- Make a reasonable plan.
- Find shortcuts.
- Spread out the work.
- Dry run.
Splitting the work into 4 days can significantly reduce the stress from piles of dishes, hungry people, and inevitable backaches. I’ll be focusing on Monday through Thursday prep now but will include bonus prep in the links + tips post at the end of the guide.
I split the cooking tasks into 4 days, starting with the items that can be prepared the soonest with no issues in freshness.
As a reminder, here is our sample menu:
Breakfast: Coffee Cake and Coffee
Lunch: Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Rolls, Mashed Potatoes and Brown Gravy, Macaroni and Cheese, Cornbread Dressing, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, and Sweet Tea.
Day 1 – Monday. Clean, make the cranberry sauce and the coffee cake.
Today is an easy day! I make cranberry sauce today because it keeps well in the fridge for several weeks. Making cranberry sauce is very easy and I can quickly mark something off my list. I’m all about a quick win. I also spend about an hour cleaning anything that is super grody. This could be a sticky fridge, dirty floor, crusty oven or a cruddy shower. Set an alarm and do one hour max. Tackling that today will help you feel ahead of things this week.
If you do your cleaning while the coffee cake bakes, today’s tasks will be even quicker. Once completely cooled, a coffeecake can be wrapped well and frozen, and will taste completely fresh when pulled out again on Wednesday night. If you will need that pan again before Thursday, cut the cooled coffee cake into large pieces and freeze.
If you have extra time and need ideas – today is a great day to do anything miscellaneous on your list that will help you later in the week – assemble spice mixes, chop veggies, roast garlic, make pie crust. Don’t forget to place your frozen turkey breast in the refrigerator to thaw by Thursday.
Day 2 – Tuesday. Make the mashed potatoes and pick up anything that you ordered. For me, that was sweet tea, BBQ*, and dressing.
(BBQ* – see bonus prep in the links + tips section at the end of the guide.)
Today is a little busier but still very doable. Pick up any specialty orders you placed for side dishes, drinks, rolls, or desserts. Prepare any starchy potato dishes today. I make mashed potatoes early and they always taste great reheated! If you are preparing sweet potatoes, keep the topping dry and separate until Thursday. Cross off all the items you picked up and made today. Check-in with anyone bringing a dish to dinner on Thursday to make sure they remember.
Day 3 – Wednesday. Finish preparing the side dishes (green beans and macaroni) and bake the pie.
Today is your busiest day. Prepare for that by eating a good lunch and staying hydrated. Consider putting on some high energy or fun music. Make sure dinner preparations have been made before you begin. Remember – this can be a pizza night. This might sound funny to people with big kitchens, lots of countertop space and a dishwasher, but doing prep in a small space means that it takes longer and that clean up is all on us as well. Better to be prepared rather than exhausted.
If your coffee cake is frozen, remove it from the freezer and leave it, covered, on the counter or in the microwave to thaw. Have your slow cooker out and ready for the turkey in the morning.
Let’s check out the menu now.
Coffee Cake and Coffee
Cranberry Sauce, Rolls, Mashed Potatoes and Brown Gravy, Macaroni and Cheese, Cornbread Dressing, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, and Sweet Tea.
Hooray! Your prep time has paid off big time!
Day 4 – Thursday. You will need to get up early to put the turkey in the slow cooker if your meal is scheduled for lunch. Then you can just enjoy sipping your coffee, having breakfast with your family and hanging out until it is time to begin reheating dishes. We will make a plan just for Thursday so all those decisions will be made in advance and you can relax and enjoy your day and your family.
Don’t forget to read the last step in our plan, the dry run. This is the one step that will eliminate nearly every possible disaster – if you do this final step!