Thanksgiving – Christmas Prep Checklist

Thanksgiving – Christmas Prep Checklist

If your not sure if you need a checklist, well Holiday’s have a way of creeping up on us, and sure you think there’s plenty of time, but blink and oops, here it is.

So now you’re in panic mode, struggling with your menu, what about Uncle Pete’s special diet and little Gracie’s food allergies, finding that ideal centerpiece, forgetting to make hotel reservations for the in-laws (guess who’ll be sleeping in your bed) and on and on. Yikes… I can feel your pain!


Who needs all that stress? So let’s avoid the mishaps and chaos and get a plan together to make this holiday as stress free and enjoyable for you, as well as your guests.

We’ll need to start with a glass of your favorite beverage (I personally find this is always a good starting point) and most importantly we’ll jot down your what to do’s ,when to do’s, how to do’s, must do’s, yada, yada, yada… you get the point. That magical list, will save you over and over, and without it…you’ll loose, time, money, energy and the enjoyment you could have experienced if only you were a little more organized. So let’s get started, it’s really painless I promise.

Early in the month;

Guest list -Who & When?

  • Extend the invitation, contact family and friends early to get a count
  • Check with them for food allergies or special diet needs.
  • For guests staying over, find out dates and times of arrival and departure.

Jot your info down…after all, your making a list…right?


fall scape
Via The Fancy Shack

Holiday Decor
Get your holiday decorations out of storage and see what’s still looking good enough to display.

Each year try to add at least one new decoration, it doesn’t have to be expensive, a few dried branches sprayed silver or gold in a glass vase, with some artificial greens, and a beautiful bold holiday ribbon, will do the trick.

  • Thumb through catalogs or the web for some ideas.
  • Have some decorations do double duty, Thanksgiving through Christmas. You can add some embellishments, just to make them pop a bit.
  • Add some pears and berries to a wreath, hang it on the door or maybe as a centerpiece with a candle in a frosted glass.


How will you decorate the front door or dining room table? Where will you set up the bar or beverage area? Enlist the help of family, children and grandchildren with the decor you just might be pleasantly surprised by their creativity.

glitzy pumpkin 2
Image: Lovethispic


Here’s an idea for your table or mantle, these glitzy pumpkins are a simple way to add some sparkle to your decor.

For instructions on how to make these, just click here.

But be sure to add your ideas to the list.




Cleaning !cleaning-lady

Do the carpets, curtains, drapes need to be cleaned?

Maybe freshen up the bathrooms with a basket full of plush hand towels.

Have the older children, if any, pick a day to really clean up their rooms…(dumpster rates are pretty good this time of year) because you know for sure that nosey Aunt Peg is going to open those doors and later share her findings with your Mom and boy will… you… hear… aboutthat. So don’t give her anything to talk about, since praise is not in her vocabulary.

Who’s going to clean the bathrooms, dust, polish and vacuum just before the big day? Of course you will, it’s just sooo rewarding, between making the pies, cookies and breads, prepping the vegetables, need I go on….have you gone mad…snap out of it!

flame-50-pc-newHave your partner and children take over some chores for the big event. It’s their home too and they need to play a part in pulling off a great Thanksgiving. So get together and settle on who will be responsible for what chores.

I often wonder who made the rule that Mom does everything and the rest of the family gets to act like guests!

Sometimes you may feel it’s just easier to do it yourself, but think back to other events and how exhausted and impatient you became as the day went on and you just couldn’t wait for that last guest to leave…is that really how you wanted the day to go?

flame-50-pc-newYou should feel the same sense of entitlement as the others in the household. And should this holiday be a flop, let them know, they will then have the ultimate control of what they eat, when they eat and if they eat, not to mention the laundry, cleaning, shopping, taxi service, etc., for you too will now become the guest. Trust me I’ve tried this and they didn’t last a week, so stand your ground, flash that Ace in your hand and march on.

Okay, back to work…need a refill? I’ll wait.


good eats roasted turkey
Good Eats Roast Turkey Image: Food Network Recipe: Alton Brown


Get a handle on the Menu.

It’s early, but if you’re planning to have a fresh turkey, you’ll need to place your order now. There’s a great turkey recipe on the Food Network by Alton Brown, if you would like to check it out just click here.


So cruise through cookbooks or the web and mark your favorite recipes.


garlic mashed potates via bhg
Image & Recipe: BHG

Try to select recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, and put them on your Pre Prep Menu. Mashed potatoes, make a day ahead and reheat in a slow cooker, saving the stove top for other dishes.
If you would like to try these Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes just click here for the recipe .




2 Weeks ahead of the big day:

Finalize the Guest List
Make a few quick calls or emails to confirm the number of guests.
Confirm arrival/departure times.

master bedroom hgtv
Source: HGTV

Will you need to make hotel arrangements for them?

  • If they’ll be staying at your place, what needs to be done to accommodate them?
  • In what room will they stay?
  • Does the room need to be on the first floor, since Uncle Pete can’t climb the stairs with his bad knees.
  • Will you need a crib, cot, or blow up mattress?



Special Notes:

  • What dish or dishes will your guests be bringing?
  • Now is the time to ask Grandma for her secret recipe!
  • What guests have food allergies or special diets?


Now that we know who’s coming and when, let’s prepare and find out who will take care of these tasks:

  • Wash bed linens, towels, and blankets for overnight guests.
  • Wash, iron or dry clean the table linens.
  • Pick up the ice, the turkey, extra chairs, cot, crib, bakery items and let’s not forget Grandma at the airport.
  • Clean the house
  • Set up (crib, cots, sleeper sofa with linens, beverage bar, etc.)

Starting to feel a little anxious, don’t…this time you’ll be prepared, after all you now know who will be in charge of what … it’s on your list.


Finalize the Menu
Write out your complete menu, right down to the beverages.
If you’ll be cooking to accommodate food allergies, this is the time to purchase any special ingredients.


Have a cooking timetable for;

  • Do Ahead – Which dishes can be made ahead of time…put them on a Pre Prep Menu list.
  • The big day – A timetable to be sure all dishes are done when needed.
  • Early Arrivals – think soup, a real comfort food, for those guests arriving early. Ideally one you can make ahead, freeze, and reheat.
  • Prepare a grocery shopping list, including those special ingredients needed.
  • Relax…you’ve got your lists …your prepared, you’re now ready for the fun part.


Let’s Decorate!

Karen's granddaughter Annaliese made these decorations...awesome job for a 7 year old !!
Karen’s granddaughter
Annaliese made these decorations…awesome job for a 7 year old !!

If you have children or grandchildren let them help with the decor with decorating pumpkins, make place cards, napkin rings and welcome signs, or whatever their minds feel is needed to make it more festive. Start early in the day, when their enthusiasm and your patience are high, there’s sure to be lots of excitement, nonsense, giggles and some pretty creative ideas.

Well maybe they won’t outshine Martha Stewart’s holiday projects, but you’ll be making memories just the same, and that’s what holidays are all about. You can do your fancy project later, when their attention span has waned and you still have some energy… and that’s a good thing.


Have another sip…you really deserve this one!


One Week Ahead:

  • Double check to make sure you have enough of everything for everyone. Think napkins, plates, serving bowls, name cards — even ice!
  • Dig out your special glasses, dishes, platters, serving pieces and silverware… Clean and polish.
  • Have the family work on their checklist.
  • Be sure to add to your list a surprise for the overnight guests with their favorite coffee or tea to make them feel welcomed.

Its show time, let’s get ready to celebrate … only a few more to do’s on your list…and you’re so ready for this!


3 Days Ahead:

Let’s go Shopping:
Grab that shopping list and let’s head for the market, you know exactly what you need, so this should go smoothly…no stress here. If you’re buying flowers for your centerpiece, remember to pick those up today.

If you can, try to donate some goods to the local food pantry, most markets have a drop center in the store just for this purpose.

Lentil and Sausage Soup with Kale Photo: James Ransom Source: Food52

Make your “Early” Soup:
Prepare your soup now, then store it in the freezer to save valuable space in your refrigerator, you’ll need it as the week goes on. Then when ready just warm up the soup in a slow cooker or on the stove top for a hearty fuss-free welcome meal. Serve with salad and fresh sour-dough bread (from the bakery) a meal that truly says welcome.

To get this recipe, for the Lentil Soup shown here, just click here.



Beverage Center:
Place a self-serve bar in a convenient spot, set up with clean glasses and ice buckets. Fill the pitchers or punch bowl with one or two non-alcoholic drinks, like apple cider, with cinnamon sticks on the side. Leave it up to guests to spike them!

flame-50-pc-newAlcohol should be kept out of the reach of minors, preferably where the adults gather and can supervise its use. No need to have Fred falling of his chair, acting crazy and spoiling the day…again.


2 Days Ahead – an easy day:

Check Up Time

a holiday table setting
via Country Living

Set the table. Set glasses upside down on the table to keep them dust-free.

Make serving easy with labels. Jot down on pieces of scrap paper what food will go in each serving dish. Place these food labels in the proper serving bowls or platters.

Have everyone review their checklists and finish all those to do’s.

Go over who’s in charge of what…you don’t want to forget Aunt Peg at the hotel or Grandma at the airport.

flame-50-pc-newToddler Proof – Do you need to toddler proof your home, this can be a very alluring and dangerous time of year for little ones. It only takes a moment…their just so quick and curious…so keep those eye catching, beads, berries, bangles, glass, lit candles, etc., out of their reach.

Now kick back and spend the rest of the evening relaxing with the family, you deserve it.


Wednesday – 1 Day Ahead – busy day:

Get Set – Go:
Check out your Pre Prep Menu List to see what you’ve planned to prepare today, example:

  • Stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce.
  • Make breads, rolls
  • Peel, cut or chop veggies for tomorrow’s side dish or salad, store in separate baggies.
  • Mashed potatoes… make a day ahead and reheat in a slow cooker.
    To keep reheated mashed potatoes warm for serving, set the slow cooker on low and mix in a little milk if the potatoes appear to be drying out — they’ll stay ready to serve for up to two hours.
  • Be sure to rub the turkey with desired seasonings today to marinate overnight.
an old fashioned pecan pie
Old Fashioned Pecan Pie By Kate Mathis Source: Good Housekeeping


Most pies can be made a day in advance, they also tastes better after being chilled overnight. Any toppings (pecans, whipped cream) can be added just before serving

Want to try this pecan pie, just click here.





” Early” Guest Arrival
Provide guests with a fuss-free, welcome dinner. Warm up your pre made soup in a slow cooker or on the stove top, serve with a salad and fresh sour-dough bread from the bakery and voila’…sit, laugh and just enjoy the company.


The Big Day:

Relax, you’ve done all your planning so no need to worry, you have everything under control.

Cooking the Turkey
Check the cooking directions, and clean your turkey,

Preheat the oven –determine the cooking time needed for your turkey (stuffed or unstuffed).

Photo: Tom Kelly (Flckr)

If stuffing your bird, scoop the stuffing in, don’t pack it in.

Grease and rub the bird with spices you’ve selected. Be sure to lift and separate the skin and place the herbs and spices inside.

Place the foil tent over the bird, if necessary.

When the oven is ready …just pop the bad boy in.

Try to leave at least an hour before the turkey is finished, this allows a window for cooking the other dishes around the remaining time for the turkey. It’s no fun, when the turkey’s ready and the potatoes and squash are still cooking.

Prepare the Veggies
Prepare the vegetables like green beans, asparagus, and broccoli, etc., if not already done.

Check in – Check out
After checking on the turkey, you can check out for a while with your favorite beverage and join the family and guests for laughs and some good conversation…at least until the timer goes off.


Inage: Johns Market

The Final Hour

  • Get those vegetables cooking or heated up.
  • Carve that gorgeous golden crispy bird.
  • Make the gravy.
  • Heat those rolls.
  • Serve up those bowls and platters.

Now all that’s left to do is to enjoy your holiday with family and friends, we have so much to be thankful for.




Happy Holidays and well done.





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