A little bit of smart planning can make this meal one of the easiest―and most gratifying.

By Renee Schettler
Updated October 18, 2005
Amy Neunsinger

You have a lot on your plate on Thanksgiving―both literally and figuratively―and so much going on, it's easy to forget that the day is not about what's on the table but who's sitting around it. Some savvy planning can help you keep things in perspective. Borrow a menu from Marie Nygren, who, with her husband, Steve, owns the Serenbe Bed & Breakfast, outside Atlanta. Follow the timeline, and much of the work will be done well before everyone arrives.




It's hard to find a single wine that goes with the Thanksgiving table, says Andrea Robinson, author of Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier (Broadway, $28, amazon.com). Instead of choosing either red or white, buy some of each and let guests help themselves. She suggests Zinfandel (MonteVina Terra d'Oro) and Gewürztraminer (Hogue Cellars).


Three to Five Days Before

  • Go grocery shopping.
  • Begin to defrost the turkey in the refrigerator, if necessary.
  • Call guests to reconfirm. (If they offer to bring something, say yes.)
  • Make the molasses butter for the turkey.
  • Combine the spices for the sweet potatoes.
  • Make the cranberry sauce.

Two Days Before

  • Tidy up the living room, the dining room, and the bathroom. Be prepared to steer guests clear of the rest of the house.

The Day Before

  • Rinse the greens and shake to remove any excess water. Remove the stems and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate in resealable bags lined with paper towels.
  • Make the corn bread (if you're not buying it), then leave it out, uncovered, to dry overnight.
  • Toast the bread cubes for the dressing. Leave them out overnight.
  • Make and glaze the cake. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Set the table.
  • Designate a pot or skillet, a serving dish, and a utensil for each recipe and leave them on a counter.

Early in the Day

  • Fry the bacon for the butter beans.
  • Sauté the parsley mixture for the dressing.
  • Peel and cut the sweet potatoes and toss with the remaining ingredients.
  • Place a second oven rack beneath the roasting pan so the stuffing and sweet potatoes can bake in shifts.

While the Turkey Roasts

  • Change your clothes, then pour yourself a glass of wine.
  • Assemble the ingredients for the greens and the beans.
  • Make the biscuits, the beans, and the greens.
  • Designate a turkey carver.

While the Turkey Rests

  • Cover the cake with foil and warm it in the oven.
  • Mentally note your prime candidates for dishwashing duty.
  • Exhale and enjoy.