With Thanksgiving around the corner, it pays to get organized as soon as you can. Nothing good has ever come of waiting until the last minute to tabulate the guest list and make a slap-dash run to the grocery store. Where to begin? Try these tips.
1. Trust in lists. When hosting a party for a gaggle of people, the best way to make sure you have everything under control is to write it all down. You can write down anything and everything you need to remember, but here are the most important lists to make:
- Guests, noting food preferences and allergies
- Dishes to prepare, with ingredients listed
- Groceries to buy, noting which can be purchased well ahead
- Food prep timetable, noting when each dish must be made
- Miscellaneous tasks and who will do them, from setting the table to appointing someone to make sure the dog doesn’t jump on Aunt Agnes
2. Calibrate your menu. Once you’ve got a full guest list and a set of recipes, deliberately calculate how much food you’ll need. The only thing worse than having too little food is having so much that you run out of room to store it all (not to mention the dent overbuying makes in your wallet).
3. Put time on your side. Get started on as many tasks as possible well ahead of time. This can be especially helpful for grocery shopping, as stores can get swamped as time grows short. Buy all the non-perishable items like canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce as far ahead as you’d like. Also, make some of your food—pies, various side dishes—a day or two before the feast.
4. Get your house ship-shape. Chores like cleaning the house can be done thoroughly several days before guests are due and freshened briefly up when their arrival is imminent. If you’re having house guests, set aside all they will need—sheets, towels, water glasses—several days ahead.
5. Delegate, delegate, delegate. If your guests are coming from nearby, take them up on their offers to bring side dishes or desserts. Out-of-town guests can bring wine or other beverages. Assign the tasks from your miscellaneous list to your children and other family members. Get creative: ask your kids to pick out a game that everyone might enjoy playing after dinner.
All it takes is a lot of planning ahead and a bit of elbow grease to have a smooth and stress-free Thanksgiving. Now if only all the crazy family members you’re expecting would be smooth and stress-free as well.