It’s the first day of November, and you think your top priority is working through that bag of Halloween candy, but trust me: You should get cracking on Thanksgiving prep asap. Though the holiday is still weeks away, the more you do now, the happier you’ll be when the weekend actually comes. (And enjoying your friends, family and food is what it’s all about–so don’t wait until the last minute and spend your four-day weekend stressed out and bummed about your failure to follow a recipe.)
To get you going (because we know you’re nursing a Halloween hangover, and it’s hard to remember this stuff), we made a Thanksgiving Prep Checklist:
1. Send Invitations (and Twist Arms for RSVPs). Having a head count well before the date will make it ten times easier to plan, and it’s essential for some of your prep, like buying a turkey. Which brings us to #2…
2. Order A Turkey (or buy a Tofurkey). Once you know how many people you’ll be serving and what size turkey you need, place an order. Butcher shops, farms, and some grocery stores take pre-orders, which will save you the headache of hunting for your meat the week of Thanksgiving. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, buy your Tofurkey now; that way you won’t have to worry about stores running out of stock around the holiday.
3. Sign up for a Turkey Trot. Seriously. Turkey Trots make the holiday extra special (and will make you feel virtuous, no matter how many helpings of turkey and stuffing you squeeze onto your plate in the evening). Sign up now to lock in a spot and avoid high registration fees (which tend to go up as the date gets near).
4. Browse and Save Recipes. If you like cooking or eating (or, ideally, both!) this is a pretty fun distraction that will last almost all of November. But if you start flagging recipes–and actually reading them–early, you’ll be better equipped to choose recipes that go together and, most importantly, you’ll have a plan of attack for when and how to cook things to keep your kitchen in order.
5. Make Stock. Making vegetable or chicken stock and putting it away in the freezer is going to make your meal better. Period. Homemade stock makes everything taste better, it saves you money, and it’s infinitely useful. Even if you don’t have a menu plan yet, chances are very high you’ll need stock. Make it, freeze it, and thank us later.
6. Do some prep work. I know, it’s three weeks early, but you can do a lot of the prep work now. Make cranberry sauce and can or freeze it. Prep pie or biscuit dough and keep it in the freezer until Turkey Day. And no matter what you do, make lots of stock and freeze it! All of this will make the week of ten times more sane; you’ll have less shopping to do, less cooking to do, and you might just have time to sit back and have a drink with the people who came to visit you.
7. Secure Your Supply of Booze. whether it’s coming from a guest or a shop that delivers, figure out what you and your guests are going to drink, make sure you have plenty on hand. Trust us, your Thanksgiving will be all the funner for it.
8. Check your supply of dishes and silverware. Once you know how many guests you’ll have, make sure you have enough dishes, glasses, napkins, forks and knives to serve them. If you don’t, you can order whatever backups you need now. (Hello, Amazon Prime.)
9. Clean Your Kitchen. It’s always easier to cook with a clean, organized pantry, and it’s definitely less stressful to have guests helping you out when you don’t feel embarrassed about the mess that is your stove. Clean it up now; we promise you’ll be able to keep things orderly between now and Thanksgiving, and you’ll be glad you did it when you’re busy grocery shopping and offering cocktails to guests.
10. Make a Playlist. You’ll want music, but you won’t want to worry about what to put on when you’ve got five things on the stove and ten guests milling around your living room waiting for food. Make a playlist now while you can enjoy picking out songs, and if you’re ambitious, make an extra one to keep you company while you’re working in the kitchen all day.
Now, get a move on.