Your Stress-Free Thanksgiving Planning Guide

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The wheel of "It's your turn to host Thanksgiving" was spun and the arrow stopped on me. Yippee! If you won this year too, check out this list and you will be smiling all day.  No stress, no worries, just holiday spirit, laughter among loved ones and plenty of delicious food.

3 Weeks Ahead
  • Make a guest list of family and friends that you want to include. The more the merrier!
  • Send an invitation and ask people what they plan to bring.
  • Take inventory. Once you get a general idea of how many will attend, take inventory of your china, glassware, silverware and serving dishes. (It's OK if it doesn't all match!)
  • Pick your décor. Decide on tablescape ideas: napkins, candles, tablecloths and decorations. I love to use fall harvest nuts, berries and pumpkins in my decorations.
2 Weeks Ahead
  • Finalize the menu.
  • Shop for non-perishable items.
  • Pick your turkey: fresh or frozen?*
  • Make and freeze a meal for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
*Turkey Tips
If you're buying a frozen turkey, get it now (if you have the freezer space). If going the fresh route, place your order with a local butcher or turkey producer. Allow 3/4 pound per person for a whole turkey and 1/2 a pound per person for a turkey breast. Don't buy turkeys larger than 15 pounds. The bigger they are, the older they are. As we all know, when we get old, we get touch and mean!
1 Week Ahead
Thaw the turkey if frozen. Make sure there's room for it to thaw in the refrigerator. Use a large pan to catch any juices that might escape as it thaws. Allow 1 day of thaw time for every 4 pounds of bird. For example, a 12-pound bird will need 3 days to thaw.
5 Days Ahead
Get the family involved in planning "use it up meals" to clear space in the refrigerator for the next few nights.
3 Days Ahead
  • Shop for perishable items. Group items according to recipe in the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Set up the beverage area. Choose a central area in the kitchen or dining room to stock with assorted glasses, cocktail napkins, an ice bucket, a bottle opener, a wine key and a small can for recyclables.
  • Set the table with tablecloth and decorations if you have a separate formal dining area. 
2 Days Ahead
  • Make desserts. Plan on 1 1/2 servings per person. Typically, people like to sample a couple of desserts, so make sure you have enough.
  • Clean the house and pick up the yard.
1 Day Ahead
  • Prepare side dishes that can be held overnight, such as cranberries or sweet potato casserole. Cut and chop ingredients for salads but don't toss with dressing until just before serving.
  • Pick up last-minute items like prepared rolls and ice.
  • Time your turkey. Roast 12-15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F. The turkey should be done 1 hour before dinner so it can cool slightly and carve easily.
  • Set out all serving dishes and utensils.
  • Chill beverages.
Step-by-Step Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Day
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Happy Thanksgiving from My Family to Yours!
Chef Meg, Mark, Noah, Ian and Josh