They say that Thanksgiving is the most challenging of all the holidays. Most of us will find a large group of friends and family adorning our dining room table. Trying to keep track of it all can be stressful, but with a solid plan of attack and a great Thanksgiving Planner, you’ll be well on your way to your best Thanksgiving.
If you’re in charge of hosting Thanksgiving at your home and you find that every year something is forgotten or you feel like you’re scrambling right up until the first person rings the doorbell, fret no more.
I’ve got a step-by-step plan that I’ve perfected over the years that keeps everything in check for me – and it will for you too.
But before we dive into the planning and preparations of Thanksgiving I want to say that Thanksgiving is my favorite of all the major holidays.
It’s the one time of the year we can really focus on other people and just enjoy the day reminding our selves of all we have to be grateful for. We don’t have to shop and wrap and maybe even go into debt just to swap gifts with friends and family.
Instead, we can just focus on the important people in our lives and celebrate how much they mean to us.
Ok, enough of the warm and gooey stuff…
On to the planning!
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THE GUEST LIST (Month Before)
Approximately one month before Thanksgiving, finalize your guest list. Think about how many people you can reasonably accommodate at your home for a sit-down dinner. Will you sit guests altogether or have adults at one table and kids at another. Figure this out before you start inviting everyone can be comfortable on the big day.
If you choose for a more casual event, invite more guests and go with a buffet.
There’s no need for formal invitations. Just email, text or phone your guests and make sure you ask them to let you know within a week’s time.
This is a great time to also check in with your guests about any dietary restrictions and request help with side dishes and desserts.
THE MENU (Month Before)
TOOLS AND GADGETS (Month Before)
Don’t wait until the last minute to pick up a thermometer or turkey baster if you need a new one. Waiting to the last minute may mean you don’t have what you need to create your fantastic feast. Make sure you have what you’ll need to cook all aspects of the meal and that everything is in working order.
THE SHOPPING LIST (3 Weeks Before)
Around three weeks out is the time to start creating your shopping list. You probably have a good idea of whose coming. Write down each recipe and make a list of what you’ll need for each dish. If your guests are bringing food (side dishes, appetizers or desserts) make sure to keep them in the loop about how many people will be coming.
If you’re doing all the cooking yourself – bless you – but pick easier, big batch type recipes to make the day go more smoothly.
Once you go through each recipe, create a shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need and compare it against the pantry items you already have on hand. Finalize the list so you can order hard-to-find ingredients online.
THE BIRD (3 Weeks Before)
Take the time to order your turkey. You won’t regret it. You’ll be guaranteed the exact size bird you want fresh or frozen. Specialty birds sell out quickly typically in early November.
Don’t know how much turkey you’ll need? I recommend approximately 2 pounds per adult and 1 pound per child. This takes into account you’ll be sending home leftovers but make sure you have enough too! Don’t forget to make sure you have a big enough pan to roast a large bird and that it will fit into your freezer, fridge or oven!
DRINKS (3 Weeks Before)
CLEAN OUT FREEZER (2 Weeks Before)
MAKE PIES AND DOUGH (2 Weeks Before)
If part of the meal prep includes baking now is the best time to make a few batches of pie dough and freeze them. Just wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and thaw in the refrigerator overnight before you’re ready to use them. Most pies can be made the day ahead. Some pies can be made now and frozen, thawed and cooked just before the holiday.
CHOOSE YOUR DECOR (2 Weeks Before)
MAKE AND FREEZE HOMEMADE STOCK (2 Weeks Before)
MAKE AND FREEZE ROLLS (2 Weeks Before)
SHOP FOR NON-PERISHABLES (1 Week Before)
I know some of you are thinking – “I’ve got to shop twice?” Yes, but if you don’t you’ll be buying perishable foods that won’t stay fresh long enough.
Divide your list into perishable and non-perishable items.
Non-perishables include things like: Baking ingredients (flour, sugar, corn syrup, canned pumpkin, canned cranberries), paper goods, decorations, etc.
CREATE A SEATING PLAN AND COOKING SCHEDULE (1 Week Before)
An organization plan is the name of the game this Thanksgiving. The less stress you can create for yourself the better.
Look over your recipes and create a schedule for leading up to the big day. Identify what tasks will be done each day as well as on Thanksgiving Day.
PICK UP YOUR TURKEY (1 Week Before)
CLEAN OUT YOUR REFRIGERATOR (1 Week Before)
Clean out your refrigerator to make room for all the extra ingredients and dishes you’ll be making. Give it a good scrub down with our easy to follow instructions.
DEFROST TURKEY (Monday Before)
IRON/POLISH (Monday Before)
Take the time to polish any silverware you’ll be using and to iron tablecloths and napkins. You’ll want your table to be amazing and so no wrinkles or tarnish allowed!
BUY PERISHABLE FOODS (Monday/Tuesday Before)
Now is also the time to brave the crowds and pick up any perishable items from the store.
MAKE CRANBERRY SAUCE, PIE CRUSTS (Tuesday Before)
Cranberry sauce can stay fresh in the fridge up to 2 weeks because of its high acidity, so make it now and refrigerate it in a jar or bowl covered in plastic wrap.
If you didn’t freeze your pie crusts ahead of time, make them today and wrap the dough to store in the fridge. If you’ve prepped items and kept them in the freezer, take them out to defrost. This includes any pie crusts or stock you made in advance.
BRINE (Tuesday Night)
See complete recipe here. You won’t be sorry. This is the best way to cook a turkey hands down!
BAKE PIES, PREPARE REHEATABLE SIDE DISHES, PREP INGREDIENTS (Wednesday)
SET UP EXTRA TABLES AND CHAIRS (Wednesday)
Make sure your guests all have a place to sit and relax while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven.
DON’T STRESS – JUST STICK TO YOUR PLAN (Thanksgiving Day)
Preheat your oven in the morning and get your turkey going. If you premade bread, let it defrost at room temperature. Put your wine or beer in the fridge to chill. While the turkey roasts, prepare your other side dishes since they can stand at room temperature for an hour or keep in the fridge. When the turkey is done, let it rest while you make the gravy, reheat side dishes and prep salads.
Play a game of tag football, play cards or board games, take a walk and digest all that turkey. How about some football on TV and a nap? Here are some other suggestions you might enjoy! You’ve deserved it!
Our Thanksgiving Planner helps you keep track of all your to-do’s as we’ve outlined here. It’s yours FREE for a limited time. Make sure you grab your copy before it disappears!