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A Guide to Planning Thanksgiving in Five Days

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Really, it feels like the day has crept up on us. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were frantically running around buying last-minute accessories for Halloween? Wasn’t it just a week away that we were mourning the end of summer and the beginning of the school year?

As much as we might like to hide under the covers and wish time to stop, we can’t. With a mere five days to Thanksgiving, we need to get planning for the big day. Don’t worry if you haven’t started planning yet … you can plan and prepare a fantastic, fresh Thanksgiving dinner in just five days. Seriously.

Ready? Let’s go.

Saturday – Five Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Order turkey, if you haven’t already — Today may be your last chance to order a fresh turkey.
  • Access linens – Do you have the tablecloth(es) you need in the right sizes? Are they clean? If not, launder them today.
  • Start thinking side dishes – What side dishes do you want to serve? Are Brussels sprouts a must-have on your table? Butternut squash? Carrots? Make a list of the types of dishes you want to make (no need to get ultraspecific on recipes yet).

Sunday – Four Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Finalize menu – Grab your list of side dishes. Find the recipes you plan to make and organize them in a folder. Consider the timing of the menu — you shouldn’t be trying to cook more than you can finish.
  • Make shopping list – Use the recipes to generate a shopping list of everything you will need for T-day. Be sure to check quantities of standard items in your cupboard.
  • Finalize guest list – Write down who’s coming.

Monday – Three Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Consider placesettings and decorations – Figure out what plates, silverware and serving pieces you want to use. Will you need charger plates? Placemats? Special napkins? What is your centerpiece going to be?
  • Make cranberry sauce – Making cranberry sauce a few days early will save you big time at crunch time. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Thaw your turkey if you are using a frozen one – Frozen turkeys take several days to defrost in the refrigerator. Need a primer on defrosting? The LA Times has a good one.
  • Iron table linens

Tuesday – Two Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Clean serving dishes and plates. Shine silverware (if necessary).
  • Make desserts for Thanksgiving.
  • Double check that you have everything you need.

Wednesday – One Day Before Thanksgiving

  • Make the centerpiece
  • Set the table – This is one thing you definitely do not want to leave to the last minute.
  • Begin cooking side dishes – Certain side dishes, like beets and carrots can be made ahead and reheated on Thanksgiving, saving you valuable time. You can even make mashed potatoes ahead of time, if you want.
  • Pick up your fresh turkey.
  • Pick up any last-minute items.
  • Clean kitchen – It’s so much easier to cook in a clean kitchen. Don’t forget the rest of the house too.

Thursday – Thanksgiving

  • Lay out your appetizers (hopefully you’ve gone for no-cook options like olive trays, cheese platters and veggies and dip.
  • Cook turkey and side dishes. Make salad.
  • Enjoy your day!


Sunday 22nd of November 2009

It *is* coming up fast! My family is going low-key for Thanksgiving, just a our immediate family with simple, comfy food that we all like and that we can make easily. Are you having a lot of people over? I've always wondered how different families do things.