As anyone who has done it before can tell you, hosting Thanksgiving dinner is no easy feat. To make sure the big day goes off without a hitch, you must plan thoroughly and well in advance. Begin by making a guest list, and let this determine what type of food you should make as well as how much food you will need. Then, plan a menu, and using it as a guide, create related lists such as a detailed shopping plan, a preparation schedule, and a delegation list. Finally, make a list of necessary equipment and find out which pieces you own and which you need to obtain, and take note of all major and minor tasks that need to be completed to prepare your home for the event.
For many hosts, the key to Thanksgiving dinner success is making lots of lists and sticking to them. The guest list is an excellent place to start. Scribble down the names of all family members and friends who will be getting invitations, and then study this list carefully, taking note of the number of guests, their ages, and any dietary restrictions they may have. This information can provide you with valuable insight as to how much food you will need, and what type of food will be most appropriate.
Now you are ready to plan your Thanksgiving dinner menu. You may find it useful to photocopy or print the recipes you plan to use so you can keep them all in one place. Assemble a comprehensive list of all the ingredients you will need, and make purchasing these ingredients less overwhelming by creating a staggered shopping plan. For instance, you should plan to buy non-perishable items and order a turkey as far in advance as possible. Perishable items should be purchased over the days before Thanksgiving.
In addition to planning how you will shop for your Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, you should also make a detailed cooking schedule. Aim to make dishes that freeze or refrigerate well several days or even a couple of weeks before the event, and create a precise preparation and reheating plan for Thanksgiving day itself. If you would like to delegate responsibility for certain dishes to your guests, decide who should bring what and be sure to give those guests ample notice.
Finally, when hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you must not only provide a meal, but must also ensure that your home is presentable and that you have proper equipment for cooking and serving that meal. Do a walk-through of each room of your house, making a list of all jobs, from cleaning to repair work, that must be done in that room, as well as when each of those jobs will be done. Additionally, make note of all equipment that will be needed to pull off the event, from cooking pans to chairs to place settings. Figure out which of these pieces you already have, and determine whether you can borrow, rent, or buy those that you need.