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Although it feels like Thanksgiving is light years away, as soon as I blink, it’ll be November, my fridge will be stocked with food, and I’ll be trying to think of ways to entertain the kids while I start prepping and cooking for Thanksgiving. I’ll worry about whether I have enough cornbread or whether the turkey is the right size or whether I should really find a way to make another side because the two or three I’ve originally planned for won’t be sufficient… the list and anxiety can pile up and feel endless!
And it’s no wonder! Thanksgiving can be an exceptionally stressful holiday, especially as the holiday that kicks off a very intense season! You’re balancing family dynamics, food preferences and possibly allergies, travel in either crowded airports or on congested freeways, the nine. I can feel my heartbeat start to pick up the pace just thinking ahead!
However, there has been one trick that I picked up over the years to help me take control of Thanksgiving: plan out a timeline.
Yes, you read that correctly. For the past several years, for each Thanksgiving, I take control of my Thanksgiving timeline by sitting down and putting pen to paper. I plot out just about everything: when the turkey needs to go in the oven, when my husband needs to start making the mashed potatoes, when we need to set the table, when the Cowboys will play (hint: it’s at 3:30 pm Central time this year on CBS). It sounds really intense and overwhelming, but honestly? If my bullet journal has taught me anything, it’s that the world starts to feel a little less scary and overwhelming when I can figure out when certain things are supposed to happen within my Thanksgiving timeline.
And that is 100% how I take control of my Thanksgiving.
How to Take Control of Your Thanksgiving
Now, I will absolutely say that it’s helpful for me to have my menu planned out so I’m not flying by the seat of my pants. There are certain staples that I absolutely put on my Thanksgiving menu, and as I work toward my Thanksgiving timeline, I’ll share my favorites here! Spoiler alert: They are virtually all inspired by Ina Garten because her cookbooks and recipes very rarely steer me wrong (and if they do go wrong, it’s user error!).
So what does my Thanksgiving timeline look like? How do I take control of my Thanksgiving? Super simple.
I start with when I want to serve the meal.
That’s it. That is the very first key to take control of my Thanksgiving timeline.
So for 2017, I know that I want us to eat by about 2:00 pm Central, which gives us about an hour to eat… and we need that 30-minute break before the Cowboys game!
I go ahead and I write that down, and I work my way back on my Thanksgiving timeline.
I’m also super honest with what my cooking capabilities are at my house. We have a 5-burner gas range, 1 toaster over, and 1 conventional oven. I know, then, that I’ll have to balance what I can cook where and how long things will take to cook.
And, y’all, a lot of it starts with getting my turkey cooking time right! In the grand scheme of your Thanksgiving timeline, the turkey is easily going to take the most time… up to 5 hours depending on the size of your bird! And you also want to allow an extra 30 or so minutes after its finished cooking in the oven so the juices will redistribute within your turkey so it’s moist and flavorful.
Because dry turkey is pretty crummy.
But so is undercooked turkey… which has happened to me… and fortunately, no one got sick that year!
So that’s really where I like to start when planning my Thanksgiving timeline. I know when I need to get food on the table, I know that my turkey will take a couple of hours and that it’s probably going to be OK to rest on the counter for a bit… so I can use these as guideposts to take control of my Thanksgiving Day and plot out my Thanksgiving timeline.
After that, it’s really a matter of putting all of the pieces of my Thanksgiving timeline puzzle together.
I know that I can do our cornbread in our toaster oven. I know that my husband will need the biggest burner to make his really great mashed potatoes. I know that if I want to opt for cranberry sauce not from a can, I need to use one of the smaller burners in the back. I know that, if I’ve set the table the night before, then I have one less thing to worry about or freak out about in the morning… except for where I put the dang gravy boat because I always forget where in the world I put it last.
Following this Thanksgiving timeline helps me to not only take control of the day, but it allows me time to actually enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. I can sit and watch the parade with my kids because I know the turkey is cooking away in the oven, and it doesn’t need me to hover. I know that my winter vegetables are all prepped and ready in the fridge to dump onto a sheet pan to roast so I can sit and enjoy my butter coffee without freaking out.
I can let my husband worry about getting all of the Christmas decorations down and out because hey, I just did Thanksgiving, and now it’s his turn to sweat a holiday!
And because I want you to have as an enjoyable holiday as you possibly can, I created a free Thanksgiving timeline printable for you to use! You can print it out, put it in a picture frame (see my Working Parent’s Nightly Routine post for more info on that!), send it to your spouse… whichever! It’s totally free for your use because why not make the holidays a little easier for everyone and help them take control?
Did I leave anything out? What are your tips and tricks to help you take control of Thanksgiving and help keep the holiday as stress-free as possible?