Having Thanksgiving at your house this year? If you're like us then you're already starting to feel that curious mix of excitement and stress. Of course the week of Thanksgiving is going to be a mad dash no matter how much you prep and plan in advance. But there are a few things you can do now that will help lessen the pressure on the Big Day.
Make Your Master Plan: This process begins with deciding who is coming, what they're bringing and what's left for you to do. Then it's a matter of figuring out what can be done in advance and writing it all out in a timeline. I recommend increments of three weeks, two weeks, one week, three days, day before and day of. Depending on your organizing style, this will either look like an org chart for NASA or a willy-nilly scrapbook. The point is to identify what can be done advance and then stick to your plan.
Gather Your Recipes and Start Shopping: Round up your recipes and make a list of ingredients needed. Start shopping now for the frozen and pantry items. There still will be last minute shopping, but this way you'll end up in the express lane or not having to run from market or market in search of a popular item that everyone runs out of. Stock up on sugar, flour, butter, canned goods, and spices. Check your bar and wine rack, and think about things like extra candles, toilet paper and other non-food items.
Freezer Make-Ahead: Anything that can be made ahead and will not be harmed by a few weeks in the freezer should be made now. In particular: pie crust or cookie doughs, homemade ice cream, stock for the gravy, and some soups and pates.
The Table: Count your plates, glasses and silverware and figure out if you'll need to buy or borrow more. Check on serving pieces as well. Launder and iron all tablecloths and napkins (or take to the dry cleaners.) If your guest list is fairly stable and you're going a bit formal, you can make your place cards. In fact, most crafty things can be done now, too.
Order the Turkey: Or ham, or duck or whatever your main protein will be if you're planning on serving fresh. (If you are going the frozen route and have the room in your freezer, see above.)
Thanksgiving is a lot of work but if you're a cook, it can also be a lot of fun. Especially if you take away some of the unnecessary stress by being prepared and stocking up ahead of time.
What tips do you have for getting ready for Thanksgiving?
(Image: Dana Velden)