Not sure where to begin when hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Relax: with our week-by-week list of tasks, getting ready for the holiday is simple.
It can be challenging to get everything planned and finished on time if you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time—or even the hundredth time. How far in advance should I place my turkey order? What foods can you prepare in advance and freeze? It may be challenging to know where to begin.
This useful checklist was produced as a result. Up until the last few weeks, when we have a plan for each day, we’ve divided it up by week. Print it out, then stick it to your refrigerator.
Therefore, unwind and breathe deeply: Here is your extensive—yet entirely doable—to-do list:
six weeks from now
Let your imagination run free as you think about these inquiries, which will influence your plans:
- Consider the overall atmosphere you want for your gathering: massive, relaxed, and kid-friendly? Personalized, sophisticated, and adult? This will assist you in selecting the appropriate guest list.
- Make an invitation. To begin the planning that follows, try to gather a rough head count; but, if people need more time to make up their minds, ask them to let you know by the following week.
- Commence creating your menu. Consider the type of meal you wish to eat. Are there any timeless pieces that would be missed by all without them? This year, do you want to try anything new? Do you have a preferred turkey dish in mind? Are you looking for a particular breed of bird, such a heritage or kosher turkey? (This may have an impact on the recipe you can use; for more information on the various turkey breeds, read our turkey primer.)
- Determine what is feasible based on your broad menu concepts. Do you intend to make anything yourself or will you require assistance? Choose between having a cohost and a potluck.
- Start selecting specific recipes. (See our Thanksgiving menu planner if you need assistance creating your menu.) Talk to each guest individually if you want them to bring anything. If you want guests to give ideas for what to bring, ask them what they like, and then fill in the menu around their suggestions. You can do this before or after choosing the recipes. Alternately, you might decide on your menu and then invite guests to contribute certain items.
- Consider whether you want to make any unique decor or ambiance changes. Will your cuisine be served as a sit-down dinner or a buffet? Will you create a centerpiece?
Five Weeks From Now
We now move on to the specifics; this week is when you should create a strategy in detail and develop a shopping list:
- Decide on the recipes for your menu once you have a final head count.
- Create a shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need based on your meal. A do not buy list can be very helpful. Compare the list with what’s in your cupboards and mark out anything you already own.
- Make a note of any cooking equipment you’ll need but don’t already have.
- Decide on your general serving strategy (buffet or seated? drinks and hors d’oeuvres served in the living room beforehand?) and provide a list of any supplies you’ll require, such as more chairs or linens, card tables for snacks, barware, etc.
- Determine the best way to serve each dish on the menu and make a list of any serving utensils you’ll need to purchase, such as a gravy boat, carving set, or warming tray to keep food warm. To ensure you have enough plates and flatware for each meal, don’t forget to stock up.
- Complete your design plans and make a list of all the things you’ll need, such as materials for the centerpieces, candles, a wreath for the door, etc.
- Add to your list anything else you wish to buy or do for your house, such as buying fresh towels for visitors or covering open electrical outlets if you’ll be entertaining kids. Congratulations! Your master shopping list is ready for use.
Four Weeks From Now
With your list in hand, you may schedule your cooking and shopping trips and purchase the initial items:
- Place a turkey order. If you’re purchasing a rare variety, like as a heritage or farmer’s market bird, which might sell out as early as November, it’s very crucial to do this early. It can’t hurt to place your order now, though, even if you’re only ordering grocery store turkey. (See our turkey primer for more information on how big a bird to get.)
- Look through your shopping list for anything you won’t be able to get in your neighborhood stores, such specialized ingredients or specialized cooking equipment. To ensure that these things arrive in plenty of time, get them online right away.
- Make arrangements to rent any things on your list (such extra folding chairs) from a party supply store if you don’t want to buy them. Alternately, inquire if you may borrow any items from friends or relatives.
- Group the remaining things on your list according to when you plan to make your purchases. Divide up all nonperishables and equipment first. Next weekend, you’ll purchase these (see below).
- After that, create your menu: Compared to the last two weeks of this period, compare your menu (where we make general suggestions as to what to cook when). Using your unique recipes, create a customized cooking schedule.
- Using this menu as a guide, divide the perishable items on your shopping list by the day you plan to purchase them. Purchase perishables three days or less before you plan to cook them.
Three Weeks From Now
Your first shopping trip is this week:
- To start, organize your cupboards and make space for the items you’ll be buying.
- Then, purchase all nonperishables and equipment.
- Lastly, this is a wonderful time to complete any house tasks you had in mind (see above, under “Five Weeks Ahead”).
Two Weeks From Now
This week is the time to experiment with cooking; prepare something that will freeze well:
To make room for the foods you’ll be freezing, clean the freezer first.
- Purchase the perishable ingredients for the items you’ll be creating this week after that.
- Prepare as much food as you can right now. Pie dough, bread, and turkey stock are all suitable options. Before Thanksgiving, all of these can be frozen and then defrosted.
- Create any nonperishable table decorations (such as napkin holders or centerpieces) this week to finish as much work in advance as you can.
This picture might have the text “10 Days Ahead” and a symbol.
A week and a half from now:
A excellent time to prepare your house and kitchen for Thanksgiving is the week before:
- Make sure you have freshly laundered linens and towels if you’ll be hosting house guests.
- Polish silver, press tablecloths, and clean the house.
Before Thanksgiving weekend:
Do a couple additional tasks now to get ready for next week:
- Thoroughly wipe out the fridge on Friday: Make as much room as you can for all the ingredients and dishes you’ll need to store in the refrigerator for the upcoming week.
- Purchase the components for the cranberry sauce on Saturday.
- Buy a frozen turkey on Saturday if you haven’t already and store it in the refrigerator to defrost. A 15-pound turkey that was purchased on Saturday should be defrosted by Tuesday night since it would take around five hours per pound. After it has thawed, you can store it for a few days in the refrigerator. If your turkey is significantly bigger, buy it earlier so it has enough time to defrost.
- Prepare the cranberry sauce on Sunday and store it in the fridge. (You can prepare it a little earlier if that better suits your schedule; it keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.)