Thanksgiving Countdown

Here's your timeline to success with all your Thanksgiving preparations this year. Enjoy!


Early November

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  • Invite your guests. If the gathering is shared, keep track of who is bringing what on your menu.
  • Determine any special food needs for your guests and plan accordingly.
  • Make shopping list of perishables and nonperishables. Don't forget to include film, batteries, and beverages.
  • If you are ordering a fresh turkey, do it now.
  • Make a Thanksgiving to-do list, listing all the little things you feel must get done prior to Thanksgiving. Be sure to schedule time for each chore and indicate who will take care of that chore.
  • Decide which china, glassware, and table linens you'll use.
  • If tablecloths and napkins need to be cleaned or ironed, do it now.
  • Once table settings have been decided, order a floral centerpiece or make plans to create your own.

Two Weeks Ahead

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  • Make sure you have enough tables and chairs for your guests.
  • Check all serving dishes, flatware, and glassware.
  • Polish silver. Wrap in tarnish-resistant silvercloth and set aside.
  • Shop for any paper goods you need for the event.
  • Take an inventory of your tablecloths and napkins.
  • If any of your items need to be cleaned, do it now.
  • Clean your refrigerator to make room for your Thanksgiving items.
  • Shop for nonperishable groceries on your shopping list.
  • Match up recipes with serving dishes and silverware. Drop 3x5 cards into each bowl and platter indicating which dish goes in each.
  • Plan and make decorations, place cards, and wreaths.

One Week Ahead

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  • Plan seating arrangements.
  • Review your recipes and prepare a cooking schedule by day for the days ahead, and by the hour for Thanksgiving Day.
  • Check thawing time for frozen turkey.
  • Prepare guest room with fresh linens and other amenities.
  • Do any needed outdoor work like raking leaves or cleaning the glass on your front door.
  • Will you need a high chair, crib, or booster seat? Bring them out and clean, or arrange to borrow these items from a friend or the parent.
  • If children will be attending, get out games or movies for them. Or ask parents to bring things for the kids to do.

Four Days Ahead

  • As appropriate, begin defrosting the frozen turkey in your refrigerator.
  • Save money on ice -- start making your own ice cubes now. When they're frozen, dump them in a freezer bag.
  • Do major housecleaning and organizing.
  • Put up wreaths and nonperishable decorations like candles.
  • Phone guests regarding menu plans and find out what oven space they may need. Also inquire if they are bringing serving pieces or if you should furnish these.
  • Plan ahead for leftovers. Organize containers, bags, and wraps so guests can take home the meal's bounty.

Two Days Ahead

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  • Chill beverages.
  • Have centerpiece delivered or buy flowers for the table.
  • Shop for perishable items.
  • Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
  • Set out bread for homemade stuffing.
  • Make cranberry sauce.
  • Fill salt and pepper shakers and butter dishes.
  • Complete light housecleaning.
  • Lay a fire in the fireplace, ready to light later.
  • Put up decorations.

One Day Ahead

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  • Peel potatoes, place in a pot of cold water. Keep in refrigerator.
  • Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
  • Make all dishes that can be prepared ahead. Don't forget the pies and any chopping, peeling, or toasting that can be done ahead.
  • Check your bathrooms. Be sure to have extra paper goods and hand towels available.
  • Prepare stuffing.
  • Do spot cleaning of the rooms that will be used.
  • Let your family set the table in the evening.
  • Make the side dishes that can be baked ahead of time.
  • Make a staging area for coffee, desserts, and drinks. Stock with flatware, sugar and creamer, cups and saucers, etc. This could even be set up on a tray stashed in the pantry until needed.

Thanksgiving Day

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  • Get out all serving pieces. Set out in order on a counter or buffet table.
  • Fill condiment dishes with your choice of pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, etc. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Lay serving spoons on top.
  • Assign specific family members or relatives to be in charge of tending the fire, pouring drinks, answering the door, hanging up coats, and watching the children.
  • Remove turkey from the refrigerator for one to two hours. Add stuffing to the bird or place into casseroles to bake separately.
  • Preheat oven.
  • Put turkey in oven and baste every half hour or according to your recipe.
  • Prepare coffee and brew 20 minutes before serving.
  • Remove stuffing from turkey and let it rest, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.
  • Microwave food to quickly reheat if all the burners of the stove are occupied.
  • Make gravy and last-minute vegetables.
  • Set out refrigerated dishes including condiments, cranberries, and salads.
  • Heat bread or rolls as needed.
  • Pour drinks.
  • Carve turkey.
  • Keep the oven on the lowest setting to keep foods warm until the meal is over.
  • Enjoy the dinner! Clear the table and serve dessert.

Cleanup

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  • Before leaving the table, blow out candles. Collect used cloth napkins and place them in the laundry.
  • Quickly fill the dishwasher with one load of dinner dishes and glassware. Add soap and run a cycle.
  • Fill the sink with hot soapy water and drop in silverware and any items to be hand-washed.
  • Put away leftover food in containers, foil packs, or plastic bags. Distribute into labeled bags for guests to take home. Refrigerate everything.
  • Wash items in the sink, then refill with hot water to soak pots and pans.
  • Clear and wash kitchen counters.
  • Wash serving pieces belonging to guests. Set labeled bags in a mudroom or hall, ready to take home.
  • Organize games or other entertainment.
  • Finish dishes as time allows, or after guests depart.
  • Launder tablecloth and napkins.
  • Put away dishes, serving pieces, and glassware.
  • Return any borrowed tables, chairs, games, etc.
  • Make notes on what worked -- and what didn't -- and keep in your recipe box by the "Thanksgiving" tab.
  • Write and mail thank-you notes.
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