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How to Plan and Time Thanksgiving Dinner

By Matthew Thompson, November 14, 2011 - 9:00am

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Q: “I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year—how can I plan a menu and my day to get the meal ready on time?”

A: First off, it’s my great pleasure to welcome you all to our 10-Day Thanksgiving Countdown. Each day we’ll be answering one common reader question about how to plan and cook a delicious but healthy Thanksgiving feast.

For first-time turkey chefs, planning a complex Thanksgiving dinner where all parts arrive on the table at exactly the right moment can seem virtually impossible. But (take a deep breath) it’s not! The big challenges when it comes to Thanksgiving prep are time and oven space. Since most people only have one oven, the easiest way to plan and schedule your menu is to focus on timing. Our Easy Thanksgiving Menu Planner gives you a great rundown of when to do everything to get ready for Thanksgiving, starting about two weeks ahead of time. Here are a few tips of my own:

1. Write your game plan down. If you write out your own personalized schedule for the day, it’ll be easy to see when the possible crunch times will be. Don’t hesitate to use our planner as a starting point!

2. Delegate! You know all those people who say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”? Take them up on it! By assigning a few key sides (say, the mashed potatoes or sweet potato pie) you can free up time for yourself AND oven space for your own cooking. Win-win.

3. Make-ahead dishes are your friend. What’s the easiest way to get everything cooked on Thanksgiving? Cook some of it before Thanksgiving! By picking a few dishes to make in the days before, you will decrease your stress on Thanksgiving exponentially.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

For the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we'll be answering your most pressing Thanksgiving cooking questions and offering up delicious Thanksgiving recipes, easy cooking advice and essential tips for making your Thanksgiving a meal to remember.

What’s the hardest part of planning your Thanksgiving meal? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Matthew Thompson, Healthy Cooking Blog, Holidays, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Countdown

Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson is a former associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.

Matthew asks: What’s the hardest part of planning your Thanksgiving meal?

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