A few days ago, I shared Part One of my Foolproof Thanksgiving Plan that centered around the week prior to Thanksgiving. Today we are talking about the week of…crunch time and soon munch time!
My first tip in Part One was making a list (of the menu) and my first tip of this post is also a list. Being organized on a hectic holiday can make a difference between having fun and being exhausted and running around finding items on the day of your party.
Create a timeline of your dinner preparation
I write down a timeline, working backwards of when items need to go into the oven and when they need to come out. Every detail goes into this timeline. I write down when to turn on candles when to turn on music, when to pour water into the goblets…everything. This list can be a little tedious to put together, but I use it every year so it was worth the work. Also, when you have a lot of things on your mind, you start to wonder if you are forgetting something. I am relaxed when I follow this list because I know that I am right on track to everything being made in a timely manner. I actually enjoy the prep work before my guests arrive because I feel more confident about my time-keeping. This is the best tip I can give you!
Use multiple timers to keep track of dishes
I have about 5 timers and I use them all on Thanksgiving day. I place a post-it in front of the timer with the name of the dish that it pertains to, that way I know when to pull it out of the oven. Also, when I am cooking casseroles that say “cook at 375” and another that says “cook at 325”, I usually cook them both at 350 to maximize my oven use. I do this with dishes that I know will be fine with the slight temperature change.
Use a cooler as a warmer to conserve oven space
This is the time to pull out all the stops when it comes to conserving oven space. A good cooler can also serve as a warmer for your casseroles that need to be kept warm. Just be sure to clean your cooler, place a folded towel in the bottom and then the casserole (covered in foil) on top of the towel. You can cover that with another towel and make sure that you don’t peek, as the heat will quickly escape. Of course, keeping the food warm in the oven is ideal, but this is another option.
Also, to conserve oven space, you can place the mashed potatoes over a double boiler or inside a crockpot.
Chop your onions, celery and garlic
A few days before Thanksgiving, you can chop up your onions, celery and garlic and place them inside an airtight container.
Set your table
Not sure what it is about the table setting but I am so relieved once that is done, plus I enjoy it so much! I set the table a day or two before my dinner party. I recently posted about setting a proper table and you can read about it here. Although if you are having a lot of guests over for Thanksgiving, you may not want to mess with so many utensils. Keep it pretty, simple and fun.
Make your sides the day before
I purposely choose side dishes that can be made ahead of time. If I can make them all the day before, even better. I love waking up on Thanksgiving day knowing that most of my meal is ready to go!
Purchase containers for left-overs
I love to send my guests home with left-overs! It also clears out my kitchen and fridge, so it’s a win-win. Most of my food containers are glass and I prefer not to give those out, so I purchase disposable ones to give out after big meals. I take them out of the wrapper and have them in a corner ready to go. I try to think of as many details as possible before the dinner.
Once dinner is over, I like to hang out with my guests. When it’s time for coffee, I like the convenience of pressing the “on” button instead of starting to grind coffee beans. Sometimes, I make the coffee ahead of time and place it inside an insulated thermal coffee carafe, which keeps coffee hot for hours.
You can also set aside little bowls of different sugars and a pitcher of creamer inside the fridge to serve with your coffee.
Keep the kitchen free of crowds
Of course my family is free to roam around our home, but placing a drink station in the kitchen can make for some real rush hour traffic. You will need your space to move around, and it is best to set up stations elsewhere.
Place extra garbage bags inside the trash can
You will definitely have more garbage during big gatherings than usual, so place a few extra garbage bags at the bottom of your trash can, so that you don’t have to go looking for them in the middle of the party.
Empty dishwasher before the dinner
This is a great tip for any dinner party. Chances are that you won’t be able to fit everything into the dishwasher after a huge dinner, but even clearing out half the items is a big help. You don’t want to deal with emptying your dishwasher after working so hard during the day. An empty dishwasher will be waiting for you. Let’s hear it for dishwashers!
All the planning in the world cannot produce a glitch-free event and honestly, that shouldn’t be our goal. I make lists and check them twice so that I can enjoy the party along with my guests. The lists are not meant to control you, quite the opposite. Once the guests arrive, whatever is not done – go with it and just have fun. People will always remember how you made them feel way more than whether the pie crust got a little burnt. Seeing that their hostess is having fun is the best gift you can give your guests.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your family and friends and know that I am thankful for all of you!
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