Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in which we give thanks for all of our blessings but, if you are hosting Thanksgiving, it can be more stressful than waiting until Christmas Eve to start Christmas shopping! This Less Stress Thanksgiving Planner plus printable gives you a week-by-week and day-to-day “to do” list and menu suggestions to lessen hostess stress. It also includes some leftover ham recipes and a great turkey brine recipe.
I am a proponent of planning events early in order to minimize my own stress levels on the holiday. Do you really want to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off (sorry for the gory vision) on Thanksgiving afternoon doing the tasks you could have done weeks ago or, would you rather be sipping on some wine while the turkey is in the oven sitting by the fireplace waiting for your guests to arrive instead?
Thanksgiving by origin was a potluck meal. Both the pilgrims and Indians offered part of the meal. With that said, when/if your guests offer to bring food or beverages, not only is this is a kind gesture and a Thanksgiving tradition, it will alleviate some of the stress on the host of having to do ALL the work! Keep that in mind when you are planning this special major holiday.
Remember, the holiday is about giving thanks. If your turkey burns or one of your glass baking dishes shatters on the stove with potatoes in it (yes, this happened to me), it will not take away from the blessings in your life and spending time with family and friends. Don’t sweat it because you’ll l laugh about it one day.
The Less Stress Thanksgiving Planner
Planning early and completing tasks as soon as possible alleviates stress. Being stressed can lead to anxiety about not getting everything done. The day before Thanksgiving, I won’t be thinking about table set up. I don’t want to find out I don’t have enough tables in case I need to buy or borrow them. Scrambling at the last minute leads to stress. Allowing plenty of time to complete tasks helps you have hosting under control.
To minimize the stress of hosting, I’ve created a planner so that you can organize yourself weeks in advance and have a point of reference to remind yourself of what you may need to do and when. This planner will help you be organized and minimize hosting stress. Have a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with the ones you love!
Also, a sample Thanksgiving Dinner Menu is provided toward the bottom. Gobble gobble!
Forgot to thaw the Turkey?
Did you forget to thaw the turkey? Oops. It happens. Just put the frozen turkey in a large container filled with enough luke warm water to almost cover the turkey. Change the water every two hours as it becomes very cold. It will take about several hours or so to thaw depending how big is the turkey. Store in refrigerator until ready to season.
Last year is the first year I ever brined a turkey. The turkey had a wonderful flavor and I left it in the brine for only 8 hours or so. If you are thawing a turkey and are unsure if the inside is completely thawed, brining will finish thawing it.
Use a turkey brine bag. It’s thicker than a roaster bag and should help to prevent leaking. Just put the turkey and brine in the brine bag and then put it in a roaster pan (just in case it leaks) to brine in your refrigerator or a cooler with ice or even outside if it is cold enough.
Read the turkey package though. Some turkeys have added salt so, you may want to adjust the salt in the brine recipe in this case.
Citrus Apple Cider Turkey Brine Recipe
Makes enough brine for a 20 lb whole turkey
Prepping the Turkey
If you don’t want to brine the turkey, inject the turkey with seasonings instead. Use a meat thermometer to check when the turkey is done roasting. It is recommended to let the turkey rest covered once removed from the oven so the juices become more savory. The resting time can be from 30 to 90 min. It will still be hot to serve. During the turkey resting time, you can bake your side dishes or reheat them if you only have one oven.
Basting the Turkey
I only baste the covered, brined turkey hourly because the more you baste it, the more heat will come out of the oven and it will take much longer to roast. If you plan to baste every 15 minutes, plan to roast it at least one hour longer. Oven temps vary so, keep that in mind when cooking according to package directions and add some extra time.
Don’t Have Enough Oven Space?
If you don’t have enough oven space, this affordable 22 qt. Stainless Steel Oster Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid is perfect for small kitchens with only one oven! This oven roaster could be a hostess’ lifesaver!
The Less Stress
3-4 weeks before
- If your carpets need cleaning, now is the time to make the appointment. Check Groupon first.
- If you need furniture (extra tables and chairs) start shopping, rental or borrowing process.
- Think about how many people you’ll be hosting, if you will have a sit down dinner or buffet, what food your guests will like to eat and make a budget.
- Invite guests, keep track of RSVPs and what guests are bringing with Evite, Facebook Event, or Sign Up Genius which, is especially helpful if you are hosting a large crowd.
- Find out how many kids are coming so you can be prepared with juice, toys, activities, and a kids’ table
- Plan your menu around what your guests have offered to bring, if you know. Keep in mind how much oven space you have and that it may be helpful if someone brings a side dish made in their own oven.
- Think about a delicious menu that is all encompassing- one or two meats, three or four sides (two starches and two non-starch vegetables) gravy, cranberry sauce, appetizers, dinner rolls, dessert variety, beverages, condiments, etc.
- Decide what beverages you’ll serve-both alcoholic , non-alcoholic (include coffee, tea, creamer) and kids’ drinks.
- If you will be hosting out-of-town guests, make a list of what you’ll be serving them for breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving Day and add it to your grocery list.
- Write out a first draft menu including beverages.
- Order turkey or ham if you wish to have a specific fresh turkey or Honey Baked Ham or similar.
- Decide what tableware you’ll use-table clothes, napkins, centerpieces.
- Make a grocery list categorized by grocery section i.e. dairy, produce, meat, bakery, etc.
- Make a list of supplies for other retail stores i.e. Party City, Target, Costco Inc.
2-3 weeks before
- Confirm RSVPs and contact people from which you have not received an RSVP.
- Decide if you want to brine or fry the turkey. If so, find a brine recipe noting the brining time and add the ingredients you need to your shopping lists. If you choose to fry the turkey, research the method and ingredients you’ll need and add them to your shopping lists.
- Peruse the recipes you will be making, check your pantry and add the ingredients you need to your grocery list.
- Finalize menu and store lists.
- Wash tablecloths, your good dishes, serving platters, wine glasses, coolers, if needed.
- If you are having a buffet-style dinner, think about where and how you’ll set up the food.
1 week before
- Any planning items that have not been done prior to now, do it!
- Buy non-perishable recipe ingredients, groceries, items and beverages.
- In the morning, place the frozen turkey in refrigerator if you are using one.
- Buy all ingredients (perishable and outstanding non-perishable) for your menu, including all beverages.
- Make fresh cranberry relish if you choose not to use canned.
- Clean your house and set up bedrooms (clean sheets, make room in closets, activities for kids) for out of town guests if applicable.
- Think about any ingredients you forgot and buy what you still need.
- Make the desserts.
- Clean your powder room, vacuum and dust any rooms where most of your guests will be congregating.
- If you forgot to thaw the turkey, put it in a water bath and change water hourly, put in refrigerator overnight in water bath
- If there is anything else you can do on Tuesday that will alleviate the work for you on Wednesday or Thursday, do it. Don’t procrastinate.
- If you are brining the turkey, in the morning, make the turkey brine and place turkey inside. Make or prepare appetizers, cover, and store them in a second refrigerator, if you have one.
- Wash and cut up vegetables you’ll be using for stuffing or side dishes; prepare side dishes that can be made ahead.
- Remove extraneous small appliances and kitchen items from your counter tops to make extra space.
- Set up tables and chairs
- Ask a family member to decorate and help set up.
- Have someone buy or bring ice if you need it.
- Chill white wine and/or beer
- Set the table(s) with table cloths, silverware, napkins, centerpieces, and light candles.
- Make the stuffing and stuff the turkey, if applicable.
- Make the potatoes.
- Set up buffet, if applicable
- Place turkey in oven according to package directions.
- Make the turkey gravy from pan drippings if you are making your own gravy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help setting up, cooking, cleaning up afterward. Your closest family members will not mind helping a gracious host. Smile and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Veggie tray, chips and dips, Easy Bacon & Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms, Shrimp cocktail
Roasted turkey, Cranberry Orange Baked Ham or some of both
Mashed Potatoes or Baked Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole, Sweet corn, Glazed Carrots, or Broccoli
Lemon Ginger Cranberry Relish featured on Good Housekeeping!
White wine and/or beer, Tiramisu Eggnog Cocktail
Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Soft Drinks, Water
Fresh fruit or fruit salad
The first Thanksgiving took place in the Autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. I’m sure the women who were hosting were stressed too. Read more about the First Thanksgiving.
Thinking about Christmas decorating already? Here are 5 Easy and Cheap DIY Christmas Decorating Ideas for your Black Friday decorating or sooner.
If you really want to impress your guests, print out the menu on pretty and fitting stationary, frame it and place it on your buffet table to get them excited about the upcoming meal while the aroma of turkey cooking in the oven is circulating in the house.
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Here are some ham recipes to use up leftover ham.
This Less-Stress Thanksgiving Planner can save you a good bit of stress if you look over the ideas, write lists, and prepare ahead. Your guests don’t want to feel as though they are overwhelming their hostess and you will not want them to see you stressed and short-tempered. Your husband will thank you too. Ask for help. Have a stress free Thanksgiving and enjoy yourself!