Hosting THE dinner of the year isn’t easy and can be a lot of pressure. However, it can be a lot of fun and it is personally my favorite holiday. I enjoy cooking and love a full house so naturally thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to show off my hostess with the mostess skills while cherishing those special moments with loved ones. Do we share this in common?
The secret to surviving thanksgiving week is planning and organizing! I whip out my handy little storage clipboard from Target and start brainstorming. (The clipboard is perfect for keeping up with all my lists and receipts).
Planning for me starts about a month outside of the big turkey day. About a month ago I debated whether it was too early to send out the Thanksgiving Evite to our guests. Spoiler alert- I decided it wasn’t too early. Thanksgiving Evite Blog Post
I sent the Evite out that Sunday afternoon and began menu planning and organizing myself. Here is a rough timeline I work off of to survive hosting the biggest meal of the year.
- Send out Evite, E-mail, phone call, or however it is you invite your guests. Don’t expect your guests to RSVP right away but this lets them know they are welcome so they can hopefully start making plans.
- Start thinking menu ideas and research any new recipes you might want to try. Most of what I cook are traditional dishes so a lot are my mom and dad’s recipes collected and perfected over the years. Every year I try to throw in something new. I get new ideas off Pinterest and magazines and tend to make them my own by tweaking the recipes. When browsing recipes I’m careful to read through all the ingredients and directions before I determine whether it’s a good idea to make or not. If the ingredient list is full of spices I may never use again or if the directions are too cumbersome or will take longer than my time allows, then it’s a no go.
- Clean out your pantry and take inventory of what you have. I take a look at things like flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. (you know those items you may have but don’t necessarily use every week). Check expiration dates and toss away anything that is outdated.
- You should have a good idea of what your menu is going to be by this point. There may be a dish or two you haven’t decided on and that’s ok.
- I write out each item I’m going to cook and list out the ingredients I need as well as the amount I need for each dish. This helps me figure out how much I need to buy. For example, I know I need 2 1/2 dozen of eggs before I go to the grocery store and so on.
- While you’re at the grocery store this week go ahead and buy aluminum foil, seran wrap, zip lock bags, to go boxes, non- stick spray, and oil. No matter how much you have at home, you’ll need more or will deplete what you have. (You’ll notice I like to make multiple trips to the grocery store in preparation for thanksgiving day items. It makes me feel like it’s not one huge hit to my pockets if I spread it out some).
- Finalize menu and commit to it
- Locate the baster, meat thermometer, oven mitts, trivets. Do you need to replace any?
- Clean out your oven
- Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, and soap in the guest bathroom to accommodate guests.
- Get a good head count of how many guests you’re going to expect.
- Cut grass and make sure the entryway is welcoming
- Shop for all items you need minus produce and other items that will need to be fresh. If you’re like our family, we do buffet style and paper products. (Buy your napkins, paper plates, silverware, evaporated milk, mustard, mayonnaise, cornstarch, vanilla extract, brown sugar, paprika, half pans, chafing fuel, kitchen lighter to light those chafing fuel canisters,etc.)
- Find and figure out the platters you’ll need for each dish
- Locate and make sure you have the spoons and tongs you’ll need to use to serve each item
- Mock food and platter placement. This for me means- bring in that 6 foot table from the garage, wipe it down, and place the chrome wire chafer stands and pans where you want them to go. You don’t have to commit but give yourself an idea of where you’re placing all the food. Do you need to find a place for another table? Will drinks and desserts go on a different table? Think flow. I place plates at the beginning of the table and silverware at the end.
- Make food labels. I print and frame the menu and make individual food labels for my guests. In my family we have vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores. If I label the food it avoids all the questions and makes the buffet line easy. This year for example, vegan items are labeled vegan and tagged in blue.
- Get all the laundry done. You have a lot to do in the next week; the last thing you want to think about is finding that shirt you want to wear that turns out to be dirty.
- Figure out what on your menu can be cooked before Thursday. For example: some desserts like pies can be made 1 or 2 days in advance. Also, some casseroles can be prepped in advance. I list out the menu items and schedule whether I’m cooking it on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I also write the order I’m making each item each day especially on Thursday. You don’t want to make the rice before you cook the turkey. The items that take longer should be prepped earlier. Also, look at how long items need to be in the oven and the temperature to help you figure out what can go in together. You may be able to heat up the green bean casserole, the squash casserole, and macaroni and cheese at the same time.
- Wash the table linens. Press them if needed and keep them somewhere where they won’t get wrinkled like hung up in the guest room closet.
- Make your floral arrangements that will put those finishing touches on the table.
- Defrost turkey if you bought it far in advance
- Season turkey
- Make Pies or items you can cook/prep before thanksgiving day
- Wash platters, cutting board, oven roaster ( I use an oven roaster for my turkey to save oven room for the side dishes)
- Clean the house
- Purchase produce and last minute necessary items
- Make sure to plan to have an appetizer ready for those guests that arrive early.
- Plan your meals for the week. You’ll have lots to cook this week so don’t over do it. Make a dish that lasts a couple days like a big pan of ziti or something that will cook in the crockpot like beef stew.
- Cook away!
- And don’t forget the ice! Get someone else to buy it for you. You have enough to worry about 🙂