As I think about the countdown to Thanksgiving, I feel great excitement and smidge of trepidation. In a sense this event is like the “super bowl” for people who like to cook and entertain. Similar to the players in the big game, I have the desire to execute with excellence and the nerves that go along with the desire.

One of the things, besides prayer, that helps me manage the nerves is to plan and plan some more. Over the many years of eating, helping and observing my mom, mother-in-law, great grandmother and a myriad of friends and co-workers at Thanksgiving, I have learned some of the things that make for a good plan.

My plan starts by asking and answering some key questions in early November.

I talk with my loved ones and friends about their plans for dinner? Where are people planning to dine? If I am hosting, I confirm who is available to attend? What is the menu? Who will bring which family favorites? Who will prepare new recipes? Will anyone be staying overnight or through the weekend? Does anyone have a food allergy or situation that I need to keep in mind? Etc, etc, etc.

As I address these questions, I typically write the answers down. And… then four years ago when I hosted my large extended family for first time, I set up an Excel spreadsheet that includes my cooking plan and other to-do’s. Though I don’t really use the matrix to do any math computations, it was an easy way to document my decisions and to-do’s in a way that I could easily see what was what. The extra benefit is that I could re-use it the next year by making a few modifications. Here’s a sample of the sheet I use…

Thanksgiving Sample – Menu & Cooking Plan
Dinner Dishes Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Turkey Breast 1 KLW – Wednesday Mom’s white platter
Turkey Breast 2 Mom Loraine Done
Dressing Monday In Freezer White server with lid
Mashed Potatoes Wednesday White server with lid
Mac & Cheese Gerri Glass dish with lid
Candied Yams KLW – Mon Done Mom’s slow cooker
Green Beans Tanya
Pick up Turkey Ham Wednesday Glass platter Heavenly Ham
Gravy Thursday AM White gravy bowl
Cranberry Sauce Monday Glass bowl
Corn Bread/Muffins Tuesday Red ceramic platter
Rolls Tuesday/Wednesday Bread warmer
Tossed Salad Thursday Wooden bowl
Desserts Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Sweet Potato Pie Kathy Y
Chocolate Cake KLW – Wednesday
Pound Cake Mom
Brownies Tanya
Vanilla Iceream Uncle Randy
Beverages Who & When Cooked Status Serving Dishes Notes
Bottled Water Allen & Tyna Bronze Bev tub
Soda Kathy Y Bronze Bev tub
Sparkling Wine Kelly Bronze Bev tub
Other To Do‘s Who & When Status Notes
Extend Invites Kelly 11/5/11 Done
Print Thanksgiving Verses Kenny 11/22/11
Set-up & Set Tables Boys 11/23/11
Set-up beverage station on desk Kenny TGD
Participants/Guests Notes
Wilson Tribe 5 Kenny – watching sugar intake
Smith’s 2
Boyd’s 2
Files’ 5
Peters’ 5
Kathy Wilson 2 Tori is watching her salt intake
Randy Wilson 2
Total 23

I know this is not the easiest to read, but maybe an excel matrix like this could help you in your planning?

Here are two more ideas for those who are saying the spreadsheet is just too much.

1.      The next two weeks are a great time to eat the food that is currently taking up space in your freezer. You will likely need that valuable kitchen real estate for items that you prepare ahead and or for leftovers. This would be a good time to use the “menu planning” suggestions from my first post to creatively use those frozen jewels. This exercise can be a test of your creativity as you try to figure out how to use three different packs of ground beef, a bag of frozen shrimp and two bags of smoothie strawberries.

2.      Early November also provides a choice opportunity to make a “sample” batch of any recipe that is temperamental. Last weekend I baked two “test” batches of homemade rolls. I don’t make them very often and I didn’t want to have a snafu on the big day. I’m glad I did because now I know which recipe works best and I can have confidence that this item will be yumm-o. The cost of making a batch of homemade rolls – about $7.00. The benefit of working the kinks out in advance – priceless.

Wishing blessings on your preparations!

Home-ista Kelly

Advertisements