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Thanksgiving Prep and Planning Guide

Posted on: November 7th, 2016

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The professional chefs and event coordinators behind Tony’s Fine Catering have been making gourmet meals to feed a crowd for over 10 years! While your guest list may be significantly smaller than theirs, these tried-and-true tips for meal prep and entertaining will help you create an easy, relaxing, and thoughtful Thanksgiving Day!

First Week of November

  • Finalize your guest count and any dietary restrictions.
  • Take inventory of your home – do you have the right number of chairs, plates, forks, etc? Dig out your table linens and give them a good wash and iron.
  • Set your menu. Make a master list of what you’ll need, and divide it into perishables and nonperishables items.
  • Shop for all nonperishable items this week. *TIP* Instead of putting these items away with your weekly food, keep them in the grocery bags, and store them somewhere safe, like the garage or basement, so you don’t accidentally use an ingredient before Thanksgiving!

Second Week of November

  • Make and freeze any pie crust or rolls you plan to use.
  • Pick up your frozen, heat-and-serve appetizers from Tony’s.
  • Create what caterers call a prep list, which plans out all the tasks to be done in the two days prior to Thanksgiving.
    • First, figure out which recipes can be made at least one day in advance. Things like pies, blanched vegetables, cranberry sauce, and gratins can all be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and refrigerated.
    • Second, identify which day-of-dishes will take the longest. Work backward from the time you want to eat, allowing 10 extra minutes per recipe.
    • Third, look at oven temperatures and see which dishes can go in the oven at the same time. *TIP*Use multiple timers to keep track of what’s in the oven and on the stovetop. Put a sticky-note on each timer so you don’t forget which dish it’s timing.
  • Print out copies of all of your recipes and put them together in one place.


Third Week of November

  • Make room in your fridge. Clean out all non-essentials, like vinegars, jars of unopened jellies, anything expired or growing green fuzzies.
  • Shop for all perishable items this week.
  • Pick up fresh decor items like greenery and mini pumpkins. Make all place cards.
  • If you’ve ordered a frozen turkey, now is the time to start defrosting.
  • Gather coloring pages or craft supplies to keep the kids productively occupied.

Fourth Week of November – WEEK OF THANKSGIVING

  • Wash all of your serving pieces. Make sure each menu item has an assigned dish.
  • Gather all take-home containers to distribute leftovers among your guests.
  • Make all of your “advance” recipes. Things like pies, blanched vegetables, cranberry sauce, and gratins can all be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time.

Smart shopping and a little bit of preparation makes for an easy, relaxing, and thoughtful Thanksgiving Day!

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