Thanksgiving by the Numbers

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Thanksgiving is one of the most highly anticipated meals of the year, and we've got the inside scoop on what to expect in 2015 — from the early stages of planning and shopping to the moment you take the bird out of the oven. Check out these survey findings and see how you match up.

Planning Ahead

If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, it's a good idea to plan your menu — and your shopping list — a few days ahead of time. Don't overthink it, though. The most-important thing is coming together with friends and family, and Americans agree: Those surveyed report that they will spend less time planning (and stressing over) their Thanksgiving meal this year than they did last year. While individuals anticipated planning their meal 9.3 days before Thanksgiving in 2014, they'll begin planning their menus 8.9 days in advance this year.

Divide and Conquer

Meal preparation is a truly shared activity. Only slightly more than one-third take on the responsibility for the whole meal by themselves.

To Test-Run, or Not to Test-Run

While 71 percent of respondents said they would not test-run any of the items slated to be served at Thanksgiving, more than one-quarter said they would test at least a few, if not all, of the planned menu items.

The Must-Haves

When we take turkey out of the picture, stuffing is the must-have Thanksgiving meal item. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said it just wouldn't be a true Thanksgiving meal without stuffing, while 15 percent said mashed potatoes are the most-essential dish, next to turkey. Surprisingly, only 3 percent named gravy.

Tradition and Then Some

While tradition has its place at the Thanksgiving table, novelty is important, too. Don't be surprised if a never-before-seen side dish or dessert pops up this year beside the familiar sweet potato casserole or pumpkin pie. Nearly half of the survey respondents actively seek out new recipes or dishes each Thanksgiving. The most-popular food groups to experiment with are appetizers (69 percent), side dishes (64 percent) and desserts (74 percent). 

Timesaving Shortcuts

Regardless of whether you follow the latest Thanksgiving trends or stick to a traditional family recipe, one thing is certain: You'll want to save time in the kitchen so you can spend it with your guests — and that means using some prepared foods if necessary. The survey results show that prepared foods at Thanksgiving are more common than you might think. Almost half (49 percent) of individuals will use prepared foods within their Thanksgiving meal, while only 19 percent would not use any prepared foods.

The Bird: Homemade vs. Premade

When it comes to the main course, a home-cooked bird can't be beat. Only 14 percent of respondents would be willing to purchase a prepared turkey for their 2015 Thanksgiving meal.

A Host's Worst Nightmare

Here's the scenario: The turkey is finally cooked and you're removing it from the oven. It slips off the platter and falls to — and then skids across — the floor. What do you do?

As it turns out, most hosts abide by the "five-second rule" — especially if the spill can be kept a secret. Forty-one percent of survey respondents said that if the bird hit the floor, they would still serve it — without telling their guests. Thirty-four percent would serve the turkey but first let their guests in on the secret. Four percent said they would chuck it and order pizza.

Survey numbers courtesy of Boston Market from a random, nationally representative sample of adults 18 years or older.