To say that Thanksgiving requires advanced planning is truly an understatement. As I have been going through this process I have realized that I would be "dead in the water" had I not been diligently plotting and planning the various details around preparing this monster meal.
I will admit that I may have gone overboard with beginning my preparations in August. However, I don't regret starting then. To give you a little context, it was in late August that Williams-Sonoma released their Fall Dinnerware Collection. I fell in love with their acorn china pattern instantly and knew that I had to have those accent plates for my Thanksgiving Tablescape. As luck would have it, Williams-Sonoma had a 20% off Labor Day sale, so I was able to buy my plates at a discount. Yes, it was insanely early to be thinking about Thanksgiving, but I did end up benefitting from being so ridiculously proactive.
Now back to the subject matter at hand, Creating Timelines! Ultimately you want to have two timelines to reference. The first should be a preparation to-do list for the week leading up to Thanksgiving. This is where you will need to list out every major task that needs to be accomplished in order to get you yourself completely ready for Turkey day. When creating this master timeline, here are a few items that I have contemplated/included to help me not only get ready for the big meal, but also for the houseguests staying with us next weekend.
- Break Down Your Menu
- List out all of the ingredients you will need
- Read through each recipe to determine how long each dish will take to make and what can be made in advance
- Assemble your shopping list or lists (*I am going to be grocery shopping in two phases)
- Phase 1: Pantry Items, Spices and Root Vegetables/Hearty Produce
- Phase 2: All items that need to be super fresh (herbs, certain fruits, etc) will be purchased on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving
- Setting the Table- For those of you who are hosting but have to go to work up until Thanksgiving Day, I would suggest setting your table on Sunday. For those of you who have either taken time off of work to prep for this dinner or do not have to go to work, I would suggest setting your table on Tuesday. This way, if you find out that you are missing any tableware items (ex. I discovered that I was short 1 fancy wine glass), you still have time to get those items.
- Cleaning- Decide when you are going to do the big deep clean and then what additional cleaning tasks need to be done the day before your guests arrive to ensure that you house is in tip top shape. It's much more manageable to break up the cleaning over the course of a few days then to try and power through everything at once.
- Houseguest Prep- Another detail that is super important. See this post for a quick and easy houseguest prep checklist. In a nutshell, schedule time to go through the accommodations you have designated for your thanksgiving house guests and make sure that everything is clean and ready for their arrival. Currently, I have my houseguest prep slated for this Monday, since that day seems to have the most availability at the moment.
- Cooking and Serving Assignments- Go through your cooking and serving dishes to confirm that each dish has a designated cooking vessel and a designated piece of serveware. Assign each menu item to its corresponding cook & serve pieces using a post-it note. **Tip- In addition to the listing the menu item, I also include the cook temperature and time on the post-it for added convenience.
The second schedule/timeline I would suggest creating, is one that details all of the remaining prep work that needs to take place on Thanksgiving Day. Below is a breakdown of how I went about creating my own "day of" schedule.
Thanksgiving Day Schedule
- Determine the Official Dinner Time- This should be step one when it comes to figuring out your Turkey day schedule. Cooking each dish will revolve around this start time, so it's important to have a dinner time established prior to creating your Turkey Day Timeline.
- The Turkey- this obviously a day of item that should have a cooking start time based on your dinner time. You need to allow enough time for your bird to cook and rest, prior to carving. Since it is the focal point of the meal and takes the longest to cook out of all the dishes, it should be the first item into your oven on Thanksgiving Day. Plus, you won't be able to make your gravy until you have pan drippings from the cooked bird.
- Mashed Potatoes- This is another day of dish that you can make while your turkey is cooking. Once your potatoes are made, transfer them to a baking dish so that they can be easily reheated prior to serving dinner.
- Stuffing and Other Sides- These dishes should also be prepared while the Turkey is cooking in the oven. Most prep work for side dishes can be done a day or two in advance so that on thanksgiving day there is only minimal assembly and cooking required.
- Dessert- Right before I sit down to dinner, I will turn on the coffee maker and get the apple pie in the oven to warm up. That way I am ready to plate dessert and serve the after dinner coffee as soon as everyone is done with their dinner.
Here are a few great Thanksgiving Prep Timeline's I really like:
Some of my favorite prep tips:
- Stock up on butter at Target- While making my grocery list, it became immediately obvious that the most popular ingredient used for almost every thanksgiving recipe is BUTTER. Instead of paying between $5-$6 for a 4pk of Land O' Lakes butter at the grocery store, head over to Target where you can find the same butter for $3 per 4pk.
- Buy your heavy cream now! - This is one of those items that becomes extremely hard to find closer to Thanksgiving, so save yourself the added stress and buy the amount you need now.
- Invest in a spare peeler- If by chance, you happen to have a family member or husband who offers to help you with prep, get them to work peeling produce! Potatoes, carrots, apples, etc… all need to be peeled for my recipes and this prep task goes much faster when there are two peelers rolling as opposed to just one.
- Know what you're going to wear- decide on your Thanksgiving dinner attire in advance. Deliberating over what to wear at the last second adds unnecessary stress and can be a major time suck. Plan your outfit for dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving, it will prevent any added stress that quite frankly you do not need while you're in the throes of cooking the monster meal.
- Get the Car Washed- I am going to be shuttling guests to and from the airport, so it is essential that I get my car cleaned prior to their arrival. Personally, rolling up to greet people in a clean car is a really good feeling but can easily get overlooked. Its a little detail but I think it makes a big difference.
It's funny because today's post was certainly longer than usual and I still feel like I haven't sufficiently covered all aspects of Thanksgiving. My to-do list for this weekend feels like it's a million miles long, but I know that I just need to take it a step at a time and I will get through it all. As someone who can attest to this, it is really easy to get overwhelmed by the whole Thanksgiving Day celebration, but please try to not let the stress get the best of you. In the end, this holiday is about settling in America and being together with loved ones. I am going to do my best to take my own advice and I hope you do too! Have a great weekend everyone!