The key to surviving any holiday planning is to start ahead. Sure people may think you’re a bit odd, but the stress you will save yourself will be worth it. I developed the habit of planning 2-3 months ahead of time long ago so I’m actually a bit behind where I usually am. I may have also begun planning my Christmas baking at the same time as planning on what I want to make for Thanksgiving…
It’s never to early to start planning, so here is a checklist of things to keep you on track so stress is less.
- Get a rough idea of the guest list. It doesn’t have to be definite, but a rough head count and who is coming is handy, especially if there are allergies to work around.
- Determine if people are bringing items or if you are supplying everything. Having a checklist of who is bringing what will help keep you on track. If you need a visual a handy dry erase board on the refrigerator is great for making notes. I make a huge mess in the kitchen so I tend to not use technology around food, but there are several planning apps out there if you’d rather use a phone or tablet.
- Your menu should be finalized at least two weeks before the big day, so looking for ideas for recipes can begin at any time. Check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest board for ideas and links to recipes. Try to choose some items you can make before and don’t forget to leave room in the oven.
- Don’t forget it takes a few days to thaw that turkey or ham. You also don’t want to go to the store the night before (I made that mistake once and I’ll never make it again). Most turkeys have a thawing chart right on the package if you aren’t sure how many days you’ll need. You’ll also want to make sure that you place it on a pan to prevent a mess of water in your refrigerator. Plan on purchasing food 7-14 days before, especially if you are making food early.
- Cleaning the house will depend on when people are arriving. Aim for 3 days before your guests arrive unless you need to deep clean. The kitchen should be clean and ready to go before preparing any food.
- When planning oven space figure out which items need to be served hot (green bean casserole) and which items can be served warm or at room temperature (rolls). You’ll also want to look at what can go in a slow cooker instead of an oven to save space. It’s also good to note which dishes need to be cooked at which temperatures and for how long. If you find yourself with five items with five different temperatures and five different times you may need to adjust your menu or come up with another way to prep the items.
- Appoint one person to be in charge of the organization of the kitchen and keep everyone else out. If you are cooking have someone else keep track of what needs to go in the oven and when and help you to bring items out to the table. Too many cooks in the kitchen definitely equals disaster and chaos.
- Remember to account for that turkey taking longer than you planned. Have plenty of board games or activities for your guests to do while dinner is cooking. My grandmother is the only person I know that managed to get the turkey on the table at exactly the right time. I did not inherit that skill.
- It always annoyed me that dinner was hot and ready to eat and we had to wait for 20 people to say what they were thankful for before we could dive in. An alternative to this if you have a large group of people is to do it while food is being passed around, during dinner as part of the conversation, or even after dinner before dessert is served.
- Remember earlier how we wanted to keep everyone out of the kitchen. At the end of the meal allow them to help by clearing dishes and bringing items back to the kitchen and helping with clean up. Do not try to clean up everything yourself!
These are just a few tips and tricks. Remember that everyone has traditions around the holidays and these should also be incorporated into your plans. Staying organized is key to everyone enjoying the day.