If just the thought of preparing a full-fledged Thanksgiving feast is enough to start your palms sweating and your heart racing, you are not alone. What if the turkey isn’t done in time? When are you supposed to cook what dish, and how do you time it all to be finished at the same time? Well, trust me on this. I’ve hosted quite a few family Thanksgiving dinners, and hosting a delicious Thanksgiving feast really is something that can be done and enjoyed, even by the hostess. Let’s talk about Thanksgiving organization tips to keep you out of the funny farm this holiday!
Two Weeks Ahead
- Figure out who is coming. Finalize the guest list so you know how many you’re cooking for.
- Once you know who you’re feeding, decide the menu. Many times, guests will offer to help you out by bringing something. In my experience, it takes a load off of you to assign out things like rolls, vegetables, fruit salad and extra pies.
- If you love Thanksgiving leftovers at your house, plan for those. If you want to be able to send leftovers home with guests, be prepared with some inexpensive plastic containers.
One Week Ahead
- Buy the turkey. If you’re using a frozen turkey, set it in the fridge to begin thawing. I keep my fridge on the colder side, so a 20-22 pound turkey needs an entire week to thaw. Adjust the time accordingly for your turkey size.
- Finalize the menu. Assuming you’ve assigned out rolls, vegetables, and miscellaneous pies, this leaves you with things like stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and a couple of pies. Make a grocery list and get the shopping done. If you wait, the store will only get increasingly crazy the closer you get to Thanksgiving. That’s enough to send me to the funny farm!
- This is probably my favorite of all these Thanksgiving organization tips–print up your recipes and post them around the kitchen so you don’t have to look them up in the middle of trying to cook everything!
Two to Three Days Ahead
- This is a great time to do some pre-meal prep work. Toast the bread for the stuffing, chop up celery and onions, prepare the cranberry sauce and make pie crusts. Put everything in Ziploc bags and label, such as “onions for stuffing,” etc. I like to make and roll out my pie crusts and put them in the pie pans, then freeze until filling and baking.
The Day Before
- Make the fillings for your pies, fill the crusts, and bake them.
- Prep the turkey. I like to do this before I go to bed on Wednesday. Remove the giblets, fill the inside with vegetables, such as a couple of stalks of celery, half an apple, and half an onion. Rub down the outside of the turkey with seasonings and softened butter. Get it all ready to go into the oven, but put it in the fridge for the night.
- You can also set the table this day if you prefer.
- Depending on when your guests are coming and the size of your turkey, figure out when it needs to go into the oven. For example, if your guests are planning to eat at 2:00 pm and the turkey needs approximately 4 hours to roast, you’ll want to put the bird into the oven around 9 am to allow 30 minutes for the meat to rest, plus carving time.
- While the turkey roasts is a great time to set the table if you haven’t already. Put the stuffing together and add it to the oven the last 45 minutes of roasting the turkey.
- By the last hour of turkey roasting time you’ll want to get the potatoes on to boil, set out the cranberry sauce, and put butter on the table to soften.
Now you’ve got all my best Thanksgiving organization tips. It’s going to be your best meal yet!