Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if you are hosting, it’s a very good idea to create a schedule so you don’t become overwhelmed. It’s not too early to start prepping for food, decorations, and entertainment. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for my family for a few years now and this timeline is tried and true for a stress-free turkey day celebration. I have compiled a schedule and recipes to share with all of you below. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting my Thanksgiving menu with recipes included.
Four Weeks Before Turkey Day:
Make entire menu – decide what turkey recipe you want to use, and what size turkey to buy, pick out desserts and recipes, side dishes and recipes, and don’t forget the turkey gravy and cranberry sauce recipes as well as drinks you’ll be serving.
Make & Freeze a pie – IF you have chosen a pecan pie, you can assemble the pie and freeze it UNBAKED in the freezer for up to a month. This does not apply to anything like pumpkin or custard filled pies. Apple pies are freezable too.
Check your seating – Double check that you will have enough seats and table space for everyone coming. If not, purchase folding tables and extra chairs. Also buy tablecloths if you need them.
Three Weeks Before Turkey Day:
Check your serving pieces – once you have your menu picked out, make sure you have a serving dish or bowl, drink dispenser, and serving utensils for everything you plan on making. If not, make a run to Target, Pier One, Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel to purchase what you’re missing.
Check your dining pieces – take inventory of the china or dinner, salad, bread, and dessert plates, and soup bowls if you are serving soup. Also make sure you have enough silverware, chargers, linen napkins, napkin rings, water and wine glasses.
Decide on the decorations – Pick out and collect any decorations for the table, mantle, kitchen or wherever you want to decorate for Thanksgiving. Also decide on the flower arrangements you want to have and make sure you have the appropriate vases.
Make & freeze the dressing – Dressing is very easy to make, but it’s time consuming. It’s a good idea to make it ahead and freeze it until you need it. You’ll free up a lot of time for yourself the week of Thanksgiving for other last minute dishes you need to make. I’ll be sharing my great-grandmother’s dressing recipe in the next week or two.
Two Weeks Before Turkey Day:
Purchase that turkey – It’s definitely best to buy the turkey a couple of weeks in advanced and keep it in the freezer. You’ll avoid the stress of driving around town to find the right size for your crowd (1.5 lbs) per person, and you won’t have to settle for a turkey that’s not right for you. I prefer the pre-brined turkey because who has time and space to brine one themselves?
Make & freeze mushroom soup – Green bean casserole is a staple at most Thanksgiving dinners, and I prefer to make mine from scratch (recipe will be posted in the coming weeks). I use Alton Brown’s recipe and it’s very easy, so don’t be intimidated. You can make the mushroom soup ahead of time and freeze it, which actually helps to thicken it up a bit before using it for the casserole. Just store in an airtight container and label.
Make the grocery list – Write out every ingredient you need from your menu, going through each recipe to ensure you have all the spices and splashes of this and that you will need. Don’t forget extras like garnishes for drinks or supplies you might need while cooking like paper towels, foil tins for baking, or cooking spray.
One Week Before Turkey Day:
Purchase alcohol – If you will be serving alcohol at your Thanksgiving celebration, now is a good time to buy it. Pre-purchase beer, wine, champagne, liquor, and any mixers you need.
Confirm your guests – Double-check the number of people that are coming to ensure
Make sure salt & pepper shakers are full – this seems like a silly step, but the last think you want to be doing while everyone is at your house and you are busy cooking and hosting.
Week of Turkey Day:
The big week! This is a busy week for hosting so there are a lot of steps, just try to pace yourself. I try to do as much as I can the Sunday before, and work through my list as it allows. This is generally the order in which I work through the last steps.
Buy the rest of the groceries, pre-chop any veggies that can be done ahead and store them in a ziploc bag
If you have the space, set up the extra tables, chairs and add the leaf to your table. Add the tablecloths as well
Decorate your house or table
Clean your house!
Get out all serving pieces and china – I sometimes label each dish with a sticky note with the menu item going in them so I know I got everything out I need
Arrange the flowers and add to the tables
Set up the dessert table with small plates, silverware and napkins
Chill the wine, beer and champagne, and any sodas or drinks you’ll be serving.
Start cooking! My menu will be posted in the coming weeks with a timeline of when to make each item.
The big Turkey Day:
Set your table with china, silverware, napkins, chargers, and glasses
Set out the wine on pretty coasters, champagne in an iced bucket
Pour water into a pitcher or carafes for easy access and set out
Light a Fall candle and adjust the lighting and heat or air conditioning to accommodate all the extra people
Warm food as needed
Enjoy your hard work!