So yesterday we talked about 5 Tips for a Stress Free Holiday Season. If you haven’t had a chance already, jump back to that post and make sure to grab your FREE 2016 Holiday Planner. The menu planners you see above are included in that 8 page PDF and should help make things a lot easier this upcoming holiday season.

If we’re being perfectly honest, the whole thought of hosting a holiday meal at my home makes me nervous. I’ve lucked out, the years that we’ve done Thanksgiving or Christmas at home it’s just been my own little family. They’re just as important, but the stress isn’t quite as high when you’re simply pleasing small children and a hungry husband. That said, even a delicious holiday meal for four takes some prior planning.

In a past life, (meaning, before I got married and hired on my two darling little interns) I was an event planner and project manager. Lets just say that it was  dream job – lots of lists, crossing things off, and managing. When I took over planning conferences for hundreds of attendees there were lots of hints, tips and tricks the previous manager passed on. But the one thing I utilized most, and in the end basically committed to memory, were the timelines. Timelines include all the details for a large event, and Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner definitely qualifies as one of those. So lets talk planning timelines for Holiday Meals 2016.

First things first.

Print out the holiday meal planners, grab a pencil, a calendar, and your phone if you’re needing to coordinate with extended family members on time and place. You can use the meal planner as a place to briefly outline what items you’ll be having in each category and then can either assign them out if you’re going potluck or include a recipe reference if you’re going it alone. Now that you’ve got the framework for your holiday meal, lets talk about prep for the big day.

Holiday Meal Prep Timeline

Early November

4 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Review your Holiday Meal Plan worksheet. Gather recipes, compose a shopping list and purchase all non-perishables.
  • Pies – if you’re baking homemade pies, make the dough, place in pie plates, and freeze.
  • Turkey – Start defrosting your frozen turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the bottom and towards the back). Tip: Plan a full day for every 4 lbs. of turkey being thawed. 

2 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Stuffing – Homemade stuffing calls for stale bread. Cut and cube bread, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Linens  – launder and press cloth napkins or tablecloths; gather utensils, serving dishes, glasses, plates, etc.
  • Cranberry sauce – prepare the cranberry sauce and place in the refrigerator so that it has ample time for the flavors to meld together.

1 Day Before Thanksgiving

  • Pies– Defrost, assemble and bake.
  • Side dishes – assemble the vegetables and side dishes that require baking; cover and refrigerate for tomorrow. Tip: always allow baking dishes to come to room temperature before placing in a hot oven. 
  • Potatoes – Peel potatoes, place in pot of cold water and refrigerate.
  • Stuffing – prepare dry ingredients for stuffing, leave out any dairy or egg ingredients until you stuff the bird or pop into the oven.
  • Table – set the table tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.

Thanksgiving Day

(times will fluctuate based on what time you’ve decided to eat)

9:30 AM – Pull turkey out of refrigerator, and allow to sit for 1 hour at room temperature.

11:15 AM – Preheat oven, and stuff turkey. Tip: Great stuffing doesn’t have to be in the turkey. Simply place in a casserole dish and make sure you have plenty of liquid so it’s not too dry. 

11:30 AM – Put turkey in oven; baste every half hour.

Noon – Chill beverages.

1:00 PM  –  Whip the cream for the pies and place in refrigerator.

3:00 PM – Check the temperature of the turkey. If the bird has reached 165 degrees at the thickest part, remove from oven. If not, check the temperature eery 15 minutes until the bird is done. Let turkey sit for 30 minutes prior to carving.

3:30 PM – Start cooking or reheating side dishes. Tip: Make sure to have plenty of clean dish towels on hand to lay over foil covered side dishes to help keep warm. 

3:45 PM – Make gravy, mashed potatoes and any last minute vegetables. Remove stuffing from turkey if needed, transfer to baking dish and place in oven until it reaches 165 degrees.

4:00 – 4:30 PM –  Call everyone to the table.


Download FREE the Thanksgiving Dinner Timeline Checklist

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