Preparing for the Holidays

October 9, 2012 by Amy Clark

thanksgiving dinner tips and preparation calendar

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, advanced preparation is key this year. Read these tips and make sure you’re not fighting over the last turkey left in the store at 10 pm on Wednesday night! From ensuring that your oven is up to the task to planning out your dinner menu, get as much holiday preparation done in advance as possible. These small things really do make the holidays much less stressful and more enjoyable!

Below is a handy timeline for holiday preparation that will leave you feeling more in control during the busy holiday season. Do you have any special preparation tips of your own? Let us know in the comment section!

Three Weeks Ahead

Establish a Dinner Budget – Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the holiday decorating and Thanksgiving dinner menu preparation. Before you begin, establish a budget you can keep. I love to use a program like when evaluating our family budget.

Set a Menu  – This will help you to schedule out everything that needs to be made or request special dishes from your guests. Make sure you’re prepared for all diets, like the occasional vegetarian or gluten-free guest who shows up to dinner. It may be the inclusion of one or two extra dishes, but will go a long way to show how thoughtful you are.

Take Inventory- Take inventory of all of your supplies whether it’s the baking products in your pantry or the appliances that may need an update. Whipping up mashed potatoes for a large group by fork may seem feasible a few weeks out until you’re minutes away from dinner with a cramped hand, lumpy potatoes and mixers on your mind.   

Deep Clean Your Home– Give your home a deep clean. Thoroughly sweep, dust, and wipe down all surfaces. Vacuum carpets and get at those “hidden behind the couch” spaces. Set time for extra laundry to prepare bathrooms with fresh hand towels and bedroom linen if you have any overnight guests. You’ll be thankful getting the majority done now instead of deciding which is more important the day before: cleaning or cooking.

Two Weeks Ahead-

Turkey Time- Buy the turkey you want now and freeze it. Or would you rather pick the sad looking bird that was the last one left the night before?

Prepare the Freezer- I learned years ago that in order to make any celebration happen in our house, I needed to acquaint myself with dishes that could be made ahead of time, frozen and then pulled out on the big day.  After years of trial and error, I have found that I can make almost every side dish and a plethora of holiday appetizers in the weeks prior to our holiday feasts…and it tastes just like the day I made it. If you are looking for make-ahead recipes to add to your feast this year, be sure to visit my Make-Ahead Side Dishes recipes and my Make-Ahead Appetizers for those guests who want to snack before or after the big meal.

Plan Entertainment- We all know that Thanksgiving Dinner is the event that your guests are looking forward to, but it would help to have some entertainment planned to keep the day fun (and keep everyone out of the kitchen waiting for food to be done). Pick a nice family movie or game all guests can enjoy.

One Week Ahead-

Turkey Prep- If you bought early, determine by weight how long your turkey will need to defrost in the fridge. It could be up to 5 days!

Grocery Shop– Head to the grocery store and grab any of the fresh or perishable items you will need for your Thanksgiving dinner and desserts.

Easy Bake- Save pies and desserts for baking the night before. You can warm and store them in the oven during dinner with the excess heat from cooking all day.

Do a Final Tidy– This is a great time to prepare those holiday linens for the tables and polish any serving pieces you might be using for your holiday meals.

Treat Yourself– After all of your hard work, you should be way ahead of the usual last minute holiday hustle and bustle. Treat yourself to a well-deserved cup of coffee, an evening with a great a book, a night out with your husband, or a fresh holiday manicure or pedicure. No one deserves a treat more than you!

Did you find this preparing for the holiday calendar helpful? What would you skip or put your own twist on? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.