My Thanksgiving Planner


Thanksgiving Planner: MY Four Week Plan

There’s no way I am going to let Thanksgiving take you by surprise this year because you’re going to give pre planning a chance. By planning way ahead for Turkey Day success. The day is I promise a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable for you, your family and guest..

With four weeks to go until the biggest feast of the year, you have plenty of time to accomplish everything on your to-do list. Here’s a look at what my list includes. (Not everything will relate to your own plan, so add and subtract to suit your needs. Life is short so make your plans from this example planner and enjoy your day. Don’t worry that you have forgotten something because if you follow your planner you can check it off as everything is completed. I would be lost without my planner year in and year out. )

Four Weeks Ahead

Draw up a guest list and send out the invitations early.

Plan the menu. Sharing food is what Thanksgiving is all about, so let your guests contribute to the feast. It’s easiest if the hostess (you) handles the main dish or anything else that doesn’t travel well (I.e. turkey and mashed potatoes) and willing cooks supply the rest.

Order your turkey, roast, duck, ham, etc. if you are having fresh not frozen.( I prefer frozen since my last fresh turkey just wasn’t up to my expectations.) If you’re doing more than just the main dish, pay attention to the next step:

Create a timeline for make-ahead’s, freezing, thawing, reheating, and Thanksgiving Day cooking.

Assess tables and chairs, table linens, dinnerware, glassware, serving pieces, pots and pans, etc. Is your dinner a sit down affair or a buffet? Do you need to rent or borrow anything? Make arrangements now.

Gather materials for making place cards, Thanksgiving crafts, and a fabulous centerpiece. I haven’t done this in years I find it to make a nicer dinner when dinner is a little less formal.

Are kids on the guest list? Think about age-appropriate ways of getting them involved or keeping them entertained. I usually have plenty of drawing paper and crayons around and ask the kids to draw me a picture of what they are most thankful for and to draw me a hand turkey. I save the hand turkeys every year so we can compare them the next year and the kids can see how they have grown.

Clean out your freezer. You will definitely need the space if you cook like I do for Holiday or family dinners. Yes I do all the cooking. I ask the guest to only to bring something to drink or a dessert.

Two Weeks To Go

Confirm your guest list.

Finalize your shopping list. Break it down into what can be purchased ahead, such as canned goods, and what perishables should be picked up closer to the day. Make your first shopping run.

This is a perfect time to refresh your spices. I only keep my spices for 3 months then I purchase new. If it is a spice I do not use often I store it in the freezer to extend its shelf life.

Get started on the do a heads (unless your guests are supplying them) such as rolls, pie crusts, casseroles, and soups, and freeze ’em up. Using fresh pumpkin as an ingredient? Cook and freeze now. Making fresh cranberry sauce? Purchase and freeze berries before the stores run out. (This is one thing that was always a problem for me then I finally wised up and buy my cranberries as soon I see them in the store and pop them into the freezer till needed.) Bake and freeze cornbread for stuffing. Now aren’t you glad you cleaned out your freezer ? I know you don’t want to admit it but I was right you do need the freezer space. I told you so.

Do a test run on new recipes. You do not want to run into the same problem I have in the past. I have tried some recipes that have turned out just ghastly. I was so embarrassed.


One Week To Go

Clean out the fridge. You are going to need the space. I have two fridges and at one point I used both fridges and both freezers on the fridge and my stand alone freezer. So I know you will need the space.

If you’re roasting a frozen turkey, pick it up and start thawing. Note that thawing in the fridge will take one day for every 5 pounds of meat. A 15-pound turkey will take at least three days to thaw completely .

Polish silver and wash glassware. If you are using. I now just use the Holiday dishes and the family Silverware and glassware. I decided long ago that my family prefers a much less formal Holiday than what I was always doing. They are oh so more relaxed and everyone really enjoys themselves every year now.

Finish place cards and decorations. If you are using them.

Clean house and make sure you have what you need for house guests.

Review the menu; are you on target with do ahead dishes?

Two Days Before

Pick up that fresh turkey you ordered if you ordered one.

Purchase fresh produce.

Make pie crusts and refrigerate (if you haven’t gone the frozen route).

Clean and press table linens.

Set the table or decorate the buffet.

Set up the bar. We do not drink so we only have a bottle or two of wine on the holidays.

Lay out serving pieces and utensils.

One Day Before

Wash and prep produce.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and make turkey stock for gravy. (Don’t use the liver in the stock it will make it bitter. If you want it for the gravy, cook it separately, mince it, and add to gravy at the last minute.)

If you’re brining your turkey, give it no more than a 24-hour soak.

Assemble stuffing but do not put it in the turkey until just before roasting. Better yet, put it in a separate pan, moisten with your homemade turkey stock, refrigerate, and bake it on Thanksgiving Day.

Bake pies and make cranberry sauce.

Make one more quick run with the vacuum cleaner and dusting cloth.

Purchase and arrange fresh flowers. I still do this because I just love flowers in the house.

Make sure your camera is charged and ready.

Thanksgiving Day

This is when all your advance work pays off and you look like a genius. Yes, there might be dishes to be prepared on the day, but you won’t be in a panic. Do remember to map out oven and stove time for items brought by guests. Here’s what you might have to plan for:

Stuff and roast turkey (or bake dressing).

Mash potatoes.

Make gravy.

Toss salad.

Warm or bake bread and rolls.

Reheat frozen dishes.

Arrange appetizer platters.

Whip cream for desserts.

Chill or open wine. I do not drink not even a drop at the holidays but this is for the member of my family that do.

Heat cider, make coffee.

Congratulations! Now give yourself a solid hour or more to relax and get yourself ready to greet your guests.

 Now enjoy the fabulous meal and the love of the family all gathered around the table. And always remember the LOVE you put into making this meal and the great joy you will feel when watching them enjoy the meal and listen to them all chattering about the goings on in their lives. Don’t get upset that the men folk will probably just talk football. Just relax and enjoy yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll.

Hope to see ya’ll really soon.