Your Stress-Free Thanksgiving Planner

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While a simple mention of the word "Thanksgiving" might cause your blood pressure to rise, it's not necessary with this detailed planner. If you follow these steps you're guaranteed to have a stress-free and incredibly organized holiday meal. With one week until Thanksgiving, make sure you're on track!

2 Weeks Ahead
While it might seem like you have forever until Thanksgiving, you don't. These next two weeks are going to go fast. Here are some tips on how to prepare for battle. The more you can do now, the easier it will be later.

1. Compile a guest list: Who's coming over for dinner? Does anyone have any food allergies? Is your niece a vegetarian? Get an idea of how many people you're cooking for, and if anyone has any food allergies or special requests.
2. Plan the menu: How many courses will you have? Find out if any of your guests plan on bringing an item such as an appetizer or dessert. Decide the recipes you will make and keep everything together and organized.
3. Think about the bird: Are you ordering a fresh turkey? If so, do it now.
4. Table settings: Thinking about using fresh flowers as your centerpiece? Place your order with the florist now, or figure out what you plan on using to decorate the table.
10 Days Ahead
1. Clean out the freezer: Get rid of food that's old and taking up space.
2. Make a grocery list: Refer to your menu and make a grocery list. What foods do you have already and can cross off the list? Do you have coupons that you can use for the items to save money?
3. Make the frozen foods: Can you make cookie dough or pie crusts that can be frozen ahead of time? Look at your menu and make any of the foods that can be frozen in advance.
One Week Ahead
1. Clean/organize your kitchen: This means cleaning out the refrigerator of anything that is old. Organizing tupperware and kitchen tools is another way to get ahead of the game.
2. Buy the bird: If you're buying a frozen turkey, pick it up today. It takes about 24 hours for 5 pounds of turkey to defrost. Sometimes it takes longer, so give yourself an extra day. So, for a 20 pound turkey give yourself 4-5 days. You can also thaw the bird in cold water. This takes about 30 minutes per pound. (So you would wait later in the week to do this.)
3. Buy all non-perishables: Check your grocery list. Get ahead of the crazy grocery lines and buy all non-perishables you need.
Two Days Before
1. Make the cranberry sauce: This lasts awhile, and it's one less thing to make!
2. Get your table decorations ready: Assemble your plates, napkins, table decorations, and silverware together. Tomorrow, you can set the table.
3. Prep the stuffing: If you're using stale bread for stuffing, cut up the bread and lay it out on a sheet tray overnight to dry out.
One Day Before
1. Liquid brine: If you're brining your turkey, do so now. Don't brine for more than 24 hours.
2. Buy perishable items: Buy produce and prep. Some examples are washing greens, or peeling potatoes (which can be held overnight in cold water in the refrigerator.)
3. Make sides: Make and bake side dishes or assemble to bake tomorrow.
4. Fresh tukey: If you bought a fresh turkey, pick it up today.
5. Stock: Make turky stock for gravy.
6. Prepare stuffing: Prepare and assemble the stuffing, but don't add to the turkey until right before you roast the turkey.
7. Defrost frozen pie dough: Defrost frozen pie dough and bake the pies.
8. Set the table: At night, set the table for tomorrow.
The Day Of
10:00 AM Bring turkey to room temp. (This usually takes 1-2 hours depending on the size of the turkey.) Set dinner rolls out on a sheet tray and let thaw. Chill wine if necessary.
11:30 AM Preheat oven. Stuff the turkey with the stuffing you made yesterday.
12:00 PM Put the turkey in the oven.
2:00 PM Bake sides.
3:00 PM Prepare coffee and items ready for dessert. Set up appetizer platters.
4:15 PM Check turkey temperature. If done, let sit for 30 minutes. A 20 pound turkey usually takes about 4 1/2 hours to cook. If the turkey isn't done check every 10-15 minutes. While turkey is resting, prepare the gravy.
4:30- 5:00 PM Reheat any side dishes. Carve the turkey.
5:30 PM Sit down for dinner. Start the coffee machine.


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