Saturday, November 19, 2011

Having an Organized Thanksgiving

I love to host Thanksgiving!  I love preparing the meal and anticipating everyone coming to my home.  I love the way my home smells and feels when the big day arrives.  I love greeting people and making them as comfortable as possible.

But.... getting organized for the event is sometimes a little nerve-wracking.  To ease my mind and give me focus, I make lists to help me keep things under control.  If I just jump into the work without thinking things through, I'll spin my wheels and not accomplish as much.  A list keeps me on-task and doing the most productive work that I can.

Saturday before Thanksgiving:  By this time, I have my turkey in the freezer and my pantry stocked with all the staples that I need.  I will have some other shopping to do, but it should be minimal.  Today I need to do these things:
  • Clean out the frig to make room for all the goodies to come!
  • Make a shopping list for the last minute items and do the shopping.
    • Fresh cranberries
    • Orange juice (Orange Cranberry Sauce -- yum!)
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Russet potatoes
    • Onions
    • Green beans
    • (Double-check ingredients for pumpkin pie -- Done!)
    • Celery and parsley for the stuffing
    • Wondra flour for the gravy (check!)
    • Coffee for adults; milk for the children.
  • Put things away on the main floor -- this is a general "declutter" activity.  As you probably imagine, we fight the clutter ALL the time.  It will take about 20 minutes (just a guess) to pick things up and put them away.
  • Dust and vacuum.
  • Clean the kitty box.
There are some other things that I could do on Saturday, but they could be done anytime between Saturday and Wednesday.
  • Plan out the serving dishes for the big day.  Write the food item that goes in each piece on a post-it or 3x5 card and place it in the dish.  Stack the bowls in a corner of the china cabinet or inside a kitchen cabinet so they are all in one place.  Then, when all your helpful guests come, they will know exactly what food goes in which bowl.
  • Finalize the guest list.  Plan seating.  One year I made little seating cards to go on each plate.  It was easier for everyone when it was time to come to the table.  If I feel especially energetic, I might put "conversation starters" on the backs of the name cards.  I did that one year, and it was so much fun!  I heard some wonderful family stories I'd never heard.  Conversation Starters
  • Set the table.  This can be done several days ahead unless you need your table for regular meals, of course.  Set the table and then cover it with another tablecloth or sheet to keep the dust off of your table setting.
  • Thaw the turkey!  There are two methods for thawing the turkey -- the refrigerator method and the cold bath method.  I usually use the cold bath method because it takes less time and it doesn't tie up the refrigerator for several days.  Check the label on your turkey or read on the internet on how to thaw a turkey.  Be careful!  The time it takes depends on the size of your turkey.  Here's a website to tell you how long:  Tips for thawing and roasting
Tuesday:  Tuesday I will double-check all my ingredients and make my Orange Cranberry Sauce.

  • Bake the pies.
  • Bake the banana bread (see Favorite Family Recipes).  I keep frozen bananas in the freezer, so I always have some on hand to make banana bread.  My kids are crazy for it!
  • Chop up all the vegetables for stuffing, side dishes, etc.  Put in ziplock baggies or small plastic containers and refrigerate.  (This way, the only vegetable prep that needs to be done on Thursday is the potatoes.)
  • Plan what time the turkey needs to go into the oven.  I have a 21-pound turkey and we plan to eat at 1:30.  The turkey will need to come out of the oven around 12:30 (because it needs to rest for an hour before serving).  My turkey will need to roast for about 4 hours, so I need to put it in at 8:30 a.m..  It takes longer if you stuff the turkey, but I usually just fill the cavity with a quartered onion, a quartered apple, a carrot cut in half and a stalk of celery cut in half.  I also add some thyme and sage for flavor.
  • Just before bed, clean the kitty box again.
  • Don't stay up late on Wednesday.  It is more fun to have Thanksgiving when well rested!
If I follow these steps and not lose my focus, we should be ready for all our guests on the big day.  I can hardly wait!  You can take my plan and adapt to fit your needs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


  1. You are doing mahvelous!

    Shanon from TMMO.

  2. I love your list! One thing I'm doing differently this year: I roasted a turkey last week and made a ton of gravy to freeze for Thanksgiving day. We ate a little turkey that night and I cut up the rest to freeze and use in chili, casseroles, etc. I'm not tired of turkey yet (I was afraid I would be!) I didn't want to have to stand at the stove and make gravy at the last minute. Turkey is cheap right now and we could use that extra meat in our freezer too. (I'll let you know next year how it really worked out ha ha!!)

  3. Many years ago, we started roasting the turkey and making the stuffing and gravy the day before Thanksgiving. We remove the stuffing and carve the turkey and put the meat into a 9X13 baking dish, put a bit of the juice from the pan over it, and cover with foil in the refrigerator. The stuffing goes into a large casserole in the freezer.

  4. Ooops, meant to say, the stuffing goes in the refrigerator, too, and so does the gravy. After the holiday, I make little containers with turkey, stuffing, and gravy to put in the freezer for future quick meals. Yum!