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Preparing for Thanksgiving: Creating a Cooking Schedule

source: jamesjyu

source: jamesjyu

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving and doing most of the cooking, it’s important to put together a cooking schedule ahead of time so that you can make sure you don’t forget anything or end up with room temperature mashed potatoes by the time everything else is ready. Although it can be overwhelming to think about how to best schedule your food preparations, especially if you’re not a natural in the kitchen, here are some steps to get you started:

Plan Your Menu

Start by writing down every dish that you plan to serve, from appetizers and drinks to desserts.

If I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner, my list would look like this:

:: Cheeseball with crackers
:: Soda
:: Sweet tea
:: Water
:: Turkey
:: Stuffing
:: Mashed potatoes
:: Sweet potato casserole
:: Green bean casserole
:: Corn
:: Gravy
:: Dinner rolls
:: Pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Next, add notes to your list to indicate any dishes your guests will be bringing. For my pretend Thanksgiving, I would have my mom bring her famous cheeseball and crackers, and then she would help me finish dinner preparations at my house.

Make Notes About Prep Times

Next, take your recipes for each of the above items and write down notes about prep times, oven temperatures and cook times.

Make sure you include all of the important details in this step. For example, if you plan to prepare your sweet potato casserole the day before and need to bring it to room temperature before baking, write that down. Also include notes about what time each item needs to come out of the oven. For instance, the turkey can be taken out and covered with foil while you finish baking your sides. Also note which dishes are cooked at the same temperature.

Work from the Beginning and the End

Take a look at your list and decide what can be prepared ahead of time. Some casseroles can be prepared and frozen, and others can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator. Make sure to make notes about how this affects each dish’s cook time, as noted above.

Next, work from the end of your list, starting with the dish that you want to pull out of the oven last. We like our rolls piping hot, so that would be the last thing I would bake, as we were putting everything else out on the table. I also use stone bakers, so my casseroles stay nice and warm, making it easier to juggle things in the oven.

Finally, write out your final plan, making sure to double check prep times and oven temperatures. Figure out how you’re going to juggle it all ahead of time so that you’re not left figuring it out in the moment!

What do you think is the hardest part about preparing Thanksgiving dinner? What tips or tricks do you use to make it a little bit easier?

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5.5, 4, 2.5 and a baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

8 Responses to “ Preparing for Thanksgiving: Creating a Cooking Schedule ”

  1. you are so right about this, and your tips are spot on…:)
    Last year I made thanksgiving dinner for a family in need as well as my own family. I actually made a time-line spread-sheet in Excel to keep all the times, temps, and recipes straight. This year, we are heading to Mexico the day after, so I am taking it easy…maybe we’ll have a planned christmas dinner. :)

    I think selecting a menu is important. I try to make sure some of my dishes are make-ahead, and that those that need baking, or roasting aren’t going to need to come out of the oven at the same time for a dinner on-time. Also, store-bought stuff isn’t a bad alternative…remember to order early those pies and rolls from the bakery. Great tips Mandi!


  2. Mandi – What is a stone baker?


    Mandi Ehman Reply:

    Oh! Mine is Pampered Chef, and I LOVE it:

    It’s made of stone and retains the heat to keep your dishes warm after you pull them out of the oven!


    Lauren Reply:

    I could use some of those – thanks!


  3. Your site is fantastic! I just found it via Apartment Therapy and I’m so glad I clicked over! I’ll be linking.


  4. [...] Organizing Your Way that have some great tips on planning and scheduling. You can check them out HERE and [...]

  5. [...] Organizing Your Way that have some great tips on planning and scheduling. You can check them out HERE and [...]

  6. [...] day this week so I don’t get inundated with it the two days before. Organizing Your Way has a cooking schedule and a step by step countdown to a stress-free [...]

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