Real Simple Recipes Cooking Tips & Techniques This Thanksgiving Preparation Checklist Is the Secret to the Smoothest Holiday Ever This Thanksgiving Preparation Checklist Is the Secret to the Smoothest Holiday Ever Spend more time planning and you’ll spend less time panicking. By Amanda Armstrong , Renee Schettler , Candy Sagon and Betty Gold Advertisement Save FB Tweet ellipsis More Pinterest Mail Email iphone Send Text Message Print Image zoom Getty Images Checklist 3 Weeks Before Decide which recipes you want to make, keeping in mind that there’s only so much one person―and one kitchen―can do. If you really do need 10 side dishes, look for recipes that use the same oven temperature, so they can cook at the same time. After narrowing down your menu, reread the recipes that remain to distinguish which (or which steps in each individual dish) you can prepare ahead of time. Then make a list of what you want to get done on each of the days leading up to Thanksgiving. The more time you go through the motions of what's required in your head, the more relaxed you'll be. 2 Weeks Before Figure out what size turkey you need. We recommend buying a fresh turkey: they can be purchased and picked up closer to the holiday (call your supermarket to reserve one), relieving your refrigerator of the days required to defrost a bulky frozen bird. The Weekend Before Make a detailed shopping list and check it―twice. But don’t expect to get all your shopping done in one trip. Instead, divide your list into two parts: items you’ll need in advance and items you’ll need the final day or two before the meal. Planning a second trip not only keeps your refrigerator from groaning but also relieves you of having to remember every last stick of butter the first time around. When you go to the store, grab a few bottles of something to serve with the meal, too. Tuesday Make everything that will be served chilled, like cranberry sauce. Cover the dishes, place them in the refrigerator, and forget about them until serving time. Wednesday Take inventory before making a second trip to the store (cream? foil?). And don’t forget to pick up the turkey. Chop the onions and the celery, wash the herbs, and trim the rest of your vegetables. Pat them dry, cover, and refrigerate. Assemble the stuffing, transfer to a baking dish, and refrigerate. Prepare the dessert—or assemble as much of it as you can—then refrigerate or bake it. Get a head start on any side dishes that can be made completely or partly in advance. Thanksgiving Day If, like most people, you think of one last thing you need from the store on Thanksgiving morning, call a trusted guest and ask if he or she could do you a favor. While the turkey roasts: Cook the side dishes. While the turkey rests: Make the gravy and assemble any last-minute sides and rewarm the ones you made the day before. Finally, rewarm the dessert in the oven during dinner.