Planning to host this year? As much as we love contemporary living and modern lifestyle, there is nothing like a traditional holiday gathering to get you in the classic mindset for the upcoming months. This is quick guide to Thanksgiving preparation for first timers and those who want to perfect their Thanksgiving gatherings.
25 Days Before Thanksgiving Day
November 1st marks exactly 25 days before Thanksgiving. Take out those family cookbooks, get mom and grandmom on the phone for their recipe tips, and browse the internet for holiday recipes. If you are having guests come with special dietary restrictions, this might complicate things but will ensure you will have any substitutions necessary to accommodate all guests. Once you have all the recipes ready and laid out in front of you for the big day, be prepared to write a shopping list. When making a shopping list, separate it into 3 categories. 1 section for spices, 1 section for non-perishables, 1 section for perishables. In general, most spices are dry and they can be picked up along with the non-perishables throughout the course of the month. If you plan to buy a “fresh” turkey, you should buy it now. A fresh turkey is technically any turkey that has not been frozen below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once both the shopping list and the guest list is made, you can distribute responsibilities to the guests. Some of these responsibilities can include requesting guests to bring food menu items. You can even send them entire recipes with an ingredient list to bring dishes to the festivities. Some families and friends have their own mashed potatoe and cranberry sauce recipes they like to cook when they host Thanksgiving, let them help make the feast!
14 Days Before Thanksgiving Day
Browse online for thanksgiving table decorations and table setup for the holiday. There are many good ideas out there for those on a budget. You might already have the dishware, cloth napkins and utensils for the event. Use what you have but make it your own! You can’t go wrong with a 3 color palette (not including neutrals like white, black, silver or gray) and a cornucopia centerpiece. Its classic.
This is the time to make sure you have a firm guest list including guests and children. This will be prepare you for table size, fold-out tables, number of chairs and kids tables.
As far as decorations, this is a good time to get crafty with making a Thanksgiving wreath and a cornucopia centerpiece for the table. Its fun to do and you can find oodles of ideas online to get you weaving and bopping on your homemade decorations.
This is the final day for guests to make their special requests for allergy and dietary restrictions. This is also the final day for the guest list. Now is the time to pick up any specialty ingredients needed for the meal on Thanksgiving day.
7 Days Before Thanksgiving Day
Its a week before Thanksgiving, now you can prepare the house for guests. You will want to make another list. Make a checklist to ensure you have everything needed for guests and for Thanksgiving day. If you plan on having overnight guests, fresh linens on the bed, clean and dry your cloth napkins, switch out the hand towels to Thanksgiving themed, hang up your Thanksgiving wreath, rake the leaves, grab the booster chairs or high chairs from your neighbor or family member for the day.
Gather your games and gameboards for the kids and the guests to play between dinner and dessert. Make sure you have a choice of at least 3 holiday fun movies to watch for after the meal.
This is also a good time to buy plenty of tupperware containers to store leftovers and to give to guests for after dinner.
4 Days Before Thanksgiving Day
You have your shopping list already, but some things might have been added, omitted, or tweaked along the way. Go over it once again and be sure you have all you need written down. If your guests are bringing any dishes, make sure to write their names down next to it. This is the time to grab your perishables. Don’t forget the turkey!
IMPORTANT: Frozen turkey must thaw in the fridge for 24 hours for every 4 lbs of turkey. If you purchase a 16 lb turkey bird, you have to thaw it for 4 days. A fully thawed turkey can be kept in the fridge for up to an additional 4 days.
You can clean the house now, but if you have small and messy kids, wait until 2 -3 days before Thanksgiving. Do it after they go to bed for the night. Have them help if they are old enough to hold a toilet brush!
2 Days Before Thanksgiving Day
Prepare ingredients in advance and complete any make-ahead dishes where you can. Clean and peel any veggies, place them in water and refrigerate them. Water can help keep them from browning.
Put unsealed bread out for homemade stuffing, stale bread works best for stuffing. You can also pre-make staple Thanksgiving dishes like cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes at this time. If this is your first time hosting, you don’t need to get too adventurous with the appetizers. Shrimp cocktail, veggie, meat and cheese plate will work fine.
If you and your guests like to drink spirits for the holiday, go for big batch festive drinks like large pitchers of sangrias and spiked apple cider. Buy 1 bottle of red wine and 1 bottle of white wine to accommodate tastes. Request your guests bring anything novelty they might enjoy and would like to share with others at the party.
Before heading to bed for the evening, this is the time to set the table. Sometimes we overlook space or placement. If this is the case, you will have tomorrow morning to take care of it.
1 Day Before Thanksgiving Day
Most Thanksgiving chopping, peeling, or toasting can be done about 24 hours before the day. Overnight dinner rolls should be set out to rise. Lay out and organize your spices, kitchen tools and utensils needed for meal preparation. A staging area for coffee, tea with sugar and creamer is always a nice addition for guests. Pies and desserts can be made and kept in the fridge a day ahead.
Remove the turkey from the fridge for 1 – 2 hours before preparing it to bake. Prepare the stuffing. Put the turkey in a preheated oven. You will want to baste it for every hour or according to whichever recipe you are using. Prepare the remaining dishes.
As guests arrive, assign tasks for them such as hanging up coats, watching children or answering the door as you finish up the meal.
Once the turkey is done cooking, remove the stuffing and allow the bird to rest, covered for approximately 20 minutes before slicing.