Thanksgiving month is finally here! With just three weeks until T-day, it’s time to get organized. As a consultant, we live by having an “approach” to everything; it’s a fancy way of saying we have a plan. So, here’s an approach AKA a plan to ensure you have everything ready to go for the big day.
4+ weeks out
- Finalize guest list and send invites – if you haven’t done this already, you need to get on this NOW! People often make Thanksgiving plans months in advance, so if you haven’t sent your invites, get them out today!
- Understand house guests’ travel plans – if you’re expecting house guests, about a month out you want to understand their travel plans: when do they arrive? More importantly, when do they leave? Are they staying with you the whole time? I like to know this in advance because it helps me understand how many meals I need to prepare, and how many activities I need to plan to keep everyone entertained (also how much wine I need to plan to drink ;))
- Make your soup – as you saw on the blog earlier in the week, about 4 weeks out is the perfect time to make and freeze your soup. One less thing to prepare the week/day of Thanksgiving. Just remember, if you’re making a soup that involves dairy, leave that out until day-of!
3 weeks out
- Plan your menu- I like to think about my menu a few weeks out for a couple reasons. One, I always want to serve way too much; by planning the menu early, you have time to narrow down the scope (another consulting favorite work) of the menu. Second, once you know the menu, you want to think about what you will make, what you will assemble, and what you will buy. This will help you prepare for the amount of cooking (and cleaning) you will have in just a few weeks. I generally make everything for Thanksgiving; I feel like it’s that one special time of year I like to treat the family to 100% homemade meal. But, there are easy shortcuts and no judgement here if you want to lighten the load – things like buns/rolls, cranberry sauce and dessert are perfectly fine to buy.
- Order your rental dishes (if you’re renting them) – this for me comes down to the size of party you’re having. If you have more than 10 people, I would give some thought to renting the dishes. What I like about renting dishes (as I’m doing for Friendsgiving), is you don’t have to wash them, and if you’re serving a large crowd, allows you to have everything matching. What I don’t like about renting them is that if you’re already preparing the meal, you’re going to be doing dishes, so why not just wash the plates and flatware too? Totally up to you. As a point of interest, it’s actually much more affordable than you may think!
- Buy your turkey if you’re not using a fresh one. I’m sure folks reading this have STRONG opinions on this, but it’s totally up to you. I generally buy a frozen turkey, and I think it’s just fine. I always worry that if I wait until the week before Thanksgiving, either I won’t be able to get one, or they will all be either way too big or way too small – it’s just not worth the stress to me. I keep my eye out at the market about 3 weeks before Thanksgiving, and when I find the perfect size, I buy it! Just my preference.
- Make chicken stock. That wasn’t a question or a suggestion – MAKE CHICKEN STOCK. I’ve for years said “if Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, chicken stock is the producer! Homemade really makes all the difference in the world, and you will use so much of it for your bird, gravy, casseroles and sides, if you don’t normally make your own, make it for Thanksgiving. We’ll be making some on The Homemade Chef blog this weekend, so stay tuned for that! If you want to be prepared to follow along, I use Ina Garten’s recipe, with one change – at the very end, right before I strain the stock, I add a WHOLE BOTTLE of Pinot Grigio!
2 weeks out
- Relax! You’re doing great, think of how prepared you are this year versus last year. Take some time to yourself – get a massage, a mani/pedi, just get some down time, the craziness will be here before you know it!
- If you’ve fallen behind on anything above, this is the week to catch up!
1 week out
- Finalize grocery list – make a list, and check it twice. Nothing is worse than 25 “last trips” to the grocery store. What I do is I write my menu on one side of a piece of paper, and make my grocery list on the other side. That way, you can easily flip back and forth to catch those last ingredients!
- Finalize your game plan; remember that approach above? Well this is the cut-over checklist – make a detailed plan for the following week. What day are people arriving? What are you serving for every meal leading up to Thanksgiving? Oh yeah, you need groceries for that too! Plan when you’ll take your turkey out to defrost, if you’re brining (never brine a previously frozen turkey), when are you brining? What time is the meal? Are you serving food before the meal? Sounds like more groceries… this is why I suggest finalizing the game plan a week ahead
- Start setting the table. I know it sounds crazy, but my grandmother SWORE by setting the table a week early. I think it helps get you in the mood, and it’s one less thing you have to do next week. If you aren’t renting dishes or you don’t have separate china from your everyday dinnerware, just do what you can. Press the tablecloth and napkins. Set out the candles. Anything to get ahead!
Oy veh! We’ll need a dedicated post for this one!
For now, follow the steps above and you’ll be on your way to the smoothest Thanksgiving ever! Enjoy!