Polly Perfect’s Plan-Ahead Thanksgiving Checklist

If you want to be a Polly Perfect and avoid a repeat of past frantic Thanksgivings (or if this is the first you’ve hosted), plan ahead with this uber-organized checklist. And if you drop the ball somewhere along the line, you can always resort to Last-Minute Lucy’s Thanksgiving Survival Checklist.

(If you’re already a Polly Perfect, you probably do this instinctively, and I just hate you to pieces. )

Saturday (Thanksgiving-5)

Confirm your guest list. You don’t want to serve too much, or worse yet, too little. Call them up and make them commit.
Recruit invited guests to make a dish. Use the word “famous” when describing their pecan pie or mashed potatoes. Flattery works great.
Plan the menu. Write out everything you plan to make yourself.
Plan the centerpiece.
Plan projects for any children in attendance. Set up a card table for crafts in the garage or the den so they aren’t underfoot. Pick out a seasonal movie. Make sure you have an adult or responsible teenager to monitor them.
Start making room in the refrigerator. Finish, freeze or toss all of the leftovers.

Sunday (T-4)

Make an hour-by-hour time table for the big day. It’s no good to plan a meal with 20 dishes if you don’t have time to make them all. Ditch unnecessary pipe dream recipes.
Make a master list. Include all necessary ingredients and quantities (including items you think you have), necessary kitchenware and miscellany. Be specific. Having “butter” on your list won’t help when you bring home a pound but you need a pound and a half.
Grocery List: Compare what you need against what you’ve got on hand. Don’t assume the canister is full of flour; check. Cross off everything you already have.
Kitchenware List: Do you have everything you will need to make the recipes? Check for necessary pots, pans, cookie sheets, turkey baster, roasting pan, electric mixer, etc. Cross off what you actually have in your possession (knowing you own a bundt pan and remembering you lent it to a friend six months ago are two different things). Make a list of what you need to buy or borrow.
Miscellaneous List: flowers, candles, glasses, linens, chairs, craft project, videos, or borrowed Playstation for the kids, serving dishes, serving utensils, videos, Alka-Seltzer or Tagamet, chairs.
Move extra large turkeys to the fridge to defrost.

Monday (T-3)

Head for the stores! Don’t put this off. The crowds will only get bigger and the lines will only get longer from this point on. If possible, plan your trips at off hours (i.e., not immediately after work).
Don’t forget to snag some light snacks (chips, dip, frozen appetizers, cut fruit, cheese & crackers, veggies, etc.) to prevent whining while you cook.
Make any dishes that can be frozen and reheated on the big day.
Move turkey to the fridge to defrost (yes, it takes at least two days).

Tuesday (T-2)

Delegate responsibilities among family. This is what kids and spouses are for! Plan out who will walk the dog, hang the coats, wash the dishes, go on an ice run…whatever you won’t have time to do yourself. If your guests will be drinking beer around the TV set, recruit a teenager or non-drinker as the designated errand runner.
Clean the house and maintain it until the big event. “Invite” the whole family to pitch in…call it a “cleaning party”…they’ll love that.

Wednesday (T-1)

Defrost any frozen dishes overnight in the fridge.
Make do-ahead dishes such as stuffing, pies, or other desserts.
Finish prep for other dishes: peel potatoes (cover in water to keep from browning), wash and trim vegetables, etc.
Make as much counter space as possible. Store any unnecessary kitchen knickknacks, cookbooks, appliances, etc., out of the way. Box them up and store them in the garage or a closet temporarily, if need be.
Set the table. Launder and iron tablecloth and napkins. Polish the silverware. Set out the centerpiece.
Plan the seating arrangement.

Thanksgiving Day (Blastoff!)

Follow the time table you made on Sunday. Have fun!

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