Coping with holiday stress is easier said than done. The everyday stuff still exists only to be compounded with additional responsibilities and expenditures. And while there are a lot of marvelous methods for managing the madness, being prepared typically proves to be stress’s fiercest opponent.
Don’t confuse being prepared with being perfect.
So, what does “being prepared” for the holiday season really mean? Simply put, navigating November to New Year’s with a plan. So, we’ve put together a punch list centered around guests, gifts and food to help you get started.
Part I : Thanksgiving Prep List
3 Weeks Before: Decide which recipes you want to make, keeping in mind that there’s only so much one person―and one kitchen―can do. If you really do need 10 side dishes, look for recipes that use the same oven temperature, so they can cook at the same time. Determine which recipes can be done ahead and star those.
2 Weeks Before: At this point, you should have a good idea of how many people will be coming. Determine what size turkey you will need and call your grocery to reserve it—all grocery stores do this, from big chains to specialty, so don’t feel like this is a burden. Reserving your bird will keep you from having to sift through and settle for a size that’s about right. It will also keep the fridge nice and clear up until turkey time.
1 Week Before: Your recipes are written and your bird is reserved. Time to turn all the ingredients needed into a shopping list. If possible, try and plan your grocery trip during a time when the store isn’t busy—very early in the morning or late in the evening. This will make you feel less rushed and therefore less likely to forget something. If wine or specialty cocktails are being served, get them during the same shopping trip. The only thing more crowded than the grocery, during the holidays, is the liquor store! And don’t forget the turkey!
The Weekend Before: We wish a second trip to the grocery wasn’t necessary but we’re practical; therefore, we’re penciling it in here. Time to grab anything you forgot or that what accidentally eaten or used up since your last trip. And, if you want fresh flowers or greenery, buy them this trip. Lastly, whether you’re eating on your wedding china or paper plates, it’s a good idea to do a practice run. Is everything clean? Do you have enough?
Thanksgiving Eve: Remember the recipes you starred signaling they could be made in advance? Time to get started. As a general rule, dishes served cold, like cranberry sauce or slaw, can be made on Tuesday. (For more make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes, check out this article on Martha Stewart.) Cover and refrigerate. Chop onions, veggies and go ahead and assemble any dishes that require cooking. The goal is to let the oven do the work tomorrow. Anything you can prepare today, whether in whole or in parts, is a step closer to the goal.
As silly as it sounds, decide whether you will get up and get ready first thing in the morning, before anything in the kitchen begins, or if you will do it later. Even though you’ve worked ahead, it’s easy to get caught up in things and the next thing you know guests are arriving and you’ve still got yesterday’s mascara under your eyes and fuzzy slippers on.
Thanksgiving Day: Determine how long the turkey and side dishes need to cook (and rest) then work backwards from the time you plan to serve dinner. Doing this will decide your start time. Call upon others in the household to help out—assist in keeping the kitchen clean, setting the table or any last minute runs. Lastly, try to relax and remember, above all else, today is about gathering with family and friends. If you burn the bread, I promise they’ll still love you!