Do you have your battle plan set with your cooking schedule and grocery list? I hope so!
Monday is the day for you to get everything set up. That means prepping your table and gathering every little thing you will need for the big dinner, down to the smallest detail possible!
Pro Tip: shop for non-perishables the week before, and leave Wednesday free for preparing all you can ahead like appetizers, stuffing, vegetable prep, etc.
As you go through your menu, write down everything needed from pots, pans, and cooking utensils to serving dishes and serving utensils for each dish. It may seem obsessive, but trust me: it’s not fun to start cooking on Thanksgiving and suddenly realize you don’t have enough pans, or your electric carving knife has died!
If you’re anything like me and have been downsizing your kitchen, you may find you need to borrow a big platter or Dutch oven. If you need to purchase it they’re on sale virtually everywhere!
The table itself can be set days ahead too. Simply cover the entire table with a clean sheet to keep everything dust free. Doing this early will assure that you have enough place settings for all your guests and give you time if you need additional pieces.
Then, give the house a good once over cleaning on the weekend before Thanksgiving! You can do a quick dust and vacuum on Thursday morning. Rewash all the dishes, glassware, and utensils. Make sure you have some extra TV trays and folding chairs. Put away knick knacks on side tables to have room for edibles and appetizers. Have ample coasters and napkins available so guests have something to set their drinks on. I use nice paper plates for appetizers (no need for more dirty dishes!).
If you are having several kids over, have a kids’ table set with kid friendly snacks and construction paper, markers, and crayons to keep them occupied till dinner.
Big dinner planning doesn’t have to be scary, as long as you make an overall plan and stick to it! Start early, clean as you go along, it will be much easier after dinner. And remember, if guests volunteer to help, say “thank you, yes!”
All and all, try to do as much as you can in the days before, but understand you can’t do everything – and that’s ok! Focus on your family, what you’re thankful for, and enjoy yourself!
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago