey.

With cooking for friends and family that are vegetarians, Tofurky and Gardein are easy to heat up and only require a few minutes in the microwave. Gardein, Tofurky, and other vegetarian companies also make turkeyless turkey slices if you want to help your vegetarian guests enjoy turkeyless leftovers. You can find these in your local stores, Walmart, and Whole Foods.

Make sure everyone knows these are "hands off" and for the vegetarians only. The packages look exactly like regular deli meat.

 

3.B Put a New Twist on an Old Favorite: We scoured the globe (code for, we searched online) for Thanksgiving recipe ideas and different ways to prepare vegan and vegetarian dishes.

We selected a few yummy treats and tasty ideas from Rachel Ray, Gordon Ramsey, Food Network, Tasty, Good Morning America, Jamie Oliver, and more.

Thanksgiving recipes that put a new spin on an old favorite include:

  • Mashed potato bombs and mashed potato muffins
  • Thanksgiving cupcakes and cranberry slab pie
  • Sweet potato fries and fried mac & cheese (wait, what?)
  • Leftover casserole ideas and slammin' turducken (or is that duckturken?)

     

See the recipes here under New Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas for a Few Old Favorites.

 

4. Consider Social Distancing: Some churches and families are still having holiday gatherings but they're doing it outdoors. If there are no restrictions in your area, you might consider an outdoor event like you would a church retreat or outdoor barbecue if you have warmer temperatures in your area and can safely space tables apart.

Out of safety, some churches and families are staying home and doing Zoom or Skype video calls to stay connected. Zoom and Skype calls are free but may have time and band-width restrictions especially over the holiday.

 

5. Keep the Conversation Light and Fun: This year has been stressful for many families. Talking about coronavirus or politics can only make it worse. And, if you're in an area that didn't have a lot of restrictions or limitations, not everyone had the same experience.

Here are a few tips:

  • Invite Jesus in. You don't have to get preachy but start with a short prayer for everyone. Ask Father God for His mercy and thank God that the coronavirus is NOT worse. Thank Him that vaccines are becoming available shortly. And, praise Him for the victory over our enemies. If you have a ministry, take time to ask if there are any prayer requests but try to avoid topics like politics or old issues that can lead to arguments. If the topic of politics comes up you can simply say, "Because we all have different opinions, let's ask Father God to lead our great nation and may God, Jesus and righteousness govern us." 
  • When you check in with family and friends, ask how they're doing? Do they have enough food to get through the end of year? A great early gift idea is a gift card to their nearby grocery store.
  • Don't rehash old arguments. Maybe you're family is used to playing the Family Feud with each other. Remember, that this year, people are struggling and some are barely holding on. Say a prayer for everyone. 
  • Look for silent signs someone might have a need. These might include a person who doesn't show up or call, a person who has fallen behind with daily hygiene (isn't dressed properly, hair and makeup or shaving aren't done). If you see these signs, pray for them and consider speaking to them privately and asking them if they need assistance, help with their finances or counseling.  
  • Change the channel. If you're concerned that conversations won't flow naturally, change it up. Turn on a Christian gospel concert from YouTube, your favorite singer in a live concert or a favorite comedian. Father God also gave us fun family-friendly outdoor games (potato sack races, tug of war) that are perfect for the holiday weekend. And, there's even gospel zumba (to work off those drumsticks!

 

 

6. Remember Your Food Safety Tips: For new cooks in the kitchen, making your first turkey can be an exciting time. Whether you're cooking for yourself, family and friends, or your church, stay safe with your food preparations. The CDC stated salmonella affects about 1.2 million people annually.

Turkey must be completely thawed out before you cook it. If it's not, bacteria called salmonella can get into the stuffing and cause everyone to become sick. Read these great food safety tips to help you store foods at the right temperature. Purchase a food thermometer to ensure your meats are at the right temperatures. Also, be sure to check the turkey recall list.

Lastly, be sure to reheat your leftovers. Rice should always be reheated and never eaten cold or at room temperature. Sometimes food that's left sitting out can make people sick.

Need help with your turkey timer? Use a helpful turkey timer calculator here. We LOVE Butterball's helpful page that lets you enter the turkey weight and you can see how long to thaw your turkey and the cooking time. They also have an 800-number if you're having any cooking problems or want to share your story. "I remember that one time we cut the turkey and water poured out because it was still frozen inside."

 

7. Call and Ask: When you plan a clothing drive for your local shelter or if you're going to send items to Florida, call and ask what they might need.

There was a group that had good intentions but made a mistake a few years ago. They sent a HUGE delivery of candy and chips to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. They didn't know that the sweets and salty snacks were all delivered to a particular area where there were senior diabetics who couldn't eat what was sent.

Sending crackers with peanut better, dry crackers with no salt, jars of peanut butter, plain oatmeal and flavored oatmeal can help if you're unsure whose on the receiving end.

 

 

 

8. Pray for Everyone Traveling: Before friends and family get on the road, remember to pray for God's traveling grace and mercies. With Covid-19, ask Father God IF you should travel this year or wait. While you might want the kids to see their grandparents, you also don't want to unnecessarily expose anyone to coronavirus. Yes, we are covered in the name and blood of Jesus Christ but we must also ask Father God for wisdom on this.

When you have family and friends that are traveling, tell them to plan for delays. They might be delayed at the airport, the train station, or on the road.

Here are a few tips that can help if traffic is slow or lines are long:

  • Bring an extra battery for laptops and tablets.
  • Pack homemade sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly. It doesn't have to be refrigerated right away and it will fill you up more than chips or candy.
  • Pack hand sanitizers, wipes and your masks(s). Don't travel if you feel sick.
  • Pack gum for the flight to help your ears pop during takeoff.
  • Pack a few books and headphones.
  • Carry extra snacks and a few sandwiches.
  • Buy a pair of earplugs for a long flight or bus ride.

     

9. Track Your Packages or Have Them Stored: Package thefts are on the rise. Because more people are shopping online, plan ahead how you will receive your packages:

  • Nest has doorbell cameras so you can monitor deliveries that come to your home. You can also ask the post office to hold your deliveries.
  • Pick up your packages from stores like Walmart on your way home from work.
  • Stores like UPS allow hold for pickup for up to 5 days.
  • Another alternative is to have packages delivered to your job if you work at a desk where you can sign for them.

 

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10. Plan for the Big Game: Everyone loves Thanksgiving football. Whether you're hosting 10 people at home or 100 outdoors at your church, call your cable provider to get a higher internet speed. While it's only for the holiday weekend, it can help to ensure everyone can get online with their devices.

 

11. Update Your Virus Protection and Router: The holidays are a time when a lot of people are shopping. It's also a time when hackers are looking to steal your credit card information.

Use these tips to stay safe online:

Update your router. Older, outdated routers are vulnerable to hacking attacks. If you don't have virus protection, get a free trial from Avast and run their virus scanner. Then run a "Smart Check" and separately a "Wi-Fi Inspector" scan. It can alert you if your password is exposed or weak.


If you're having a Zoom or Skype call or video conference, test it out first. Troubleshooting can save a lot of headaches on the holiday. If anyone CAN'T get on the call, have them call you on speakerphone so others can still hear them (devil is defeated!).

Praying for families. I saw where there are people that unknowingly click on links to malware when they set up video calls with family and friends. Take caution and only go directly to the website, (Zoom, Skype). Never open a random link in an email or on social media.

 


Never open emails with "Deal Offers" or "You can save $50 on this order." While tempting, these might be phishing schemes. See the example above. It LOOKS LIKE it's from Home Depot. But, here's a trick. Don't open the email. Instead, hover the mouse over the name to view the email address, you'll see if it's really from Home Depot. In this case, when I hover over Home Depot Shopper, Google confirms that it's NOT from Home Depot. Immediately delete these emails. Some businesses ask you to forward them to the real companies so they can follow-up in their fraud investigation team but I don't even want to open this email. If you're unsure, go directly to the company's website or call and ask them about any offers they sent to you. Use a virus protection that reads emails (Norton, McAfee, Malware Bytes).


Don't open emails just because they say "FedEx" or "UPS". Go directly to the site instead or call them. Hackers send fake emails to get you to click on links that put malware on your computer.


Avoid "too good to be true deals" on unfamiliar sites and online stores like Ebay. Scammers have been selling new computers for $50. You can spot these if you do a Bing search for 60-inch TV, for example. You might see Walmart, eBay, Best Buy and other stores. But there might be one that's at a lower price with no rating. That's the store to avoid because it might be fake. Do a search on the company name. These might be from people that want to get as much money as they can at one time from unsuspecting people. It can also be hackers in other countries trying to sell you fake computers with spyware. Lastly, it can be from fake companies to get your credit card information. If you're unsure about a store, Google the name to see their reviews.


Never use your debit card to make purchases. Use a credit cart so your bank can refund you right away if there's a problem. Buy a gift card or a credit card you can load with money.

     

    12. Stay Safe in the Malls: If you're planning to shop with friends and family and visiting the big malls, outlets or sales, check their website FIRST to ensure they are open.

    Big name stores that are closed on Thanksgiving include:

    Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, BJ's Costco, Dicks, Home Depot, JC Penney, Kohl's, Lowe's, Macy's, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom, Target and Walmart 

    Use these travel tips to help you stay safe while you shop:

    Pray before you go shopping

    • We pray God's traveling grace and mercies over everyone shopping over the holidays.
    • We pray that you find good deals, great savings, and bargains. Listen out for sales staff that might offer savings advice.
    • We pray that everyone stays safe while they shop and no one falls victim to thefts or is targeted in a shopping scam.
    • We pray for the elderly who are the most vulnerable and we pray for the safety of all children.
    • We pray its a safe holiday season. We are covered in the blood of Jesus and Jesus' name.

     

      Shopping with heavy or multiple bags, or expensive items

      • Rent a stroller or mall shopping cart so you won't have to carry heavy loads. Wipe it down with a sanitizer wipe.
      • Keep all bags with you and use a big laundry bag with netting. It's easy to fill with your packages and you can conveniently store it in a shopping cart or stroller. You can also put all smaller bags into larger bags.
      • While it's tempting to take your bags out to the car and return to do more shopping, avoid that. A thief can break into a vehicle in a few seconds. For heavy purchases like cookware or electronics, ask the store to hold it until you've completed all your shopping or save these purchases for last. You want to avoid leaving expensive packages in your vehicle and then walking away.
      • Save your heaviest and most expensive purchases for last and then head straight home. If you think you are being followed out of a parking lot, pull into a gas station first where cameras can pick up the other vehicle's license plates. If you feel unsafe, call 911 from there.
      • When shopping for expensive jewelry, be aware that people outside store can see you making your purchase. Keep the shopping bag on you at all times and save this purchase for last, and then head straight home.

         

      Shopping with kids or by yourself

      • Keep your kids with you at all times. It's tempting to let them go play in an arcade or toy store, but that's where predators prey on them. Let your child play with a tablet or iPad in the stroller or shopping cart, or walking with you at all times. When you take a break from shopping, then let them enjoy time at a toy store or arcade where you can see them clearly (while you enjoy a break!).
      • Never let kids sit in the courtyard with all the packages. They might be playing games on tablets or their phones and can easily be distracted.
      • If you are shopping alone, ask mall security to escort you to your vehicle.

         

      Watching your purse or wallet

      • You can load your jacket in your shopping cart, but keep your purse on you at all times, not in the child seat. It only takes a second for a thief to reach their hand into a purse while you turn in the other direction.
      • Men should never put their wallet in their back pocket.
      • For the men, be careful with trying on clothes in dressing rooms if you put your wallet down.

         

      Scams to watch for

      • Be aware of the distraction scam and stay alert. One person will try to draw your attention away from your cart and purse while another person robs you.
      • Be leery of vans parked near your vehicle or circling near you as you walk. An incident took place at a rest area years ago where a woman and her daughter were able to avoid being kidnapped. A person approached them and tried to follow them to their vehicle while another person circled the driveway in a van. Someone in the van was trying to open the side door to take the little girl because they wouldn't be picked up on the camera at the angle they turned the vehicle. But, the mother was suspicious and grabbed her child and headed back to the mall entrance in time.
      • Don't let someone distract you in the parking lot especially when you have a lot of packages. Go straight to your vehicle, put your belongings in and leave. Don't idle in your car or count your money openly. IF you need to go into your purse for any reason, pull up near the front entrance of the store where cameras are closest and you're viewable.
      • While this one's an online scam, its one to watch out for. On eBay, be careful with deals that look too good to be true. For example, computers and other electronics might be deeply discounted AND the person might have a good feedback score. The scam is you pay for the item and the person collects your money. One way to recognize these fake ads is when you see a new computer for $50, for example, look to see how many were sold. If it says "4 in the last hour", it might be a scam. eBay may send an alert after the purchase to tell you that the account was compromised by a third party. You'll then need to request a refund from the seller.
      • Amazon's scam is similar and some eBayers do this. Fake sites will sell products to get your money and they'll even send a tracking number. After several days you can open a case to get your money back, but you're now out of the merchandise and your money is tied up for several days until you get it back. Shop early to avoid this.

         

      Parking safety tips

      • Park as close to the entrance as possible to ensure your vehicle is viewable in surveillance cameras. Thieves look for people parking further away where they can go unnoticed.
      • If you have to store items in your vehicle, like in the back seat or trunk with a window, use a dark blanket to cover everything. Never leave shopping bags exposed in your vehicle.
      • Remove all electronic devices and bags. Women sometimes make the mistake of saying out loud, "I think I'll leave my bag here, under the seat." Not everyone walking around with carts is shopping. They might be criminals looking to see what you leave behind.
      • To remember where you parked, don't use cars as landmarks. People will pull in and out. Instead, write down the store name, and look for a parking space number. You can also use a landmark like a tree. Some people tie colorful ribbon to their antenna.
      • Use the unlock key to follow the brake lights to your vehicle.
      • If someone tries to follow you in a parking lot, you can scream, yell, and get the attention of other people. If no one's there, pretend like you can't find your car and walk closer to the entrance like you're "starting over in your car search". You're actually getting the person on camera which is what they don't want. At the entrance, go inside and call for help.
      • If you're really savvy, count the number of parking spaces to the entrance from where you parked. "We're thirteen spaces from the entrance and directly in front of Macy's." "We're diagonal to Walmart and 5 spaces over." Then draw a tiny map of where you parked and put it in your wallet. It will save time after you've been shopping for hours and it's dark outside.
      • Always park outside near the front of the store, not in the garage where its darker and there are fewer cameras. "Criminals hate light. They don't want to be identified," states Officer Miller.
      • If you MUST store your packages in your vehicle (we know, gifts for the grand kids), move your vehicle. While it sounds inconvenient, to a thief that's watching you, it looks like you're leaving. Moving into a new space in front of a different store looks like you recently arrived. Don't forget to cover all packages with dark blankets if they're in the backseat. Keep the windows closed and ensure all doors are locked.

         

      If you are approached or followed

      • Keep your phone charged if you need to dial 911 and  always keep your key out. While we hate to think of it, it can serve as a weapon.
      • A lot of female shoppers are now carrying hidden bra wallets. Men are carrying hidden wallets tied to their waist on the interior of their pants. These are preferred over bags that you carry over your shoulder. If a thief tries to grab a shoulder bag, be prepared as they will pull you in the process and you may lose your balance. Be on guard.
      • Don't "carry" heavy bags through the parking lot. Use a cart so your hands are free. Always watch your pocketbook which is what a thief will try to grab first. Keep it closest to your chest/body.
      • If you notice another vehicle following you, don't drive straight home. Go to the nearest gas station where cameras can pick up their license number and call the police.

         

      Ultimately, we have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. Use the tips above to stay safe online, when you travel, and when you shop.

       

       

      Well Gobble, Gobble...