Let me start off by saying let’s put a little respect on Thanksgivings’ name. As soon as Halloween is over, it’s all about Christmas, but we can’t skip this day — no matter how stressful it can seem. Thanksgiving, to me, is a meal that gets blown out of proportion to its actual difficulty, and it’s best approached in a relaxed frame of mind. (Easier said than done, right?) Especially if you’re hosting, advance preparation is the key element of every good dinner party and cheerful host.
Here are a few things that you can do right now to prevent last-minute stress and welcome Thanksgiving with open arms.
Make Your Menu
I have many memories of my mom making her menus far in advance. We wouldn’t always have the same thing for Thanksgiving, and sometimes she would change up her recipes. The strategy of knowing what you’re going to make helps with grocery shopping for all the key ingredients to make your dishes a hit! This rule still applies if you’re more of a catered-food type. Many restaurants cater Thanksgiving dinner, and you want to give yourself time to compare menus and order.
Prepare Your Kitchen
Does that oven light need to be replaced? Or does the oven need to be cleaned? Time to check appliances so they can function on Thanksgiving day to their fullest potential. While appliances are one thing, also don’t forget to check your dishes, flatware, and glassware so they can be cleaned and ready —dusty silverware can take time out of your preparation. (If you have extra hands around the house, put them on that task.) On the serving side, do you have enough platters, bowls, and serving spoons? Time to check now to make the plan.
Make a Plan for Table Decor
Decide on how you want to decorate the table (if at all), and gather anything you need. This may not seem important, but deciding if paper plates are the way to go or if you want to bring out the fine china is a big deal. Do you have enough place settings for guests? Do you want to get crafty with an extra special touch for place cards? Make sure to give yourself enough time!
Clean Out the Fridge and Freezer
Make way for all the incoming groceries! It’s also a great time to audit your fridge and freezer for items that have expired or been forgotten about, as well as what you may need for the many dishes about to go in.
Everyone else is doing the exact same thing on the exact same day, so it’s best to get what you need days (or even weeks) ahead before the stores are picked clean or before your favorite place is no longer taking Thanksgiving orders. That’s why step one is so important and writing out anything and everything you can think of to avoid that last-minute store run. (It’s bound to happen.)
Prep the Food
Fresh is best is what I like to say, but some Thanksgiving dishes need to be prepped ahead of time, so you have enough time for bigger items that take longer to bake (like the turkey). And if you don’t have access to multiple ovens, factor in enough time for baking everything. Oh, and don’t forget to take the turkey out of the freezer! (A good rule of thumb is that for every 5 pounds of turkey, plan to thaw it for 24 hours in the fridge. So a 20-pound turkey will need 4 full days to thaw.)
Enjoy the Day
Ask for help if you need it! I fall victim to this. I like things a certain way so I often don’t ask, but asking for help can relieve some of your cooking duties and save time on dishes that a guest can easily bring. Also, be present. While I believe in gratitude and thankfulness year-round, Thanksgiving is a favorite of mine. The togetherness of family and friends among traditions and food. This is the year of unexpected happenings and blessings in disguise.
What special things do you do to prepare ahead of time for Thanksgiving?