If you can believe it, it's already time to start planning your Thanksgiving dinner. Here's a handy checklist from Better Homes and Gardens to ensure a successful preparation for this year's Thanksgiving.
· Invite your guests. If the gathering is shared, keep track of who is bringing what on your menu.
· Determine any special food needs for your guests and plan accordingly.
· Make shopping list of perishables and nonperishables. Don't forget to include beverages.
· If you are ordering a fresh turkey, do it now.
· Make a Thanksgiving to-do list, listing all the little things you feel must get done prior to Thanksgiving. Be sure to schedule time for each chore and indicate who will take care of that chore.
· Decide which china, glassware, and table linens you'll use.
· If tablecloths and napkins need to be cleaned or ironed, do it now.
· Once table settings have been decided, order a floral centerpiece or make plans to create your own
Two Weeks Out
· Make sure you have enough tables and chairs for your guests.
· Check all serving dishes, flatware, and glassware.
· Polish silver. Wrap in tarnish-resistant silvercloth and set aside.
· Shop for any paper goods you need for the event.
· Clean your refrigerator to make room for your Thanksgiving items.
· Shop for nonperishable groceries on your shopping list.
· Match up recipes with serving dishes and silverware. Drop post it notes into each bowl and platter indicating which dish goes in each.
· Plan and make decorations, place cards, and wreaths.
One Week Out
· Plan seating arrangements.
· Review your recipes and prepare a cooking schedule by day for the days ahead, and by the hour for Thanksgiving Day.
· Check thawing time for frozen turkey.
· Prepare guest room with fresh linens and other amenities.
· Do any needed outdoor work like raking leaves or cleaning the glass on your front door.
· Will you need a high chair, crib, or booster seat? Bring them out and clean, or arrange to borrow these items from a friend or the parent.
· If children will be attending, get out games or movies for them. Or ask parents to bring things for the kids to do.
Four Days Ahead
· As appropriate, begin defrosting the frozen turkey in your refrigerator.
· Do major housecleaning and organizing.
· Put up wreaths and nonperishable decorations like candles.
· Phone guests regarding menu plans and find out what oven space they may need. Also inquire if they are bringing serving pieces or if you should furnish these.
· Plan ahead for leftovers. Organize containers, bags, and wraps so guests can take home the meal's bounty.
Two Days Ahead
· Chill beverages.
· Have centerpiece delivered or buy flowers for the table.
· Shop for perishable items.
· Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
· Set out bread for homemade stuffing.
· Make cranberry sauce.
· Fill salt and pepper shakers and butter dishes.
· Complete light housecleaning.
· Lay a fire in the fireplace, ready to light later.
· Put up decorations.
One Day Ahead
· Peel potatoes, place in a pot of cold water. Keep in refrigerator.
· Clean vegetables and refrigerate.
· Make all dishes that can be prepared ahead. Don't forget the pies and any chopping, peeling, or toasting that can be done ahead.
· Check your bathrooms. Be sure to have extra paper goods and hand towels available.
· Prepare stuffing.
· Do spot cleaning of the rooms that will be used.
· Let your family set the table in the evening.
· Make the side dishes that can be baked ahead of time.
· Make a staging area for coffee, desserts, and drinks. Stock with flatware, sugar and creamer, cups and saucers, etc. This could even be set up on a tray stashed in the pantry until needed.
· Make sure there is plenty of ice.
· Get out all serving pieces. Set out in order on a counter or buffet table.
· Fill condiment dishes with your choice of pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, etc. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Lay serving spoons on top.
· Assign specific family members or relatives to be in charge of tending the fire, pouring drinks, answering the door, hanging up coats, and watching the children.
· Remove turkey from the refrigerator for one to two hours. Add stuffing to the bird or place into casseroles to bake separately.
· Preheat oven.
· Put turkey in oven and baste every half hour or according to your recipe.
· Prepare coffee and brew 20 minutes before serving.
· Remove stuffing from turkey and let it rest, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.
· Microwave food to quickly reheat if all the burners of the stove are occupied.
· Make gravy and last-minute vegetables.
· Set out refrigerated dishes including condiments, cranberries, and salads.
· Heat bread or rolls as needed.
· Pour drinks.
· Carve turkey.
· Keep the oven on the lowest setting to keep foods warm until the meal is over.
· Enjoy the dinner! Clear the table and serve dessert
· Before leaving the table, blow out candles. Collect used cloth napkins and place them in the laundry.
· Quickly fill the dishwasher with one load of dinner dishes and glassware. Add soap and run a cycle.
· Fill the sink with hot soapy water and drop in silverware and any items to be hand-washed.
· Put away leftover food in containers, foil packs, or plastic bags. Distribute into labeled bags for guests to take home. Refrigerate everything.
· Wash items in the sink, then refill with hot water to soak pots and pans.
· Clear and wash kitchen counters.
· Wash serving pieces belonging to guests. Set labeled bags in a mudroom or hall, ready to take home.
· Organize games or other entertainment.
· Finish dishes as time allows, or after guests depart.
· Launder tablecloth and napkins.
· Put away dishes, serving pieces, and glassware.
· Return any borrowed tables, chairs, games, etc.
· Make notes on what worked -- and what didn't -- and keep in your recipe box by the "Thanksgiving" tab.
Source: BHG.com, "Thanksgiving Countdown"