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It's Time to Start Thinking about Thanksgiving: Tips for a Hassle-Free Holiday

October 31, 2018

Suzanne Yearley



I have big plans for Thanksgiving. I want to give you everything that you need to be prepared for the holiday weeks ahead.  I have definitely fallen a little short of that goal (5 weeks not two months) , and I am a bit disappointed for letting you down. But I did a little better than last year, and I will keep trying.  Modern life is like that; sidelining our best intentions and interrupting our plans. So although I am planner who likes even more cushion, the reality is that most of you are not thinking about Thanksgiving two weeks ahead let alone now. I encourage you to start though as I find that doing a little bit each week keeps me feeling calmer and less overwhelmed.  Even if you prefer a shorter time window, this to do list should help to pull off a beautiful holiday without stress. You can always save it for next year, and start earlier. At least that is my plan!


My Thanksgiving survival list:


Two months to one week out (sweet spot this year!):


1. Plan your table:

  • Order any dishes or glasses that you need to accommodate additional people.

  • Order centerpieces.

  • Place orders for any rentals such as tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc.

2. Begin to explore menu ideas: 

  •  Think about dietary concerns, number of people, mood of dinner (casual, buffet, elegant seated, Southern-flavor, New England Style, vegetarian, etc.)

  •  Another important thing to consider: a mix of dishes that can be made ahead and reheated and perhaps one or two to finish right before serving. This is particularly important for a stress-free holiday!

3. Enlist kitchen help; family or otherwise.

4. Make and freeze any items that you can: this will save invaluable time later.

Preferably, one to three weeks out,

  1. Finalize the menu.

  2. Confirm number of guests.

  3. Divide responsibilities.

  4. Make the grocery list

  5. Divide the list between pantry and fresh items

  6. Shop for pantry items with a longer shelf life.

  7. Order your turkey.

  8. Order wine.

  9. Make a detailed prep list and divide by day.

  10. Make a time line of when foods need to come out of fridge/go into oven/be reheated so that dinner will be ready on time.

A few days to one week before:

  1. Work on prep.

  2. Set table.

  3. Set up serving dishes with labels so everyone knows what dish goes where.

  4. Complete grocery shopping.

  5. Wash greens and leafy herbs and store in refrigerator to crisp.(3 days before maximum.)

One to two days before:

  1. Make mashed potatoes. (See post on ​Ahead-of-the-Rush: Garlic Mashed Potatoes.)

  2. Put together Butternut Squash Gratin, if serving. (See post on Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Caramelized Onions.)

  3. Make other make-ahead dishes.

Day of the Holiday:

  1. Take a deep breath.

  2. Complete your prep list.

  3. Get dressed.

  4. Execute your plan.

  5. Pour yourself a large glass of wine. You deserve it.

  6. Fill the water glasses.

  7. Smile! You are hosting a beautiful meal.

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