For many households, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year, both in terms of the number of guests and the amount of prep work needed. Getting your home ready to host Thanksgiving dinner requires more than tidying up, dusting, vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.
You’ll need to consider what Thanksgiving recipes you need to prepare, make time to shop for ingredients, plan ahead to thaw and roast your turkey and coordinate who’s bringing what side dishes and fixings. You’ll probably have far more dinner guests than you would for your average dinner party, so you’ll need to plan space for everyone to eat. And, if friends or family members are coming in from out of town, you may need to get the spare bedroom and other areas ready for overnight guests.
Use these 12 tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a success.
1. PLAN YOUR MENU
Sure, you’ll most likely be serving many of the same holiday staples that everyone enjoys on Thanksgiving – turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole. But many families like to mix things up with dishes from their specific cultural backgrounds, vegetarian dishes, dishes for family members with allergies and food sensitivities, trendy dishes and so forth. Plan your Thanksgiving dinner menu several weeks in advance so you have an idea of what you’ll be preparing well before the holiday arrives.
2. WRITE YOUR GUEST LIST
You may be hosting the usual suspects, just like every year, or you may even decide to extend an invitation to friends, neighbors or others who don’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Knowing in advance who will be present can help you plan the menu and seating arrangements.
3. CLEAN OUT YOUR FREEZER
You may need some extra freezer space for dishes that can be made ahead of time and frozen for the big day. Go ahead and toss out that old tub of gravy from last year – you’ll soon have a new one to replace it with.
4. SHOP AHEAD
Assuming you’ve planned your menu well in advance, you can save money on the holiday meal by watching for sales on non-perishable ingredients in the weeks before Thanksgiving. You’ll also be able to stock up on specialty ingredients before they run out.
5. PREPARE MAKE-AHEAD DISHES THAT CAN BE FROZEN FOR THE BIG DAY
Shopping ahead and cleaning out your freezer can help take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving Day by giving you the chance to make some of the dishes in advance. Prepared dishes can be popped into your newly cleaned freezer for as long as two months, ready to be pulled out and cooked on Thanksgiving Day.
6. CREATE A COOKING SCHEDULE
One of the most difficult aspects of cooking any meal is getting everything on the table at the same time. Review your Thanksgiving recipes and create a cooking schedule that breaks down the meal’s culinary challenges day by day and hour by hour. Some dishes, like pies, cakes, and sauces, can be cooked a day or two before Thanksgiving. You’ll need to start prepping other dishes, like the turkey, several days in advance; a large bird needs to be thawed in the refrigerator for about 24 hours per four to five pounds of meat.
7. FIGURE OUT WHO’S BRINGING WHAT
Delegating some of the cooking to your guests can make hosting Thanksgiving more manageable. Get together with guests to decide who’s bringing what side dishes, desserts and fixings so you can cross those off your list.
8. TASTE-TEST NEW DISHES
Are you trying something new this year? Better take the recipe on a test drive before Thanksgiving. Trying out the recipe will let you know whether it’s really any good and will give you valuable insight into how difficult and time-consuming it is to make. You may decide to strike it from the menu after making it once.
9. PLAN THE SEATING ARRANGEMENT
If you’re having a fair number of guests this Thanksgiving, seating everyone can be a challenge. Tackle the seating arrangement sooner, rather than later, so everyone has a place to sit.
10. DEEP CLEAN YOUR HOME
It’s a good idea to deep clean your whole home a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, so you can stick to a quick once-over the day before the holiday. If you don’t have time to deep clean your entire house, you should at least deep clean your bathrooms and kitchen.
11. PREPARE FOR OVERNIGHT GUESTS
Are family members or friends coming in from out of town? You’ll need to get guest bedrooms dusted and cleaned up, with fresh bedding on the beds and fresh towels in the bathrooms. Depending on how many guests are staying over, you may need to plan to put some people on couches or air mattresses.
12. GIVE YOUR HOME A LAST ONCE-OVER
The day before Thanksgiving, take the time to give your home a last cleaning before everyone gets there. Dust, sweep or vacuum common areas, tidy up, prepare your kitchen and clean the bathrooms.
Getting your home ready for Thanksgiving is no small chore. But if you follow this step-by-step list, you’ll host a Thanksgiving to remember.