Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November every year — that is not breaking news. Yet, it seems like the biggest eating day of the year creeps up on us time after time. One day you’re hanging out on the beach on the Fourth of July — and the next you’re scrambling to get turkey on the table in time for Black Friday shopping.
And preparing for Thanksgiving can be stressful. There’s a lot to be done, and it seems like there’s no time to do it. Let’s try to make this year a little different by putting some forethought in one of our favorite American traditions. This is not just another meal, after all.
Planning your Thanksgiving dinner in advance can help you to feel confident and calm in the kitchen. A host’s demeanor has the power to set the tone of the party; guests will notice the behavior and actions of the host and respond to the tension — or lack thereof. A sweaty, harried host fretting over the meal is something everyone would like to avoid.
We've laid out a list of easy Thanksgiving tips that will help you ward off stress and stay organized. All it takes is a little planning. Don’t let Thanksgiving sneak up on you again this year. Instead, check out these tips and start planning your Thanksgiving now.
It may seem as though Thanksgiving is a far-off date on the calendar, but this year Thanksgiving is particularly early, on November 22. Thanksgiving is called Turkey Day for a reason; it’s the biggest eating holiday of the year and one of the biggest family and friends gatherings of the year. People travel from far and wide to be together for this American holiday, and there’s a lot of pressure in hosting a dinner that is close to the hearts of so many people. So, really, there’s no way to over-plan a Thanksgiving, and once fall begins, there’s no time that’s too early to start planning.
So, yes! You should start planning Thanksgiving now. And though it may seem like an overwhelming task, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with simple to follow step-by-step instructions on planning your Thanksgiving weeks ahead of time to make hosting this holiday a breeze.
Give your entire home a nice deep clean before you begin to grocery shop and cook. This step is essential in order to stay organized, sane, and on top of all the chaos. Yes, you will need to get your kitchen sparkling clean, but give your common areas and guest rooms a thorough organizing and cleaning as well. Trust us: You don’t want to be doing this at the last minute.
Knowing who is coming to dinner influences the menu. Do any of your guests have allergies or particular food preferences? Are you cooking for children? Numbers are also an important factor in hosting a Thanksgiving. It will dictate how big of a turkey to buy, how many sides you’ll need, and the number of table settings.
What feeling are you trying to establish at your Thanksgiving table? Do you want your event to be cozy? Kitschy? DIY? Upscale? Consider whether you need floral centerpieces, want to have your children craft turkeys, or want to have a candlelit dinner.
After you establish a mood for your Thanksgiving celebration, buy all your decorations. Stock up on festive fall items, napkins, flowers, and flatware and silverware if you don’t have enough for your guest list already.
Will you be having a seated, plated dinner or a buffet? Determine how you’ll be serving your food to know if you need food warmers, buffet trays, extra plates, and extra counter space.
Does your guest list exceed the number of chairs that you have in your home? Do you need an extra table for all of the children invited? Don’t feel a need to buy folding chairs and an extra card table. Look into renting these items just for the occasion.
OK, you are in charge of making the turkey — but how do you do this? If you don’t have a classic family recipe, making Thanksgiving dishes can be a huge undertaking. Look for the best turkey recipes, find new twists on the classic mashed potato, and even feel free to get creative with salads and rolls.
Make a list of all the foods you are going to serve and cross-check it with your guest list to make sure there is enough food and something for every age and palate. Note that it is helpful to choose a few items that don’t have to be homemade, like bread, dessert, or a cheese plate appetizer; this frees you up to focus on the main event: the turkey.
Before you go grocery shopping and stock up on Thanksgiving Day essentials, you need to make sure you have room in your fridge, freezer, and pantry for all of the Turkey Day ingredients and dishes. So clean that fridge! You’re probably overdue anyway.
So you have your finalized guest list… Now you just need to make sure everyone will be suitably stuffed. According to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Experts, if you want to have enough turkey for all your guests, buy 1 1/2 pounds per person. This both accounts for bone weight and ensures you’ll have plenty of leftovers.
After you have planned out your perfect Thanksgiving menu, make sure that you plan a detailed grocery list, broken down by recipe and grocery store aisle. Thanksgiving food shopping is serious business, so you want to be organized with as many tips, strategies and secrets as possible.
Claim your turkey in advance instead of fighting over one in the grocery aisle. Early ordering is particularly advisable if you are ordering a high-quality turkey from a local purveyor or at a farmers market. Also, call on your local bakery to reserve rolls, bread, and pies for your dinner. Put in your food order for these treats now before you have to fight the crowds for America’s best apple pie.
Before stores become crowded with throngs of people trying to find their Thanksgiving ingredients, get your shopping done and out of the way. Stock up on Thanksgiving Day essentials such as butter, flour, chicken stock, salt and other seasonings. You don’t want to be making gravy and realize you’re missing a key ingredient!
Worried about a recipe? Make it once in advance! There is nothing like feeling confident in your abilities rolling into T-day. When you are calm, cool, and collected, you are able to think clearly and bypass silly mistakes in the kitchen. Plus, this gives you the freedom and mental capacity to put more love into your food.
Work backward from your desired sit-down time. For example, turkey generally needs to cook for 20 minutes per pound, so a 10-pound turkey needs three and a half hours of oven time plus a good 30-minute rest period. If dinner is at 5 p.m., your turkey must be out of the oven by 4:30 p.m., meaning it must first go into the oven at 1 p.m. Write down each of these events on a piece of paper. Then, consider the timing on baking stuffing, mashing potatoes, baking pies and rolling out rolls, too. There is only so much oven space available, so you maybe need to make some things in the morning or even in the days before. If you need help, don't worry. We have your Thanksgiving countdown guide all planned out.
Similarly, you can make your rolls in advance, freeze them, and bake them on Thanksgiving Day. Seriously: No one needs an explosion of flour and butter on Turkey Day. Do all of your baking prep weeks in advance.
Not everything needs to be made the day of, nor should it! Cranberry sauce can be made up to a week in advance, and you can make these other Thanksgiving classics ahead of time too!
In addition to making your sides in advance, perfect the art of mise en place and cut up your vegetables, portion out your butter and chop your herbs in advance of Turkey Day. You don’t want to spend hours chopping onions when you could be hanging out with family!
If you have the luxury of a specialized dining area, set your table a few days ahead of time. It’s just another thing you don’t have to worry about the day of.
In addition to making sure you have fridge space, make sure you have plenty of plastic storage containers, tin foil, cling wrap, and zip bags so you can make scrumptious leftover sandwiches. You don’t want any of your delicious Thanksgiving Day dishes to go to waste, especially when you’ve made the best-ever holiday dishes.
More From The Daily Meal: