If this is your first Thanksgiving or your 15th, prepping the big feast to welcome over friends and family can seem overwhelming and stressful, but you can do it! The way to "survive" Thanksgiving is to PREPARE!!! No one wants to be running around on the day of in a panic, so here are 10 helpful tips on how to have a flawless Thanksgiving.
1. Organize and Clean Out Everything NOW
Do not wait until the day of, to start cleaning or trying to clear space from your fridge or freezer. Do these things now. If you have the means, hire someone, or get your kids to help, or do it yourself, but do it now so you can start in a clean space with room for all the things that need storage. If you're having guests over, make sure your bathrooms and spaces they will stay are clean.
2. Make a List and Check it Twice
First Google, Ggt out, print, and/or organize all your recipes into one or two handy binders. Next, go step by step and write down everything you will need to make them. A given are always sugar, oil, butter, salt, pepper and other seasonings. Double check your basics and most likely double up on these especially if you're having a lot of people over. The night before you start officially cooking, go back over your lists and make sure you have everything. In some places stores will not be open (though this is less of a case these days).
3. Secure Help NOW
Do not wait until the day of to ask your brother if he has extra chairs or if your aunt can bring the wine. Now is the time to ask your friends/family if they can bring something for the festivities like a side dish, dessert, or the napkins and if you need help figuring out a recipe, have that Facetime conference with your Nana now when she isn't busy or better yet, enlist her help for the day of.
4. Prep/Label all dishes
This is a HUGE timesaver. Get out all the dishes, platters, pans, trays, cups, cutlery, and glasses you will be using the day of and use post it notes to label what they are for. Turkey platter, cookie tray, mash potato bowl, etc. This will help you and your helpers easily identify what needs to go where and you can determine now that you still need 2 more bowls or a few more plates. Do this and also double check that your dishes are still in good shape.
5. Set the Table Early
Don't wait until the day of for something you can do now. If you have a formal dining or space that won't be used for anything other than your dinner, set your table now or at least the night before and confirm you have all the dishes you need, and set up any serving tables as well.
6. 75%+ of your Meal Can be Cooked/Prepped Ahead of time
About 75% of all Turkey Dinners can be prepped or made ahead of time. Things like pies, cookie and bread doughs, salads, soups, sauces, fresh juices etc can all be done and stuck in the fridge or freezer weeks to days ahead of time. It is also a huge time saver if you pre-chop all your root vegetables and vegetables at least the night before and label them. This way, all you need to do is season and pop them in the oven or dish on Turkey Day.
7. Prep a room for Kids Only, and/or Secure a Baby Sitter
It is difficult to watch your kids and do all the cooking. Have an older cousin, another adult, or someone either watch the kids the day of or literally take them to a park or out of your hair so you can focus on the preparation. If you can't do that, prepare a room full of toys, games, movies, and snacks that can keep them entertained. This room can be where they can hang out during the festivities as well if things start getting too rowdy. Just make sure there is someone supervising.
8. Prepare "Just In Case"
Anything can happen when a bunch of people gather together. Stash a set of cleaning supplies to handle the accidental carpet or couch spills, a glass breaking, or a literal house fire somewhere within easy reach of the crowd. Make sure you have things like extra toilet paper in bathrooms, paper towels, and some extra trash bins. You'll also want to ensure you have at least one emergency kit handy and can easily cue up an Uber or cab if your guests are far too drunk to drive.
9. Make sure all your electronics/cooking appliances are working/Games are Ready
At least the night before, be sure your tv, audio system, video, phones, oven, microwave, smoker, roaster, Instapot, or whatever are all in working order. Make sure you have back-up batteries, and that you know where adapter cables and things are if you'll be entertaining with movies and videos etc. You might also want to set up some after dinner games like "minute to win it," or "Sports Trivia," or things like a "Treasure Hunt" for the kids.
10. The Aftermath/Cleaning
You did not just cook for 3 days just so everyone can leave you with a pile of dishes. No ma'am, no sir! The second someone (hopefully) volunteers to do the dishes, accept it and don't feel guilty. If there are younger family members going crazy, put them to work and/or bribe them with a little money if they are older to clean up the mess. It's also helpful when assigning people what they are bringing to pre-volunteer some family members to take care of the cleaning instead of bringing a dish especially for those that can't or don't want to cook. If you can afford it or want to treat yourself, hire someone to come in the next day to take care of all the cleaning. Also pro tip, in the extreme (as it is sort of rude) if you have family or friends who just don't seem to want to leave and you're exhausted at the end of the night, start washing the dishes--this is usually the cue for them to go, especially if you start asking if they are done with their plate or glass.