Employees at local caterers and grocery stores are pulling in extra hours to cook dinners and desserts and make meat trays for local families and businesses who opt to buy their holiday meals instead of cooking.
"We're here the next few days almost 24 hours a day working," laughed Susie Kenedy, owner of Susie's Bake Shoppe. "We've kind of got shifts going."
Deli employees at Food Giant are also working extra. On Tuesday, Debbie Barnes, deli manager, said she got to work at 5 a.m. and would continue baking breads and pies until she went home around 5 or 6 p.m. "Everybody stays just a little bit longer shifts," Barnes said.
But with all the hustle and bustle, Barnes said she enjoys it. "It makes the time go a lot faster."
Families can order a full holiday dinner from Food Giant. The meal includes a choice of turkey or ham, two two-pound side dishes of the customer's choice, a dozen roll, and an eight-inch pumpkin, sweet potato or apple pie, Barnes said.
Food Giant offered the same meal for Thanksgiving and sold 99, Barnes said. Approximately 30 meal orders had been placed by Tuesday, and "it's increasing every day," Barnes said, with several customers ordering dressing - 700 pounds were prepared for Thanksgiving dinners.
At Susie's, customers can pick and choose meats, vegetables, desserts and other foods to create holiday meals. Spiral cut honey cured ham, turkey and dressing are some of the most-requested dishes, Kenedy said.
"It's pretty much anything you want - from a single casserole to a full meal," Kenedy said.
Although Fisherman's Net does not offer full meals, customers can order side dishes and desserts for their holiday dinners. "A lot of people are buying desserts," said Marianna Lane, manager. "People seem to get a sweeter tooth around the holidays."
Homemade bread pudding and candy cane cheesecake are in high demand at Fisherman's Net this year. Side dishes, like sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole may also be ordered for a minimum of 30 people.
But holiday gatherings don't always mean a big meal will be served - they may simply be social gatherings with finger food that doesn't require utensils, noted Clyde Quick, assistant meat manager at Sav-A-Lot. For those social get-togethers, Sav-A-Lot and other grocery stores offer made to order meat trays for their customers.
"It's actually a celebration item," Quick said. People buy meat trays year-
round for other events, like birthdays and anniversaries, he said. "But more (are ordered) this time of the year because more people celebrate."
Quick admitted the meat trays - with varying portions and varieties of meat - are more expensive than if a customer would buy the meat themselves. "The customer is paying more for the convenience," Quick said. "But it's fast and easy for the host, so it's a win-win for everybody."
Many who buy full meals don't know how to cook. At Food Giant, one customer in her late 20s didn't know how to cook a turkey, Barnes recalled. Another woman in her 40s came in, whose mother had always cooked for the holidays and recently moved into a nursing home. "She didn't have a clue how to cook," Barnes said.
Kenedy's store has been open for the past 18 years, and she has catered holiday meals every year since and before the store even opened. Over the years, holiday meal orders for both family and business gatherings have increased, she noted.
"A lot of people work and don't have time (to cook)," Kenedy said. "They need a little extra help this time of year."