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Thanksgiving dinner is the Mount Everest of meals: It’s the biggest dinner of the year with the most variables and the highest degree of difficulty to pull off. There’s the multi-course menu itself, obviously, which often includes snacks for before the meal and about a million side dishes and maybe a vegan version of mashed potatoes for your cousin’s girlfriend and one too many pies. There are also all the additional considerations that come with hosting, from the table setting and the seating arrangements to the cocktails and the music to the decor and...is that your heart rate climbing, or are you just planning Thanksgiving dinner?
As any seasoned entertainer (or mountaineer) knows, the key to success is in getting organized ahead of time. Whether you’re feeling the time crunch or you’ve got everything under control for T-Day, cross check our handy guide for what to get out of the way this week against your to-do list, and start checking things off now. Thanksgiving Day will be a walk in the park!
There are certain cleaning tasks that make a big difference and (let’s face it) will likely not get taken care of if you put them off. Washing the windows, dusting the corners, cleaning the drapes, mopping the floors, and laundering throw pillow covers are all projects you can take care of in advance—and, as a bonus, you get to live with sparkling windows before Thanksgiving even arrives!
If you’ll be using a tablecloth, dinner napkins, or cloth cocktail napkins, have them prepared in advance. We like a casual, live-in feel, but you may want to iron anything that looks too rumpled.
Dig out those large plates and serving bowls and platters that have been in the back of the cabinet since last year’s holidays and give them a good cleaning. This is also a good opportunity to take an inventory of the serving dishes you have (and don’t have).
Hosting Thanksgiving means you're going to be making (and storing) a ton of food, which also means that your refrigerator is about to become the site of a game of Tetris. In order to win, give it a solid clean now (wash the shelves and drawers, and wipe down the sides), toss any expired condiments, and rearrange things (most shelves are adjustable, or totally removable) to make room for the turkey, side dishes, and the like. Game on.
Yes, you read that right. If you’re going to be using candlesticks for the big night, you don’t want them to have any waxy buildup on them from last year. The easiest way to remove that wax is by freezing the candlesticks, which makes the wax much easier to remove.
If you’ll be using any silver serving utensils or cutlery, now is the time to let them shine. By which we mean, now is the time for you to shine them.
Furniture scratches? Marks on the wall? Wobbly chair? Nothing a Mr. Clean magic eraser, walnut, screw driver, and a little elbow grease can't fix. And since you're already in the living and dining rooms, you might as well tidy them up a bit, too; fluff couch pillows, wipe down the coffee and dining tables, and recycle old newspapers and magazines that are taking up surface space.
If you haven’t done so already, figure out what you’re going to serve. Maybe you make the same traditional dishes every year, or maybe you’re looking to mix things up a bit. For everyone in the second camp, we’ve got your back. Or, more specifically, we’ve got a Thanksgiving Menu Maker that’s got your back.
Pretty much everything but the turkey, fresh herbs, and fresh greens can be bought ahead of time. So place your online order or head to the store now, so you'll have plenty of time to because everyone knows that supermarket shopping on Thanksgiving morning is a recipe for anxiety.
While you might not want to bring your turkey home just yet (unless you're buying frozen), you can still reserve one in advance so you don't have to stress about getting the size bird you want. Call your local butcher or supermarket or farmer or wherever you get your turkey from and place your order ASAP! (Maybe you can even arrange to get it delivered.)
Is it even Thanksgiving without pie? That’s a conversation for a different time, perhaps. But if you are planning on making a pie and want to make the crusts yourself, prep those crusts now and freeze them. Look at that, you just crossed “Dessert” off your list.
If you’re not making rolls and pies from scratch but want to serve rolls and pies made from scratch, call your favorite local bakery and place your order now. (Most bakeries stop taking orders a few days before Thanksgiving but some cut-offs will be earlier, so don’t miss your window.)
Some people like to make their own ice cream for Thanksgiving dessert, and to those people we say: Can we get an invite to dinner? If you’re one of those people, make your ice cream now.
A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite...just make sure you have enough of everything. A general rule of thumb is that guests will have one or two drinks per hour (depending on how hard your crowd goes), and there are about 5 glasses of wine in a bottle.
If you’re going to want chicken or turkey stock for stuffing, gravy, or mashed potatoes, make those stocks ahead of time. They will freeze beautifully.
Ever notice how the bakery sells out of that “really good for stuffing” bread in the days leading up to Thanksgiving? Buy it now, cube it up, and freeze it! You'll be well ahead of the game come next week.
Maybe you want to make sure that your dad’s new girlfriend doesn’t end up accidentally sitting next to your mom, or maybe you want to make sure that your work colleague sits next to your cousin because they’d really hit it off. A seating chart is the answer, and you can make the place cards ahead of time, too.
How many people are you hosting? How many seats do you have? It’s not hard math, but it’s worth doing in advance so that you can borrow chairs from a friend or invest in that bench you’ve been eyeing.
Serving platters, water glasses, and utensils for serving all seem to be in mysteriously short supply around the holidays (depending on how many people you’ve having over, that is). Your local thrift store is a great place to stock up on any serveware or glassware you might be missing.
What kind of centerpiece will your table feature this year? Decorative gourds, perhaps? Large flower displays, maybe? Gather (or figure out how you're going to source) your materials ahead of time. If you’re thinking about going with a wild look, phone your local florist and ask if they have any extra branches or clippings you can take off their hands.
You can’t be expected to play host and DJ on Thanksgiving, so make a playlist ahead of time and press play right before guests are set to arrive.
Is anything missing? If so, consider asking guests to help out by bringing a dish. It’s Thanksgiving, after all—everyone likes to contribute to the cornucopia.
What’s are the things you like to do the week before Thanksgiving to get ready for the holiday? Let us know in the comments!
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