- 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.
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Two Weeks Ahead
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.