Well, it’s Monday, the week of Thanksgiving and as usual I have a million and one things “to do.” And, since I have a million and one things “to do,” I’m sure you do too! So, I did what I normally do when I feel life spinning out-of-control: I make a list! And, from that list, this post, Turkey Day Countdown: 10 Things to Do Before the Big Day, was born!
Now some of these suggestions should probably NOT be done the week of Thanksgiving. Especially if you have a job on top of managing your household. And, normally, I would have started this list of “to do’s” a few weeks ago. But, I’ve been sick with a nasty cold and operating at a snail’s pace, so I’m behind schedule. So, for the next few days I’ll be stressed out as I try to fit all this in before Thursday. Maybe that’s the secret to getting rid of a nasty cold – keeping busy and working hard (one can only hope!).
10 Tips – Turkey Day Countdown
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #1 -Invite Your Guests and Plan Your Menu
Actually, I did do this a couple of weeks ago, so this is crossed-off my list. The menu above is our classic, traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu. Every once in a while, we’ll change it up by adding other side dishes, such as Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole. But, any time I’ve swerved away from this traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, I get grief from my family. They’ve made it clear that it is NOT Thanksgiving without these time-honored classics: roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes and turkey gravy.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #2 – Make a List and Shop for Food
I make an extensive list. I go through my pantry and freezer and check off stuff I already have. I don’t want to realize on Thanksgiving Day that I don’t have any butter! With my menu planned, I go down this list of 42 Items for Your Thanksgiving Dinner Shopping List (this is a printable list, so make sure to visit this post for details) and plan my grocery shopping excursions. That way I can take advantage of any holiday specials at the grocery store and not miss out on an opportunity to get a great deal!
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #3 – Buy Your Frozen Turkey a Week Ahead of Time
One year, I put my frozen turkey in the refrigerator 3 days before Thanksgiving to thaw. That was a big mistake! Because it was over 20 pounds, it was not defrosted on Thanksgiving Day! That was a huge problem and it changed the timeline of our Thanksgiving Dinner. Fortunately, I took the turkey out of the refrigerator in the wee hours of the morning and discovered my error. So, I had to adjust the cooking time on my dinner, and even though I screwed this up, we did have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday!
But, from that stressful day, I learned a valuable lesson: buy your turkey early and allow enough time to defrost your turkey safely in the refrigerator. OR, buy a smaller turkey!
I made the above chart for you! I actually combined two separate charts into one chart using PicMonkey. Just right-click on the photo (I know, I know – it has that pesky Pinterest pin it button!), scroll down to “Save Image As” (your desktop will open) and choose where to save this image. Then open your saved image and select “print” – easy peasy! Now you can put it on a clipboard or your refrigerator or add it to your family cookbook.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #4 – Make Placecards & Treat Bags Ahead of Time
I usually assign seating at my holiday and party tables. That’s because I don’t want the same people always sitting together! So, I always make placecards. Sometimes I make treat bags for Thanksgiving, but only if I have leftover Halloween candy. These placecards were made from fall colored card stock and leaf patterns. I made the leaf patterns in PicMonkey by choosing the leaf overlay and dragging the corners to get the size I wanted. Need a tutorial? Check out this post: PicMonkey Basics: Design Your Own. It’s fun and easy!
Here’s one of the placecards in a pretty, glittery, shiny acorn placecard holder.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #5 – Set Your Dining Table Early
I have one of those old-fashioned rooms, known as a dining room. We only eat in that room a few times a year for special occasions, like Thanksgiving. The rest of the time we eat at our kitchen table. But, because we have this old-fashioned room, it’s easy to set it up ahead of time for special occasions such as Thanksgiving dinner.
And, I don’t have to do everything at once. For example, one day I’ll extend the table by putting in the extra leaves and pick out the tablecloth and iron it. Then, another day I’ll decorate the center of the table. Then another day I’ll set the table with plates, flatware, napkins and glasses. If I’ve forgotten anything, I may do that at the last minute (for example, I typically forget to put out the salt and pepper shakers).
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #6 – Label the Serving Dishes
I almost always use my kitchen table as a serving table. That’s because I load up the center of my dining room table with so many pretty things that there is no place left to put the food! I normally do this a day or two ahead of time because this is the table we eat our meals on, so having no table is awkward! I label each bowl with a sticky note to make sure I don’t overlook something.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #7 – Make Your Side Dishes Ahead of Time
Many Thanksgiving dinner side dishes can be made ahead of time; like this Sour Apple Cranberry Sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce is easy but once you’ve made it, your family will be spoiled and won’t want the canned variety anymore!
Plus, some Thanksgiving dinner side dishes can be made ahead of time and frozen, like this Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Stuffing. Just defrost in the refrigerator a few days ahead of time, bring to room temperature on Thanksgiving Day and bake normally.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #8 – Make Two Turkeys
Crazy, I know, but I usually make 2 turkeys! I make one the weekend before Thanksgiving and another one on Thanksgiving Day. I do this because I want to insure that I’ll have leftovers, plus my family likes lots and lots of gravy and when I make gravy on Thanksgiving Day, it isn’t enough!
I usually make my make-ahead turkey a Foil-wrapped Roasted Turkey. This technique results in lots and lots of turkey juice and drippings to make turkey gravy. But, it doesn’t always produce a picture-perfect turkey. So, if a picture-perfect turkey isn’t something you care about, because you carve it up before putting it on your Thanksgiving table, I recommend this method.
If you look closely in the photo above, this turkey (taken several years ago with an iPhone) is slightly pale in places – notice the skin under the leg and the wings. They aren’t crispy because that part of the turkey ends up in juice. But, this recipe makes an incredibly moist and delicious turkey in about a third less time.
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #9 – Use Fresh Herbs on Your Thanksgiving Table
Last year, I found these cute Turkey Seasoning pots at Trader Joe’s. Planted with rosemary, thyme and sage, they even came with an adorable ceramic turkey pick! I put them in garden pots and placed them on our Thanksgiving dinner table. The aroma was amazing plus I planted these in our garden later. A win-win!
Turkey Day Countdown Tip #10 – Enlist Help from Others
This is a very old photo of Princess Sweetie Pie helping Tiffany make Peach Pineapple Dump Cake. She was almost 3 in that photo and now she’s almost 6! I love this photo that Tiffany took and even though it’s not the greatest photo of the finished product, the post warms my heart every time I read it because kids are just so darn cute at that age! They want to help, so why not let them?
And, I’m not just talking about letting your kids and grandkids help, but if anyone says to you “can I bring anything?” say “yes,” even if you just ask them to bring a bottle of wine! And, if they say “what can I do to help?”, be prepared with a list – guests want to help.
- Ask them to fill the water glasses at the table.
- Ask them to get the hors d’oeuvres out of the refrigerator or oven.
- Ask them to help clean-up.
Don’t think you can do it all and have a good time, because you can’t. And, you’ll be exhausted if you do. It’s okay to ask for help!
So, there you have it – Turkey Day Countdown: 10 Things to Do Before the Big Day! These baby steps, done ahead of time, will help you enjoy the day with your family.
P.S. That Peach Pineapple Dump Cake recipe is the most searched recipe on my site! A winning combination, it’s a delicious dessert for any occasion and is a nice change-up from traditional apple pie and pumpkin pie. And, it’s so easy; after all, it’s a dump cake!