Don’t panic but Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! My helpful November checklist has plenty of planning tips and ideas to help get you ready for the big day! I’ve laid them out week-by-week to help better organize you and get you ready for the holiday. Keep checking back for added tips and information as we get closer and closer to the holiday. Gobble, gobble!!
THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY
- Time to plan your guest list and begin reaching out to family and friends in order to get a headcount.
- Take inventory! Do you have enough paper goods, china, utensils, serving bowls and dishes, glasses, etc? Look over what you have, plan your table settings and go shopping early for items that you might be missing.
- Stock up! Thanksgiving isn’t without leftovers and if you’re planning on sending your guests home with “doggy bags” make sure you have plenty of food storage containers on hand. You can find lots of different options at restaurant supply stores, warehouse stores such as Costco and party outlet stores. Make sure to have an assortment of sizes and shapes so that everyone has what they need for leftovers.
- Plan your menu. Start thinking about what appetizers, dishes and desserts you’d like to make OR which ones you’ll need others to bring that day. Also, plan what things you can make ahead of time and freeze so that you have less work to do on the actual holiday.
- Get your home holiday ready by planning what decorations you’d like to put out and how you’ll fit everyone. Try different configurations for your tables so that every guest is seated comfortably that day.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE HOLIDAY
- Plan out your table setting and guest seating. Gather dishes, silverware, linens and serving dishes. Make (or buy) guest place cards and fill them out. If possible, set up your table now so it’s one less thing to take care of Thanksgiving week.
- Begin your grocery shopping early. Purchase non-perishable items such as chicken stock, Gravy Master, soda, wine, beer, canned vegetables, flour and other baking essentials, etc now so that you have less to shop for later.
- Start making room in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Use up the food you have, organize to make room for more.
- Plan out your cooking schedule. Make yourself a list outlining what you need to cook, when you need to cook it and for how long. Having a cooking plan in place ensures that your meal comes together perfectly and at the same time on the big day!
- Cook ahead! Start prepping what you can now to make your cooking flow more easily later. Good ideas to make and freeze are pie crusts, cookie dough, rolls, cranberry sauce, gravy stock, etc.
- Get your house holiday ready! Start cleaning, especially in areas of the house you aren’t in often such as the formal living and dining room. Put our your Thanksgiving decorations and create a warm, festive place for your guests.
- Start thinking about serving dishes. Plan out which platters and bowls you will use for each dish. Use sticky notes to label each one so that on Thanksgiving you won’t need to scramble for the right serving vessel, everything will be ready and marked.
- Plan about your drink menu. Wine, soda and beer are all essential drinks to have on hand but think about adding a specialty cocktail that you can easily make for your guests or even a nice autumn inspired sangria. Hot mulled cider is also another cozy, festive beverage to serve on Thanksgiving.
- Breathe and take some time for yourself to decompress.
ONE WEEK BEFORE THE HOLIDAY
- If using a frozen turkey, begin to plan your thawing schedule.
In the Refrigerator (40°F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days
In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
- Finish your food shopping however, buy fruit and vegetables as close to the holiday as possible so they are at peak freshness.
- Chill beverages ahead of time and if possible, have a cooler set out on the big day to keep everything cold without sacrificing fridge space.
- Confirm your guest list.
- Finish cleaning your house. Also, if you have not done so already, clean our your refrigerator and make room for all of the ingredients and prepared dishes.
- Set your table with the linens, dishes and silverware. Put out your labeled serving pieces so they are accessible as you need them.
- They day or two before Thanksgiving, chop up all of your vegetables so that you can easily grab what you need when cooking.
- Prepare all of the cold dishes in advance, about a day or two before Thanksgiving. This includes any relishes, dips, cranberry sauce, or cold salads. Also, prep your cold hors d’oeuvres such as cheese platters and crudités.
- Prep your stuffing the day before so it is ready to be baked the day of Thanksgiving.
- Assemble nut platters and candy dishes ahead of time so that all you need to do on the big day is place them on the tables.
- Go over your schedule for cooking times. Make sure you have every dish accounted for and planned out ahead of time.
- The day before Thanksgiving, prep your bird so that all you have to do in the morning is put it in the oven. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, season, add your aromatics and cover with tin foil.
- Take a breath! You’re in the home stretch now.
THE DAY OF THANKSGIVING
You made it!! The big day is finally here!! Time to pull everything together and get this feast on the table.
- First things first, get an early start! The more time you leave yourself to get things ready the more calm you’ll be.
- Go over your checklist and double check all of the cooking times so that everything will finish cooking in a timely manner and be ready to be served together.
- Preheat your oven and adjust the racks.
- Get the turkey in the oven. Try and avoid opening the oven door too much throughout the roasting process. The more you open the door, the more heat you let escape thus increasing the overall cooking time.
- While the turkey is roasting, prep your app trays. Cover them in plastic wrap and store until ready to serve. Also, prep any remaining side dishes and take anything out of the fridge that needs to be at room temperature before being baked or served.
- Double check you table settings and put out any last minute chairs, dishes, serving pieces or silverware.
- Assemble all of your labeled serving bowls, platters and dishes nearby so everything is within reach as the food is ready.
- Fill ice buckets and set up your bar. Get your cocktail ingredients prepped and ready to go so as guests want a drink you can make them quickly.
- Make sure your dishwasher is empty as it will make cleanup later much easier.
- Once the turkey is ready, allow it rest before carving. In the meantime, warm up and/or finish cooking all of the other dishes you will be serving.
- Make you gravy. Keep it nice and hot over low heat on the stove. Serve it right as dinner is ready.
- Carve the turkey and arrange slices on a nice platter. I like to separate the dark from the white meat so it’s easier for everyone to take what they like.
- Don’t forget to allow plenty of time for coffee to percolate later. While the coffee is brewing, take our your desserts and get them ready for serving. If making fresh whipped cream, now is the time to whip that up. Also, soften ice cream for easier serving.
Last but not least…………………….ENJOY!!!! Take your time, enjoy the fruits of your labor and be grateful and thankful for this wonderful day of food, friends and family.
From my house to yours, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!