When should you thaw out the turkey? Which pantry items should you restock before everyone arrives for the big holiday? And what’s the best way to help overnight guests feel cozy and at home? Friends, don’t worry—Emily’s done the big thinking for you! She’s sharing her Ultimate Holiday Checklist to help you remember how to prep for the Big Day: small things you can do now, steps to complete a few days before the holiday, and things to do *on* the Big Day to help you take away the stress and enjoy the holiday magic.
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A Few Weeks Before the Big Day (aka things you can do now)
Clear the clutter in the kitchen and dining area, and wash your linens.
Clear out a big space in the fridge to store dishes and leftovers. Throw any tablecloths and napkins for the big day into the wash so they’re fresh for the big day.
Ask for dietary preferences.
That way, you can have a stash of gluten-free rolls on the side, or a vegan pumpkin pie on the dessert table. (It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort for someone to feel seen and loved!)
Figure out how much protein each person might need.
Take the number of people coming to your gathering, and multiply it by 1.5.
For example, if you have ten people coming to Thanksgiving, then you’d need a fifteen-pound turkey!
If you’re short on time or “giving a flip,” place an order to outsource the meal!
Go to Honeybaked Ham, your local grocery store, or a favorite restaurant to see what their catering options are for the holidays.
Ask folks to bring something—and be specific.
Tell guests what you are providing for the meal, and ask them to bring a side dish, a drink, a dessert. And tell them to bring a serving spoon (trust me, it never hurts).
“A Few Days Before the Big Day” Checklist
Thaw out your turkey three to four days before you plan to cook it!
It takes about eight hours a pound for a turkey to thaw out. Just place it on a sheet pan in the fridge, and let it do its thing.
Print out the recipes you plan to cook, or open all the recipes on a single browser on an iPad.
You’ll be glad you’re not having to hunt for these on cooking day!
Buy your appetizers from the store.
Nobody is going to care where the appetizers come from. Grocery stores know that you want to outsource the appetizers anyway, and they’re happy to provide for you!
Decide where everyone will sit.
You don’t have to assign seats. Just make sure everybody has a chair! And if you need to, designate a kids table and an adults table.
Put someone in charge of the playlist.
Every family or friend group has that one person who is really good at music. Ask that person to curate a playlist that’s perfect for a gathering—something your mom and a little one could listen to.
Print out some conversation starters.
The Ley family does conversation starters every Thanksgiving, and it’s the most fun way to break the ice and get the memories flowing. Just Google “conversation starters” and I’m sure you’ll find a list you love.
Keep takeout containers on hand for leftovers.
You will thank yourself later for this—I promise!
The “Big Day” Checklist
Give guests an arrival time, and tell them when you plan to serve the meal.
Some people like some time to mingle and watch football. Others like to have the meal right when folks arrive. Whatever you’re planning, just make sure others know too!
Put your appetizers out before guests begin to arrive.
This is when that pre-cut veggie tray, charcuterie, or nuts come in handy!
Let guests serve their own drinks.
You can place a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie by the cups so that folks can label their drinks, even if you aren’t using disposable cups. It may not look fancy, but it works.
If there’s idle time, leave out some games!
Whether it’s football on TV or in the backyard, or board games or video games, make sure there are things to do for folks who aren’t working in the kitchen.
(PS: if you need some ideas, we did a whole episode on this back in Episode 45: Movies and Games That Bring Family Together)
- Don’t sweat it—seriously. I know you want to make sure everything comes out flawlessly. But the only thing that matters is that people have plenty to eat!
Tips for Overnight Guests
Make sure the Wi-Fi login info is easily accessible.
I’ve seen people get a cross-stitch of this on Etsy to make it cute but functional!
Also, make sure guests have a place to put used towels.
Bonus if you have a basket for their laundry as well.
And make sure they have necessities for their bedside table.
Device chargers, water bottles, tissues, lip balm, eye mask, paper and pen, etc. Everything you keep on yours, put on theirs!
Have plenty of blankets on hand.
You can never have too many! (pro tip: keep a heated blanket in each room—guests are guaranteed to be warm!)
Keep a basket of toiletries just for guests!
This is a small way to delight guests. You don’t have to get fancy, just think about little things they might need while they stay with you:
- Toothbrushes + toothpaste
- Shampoo + conditioner
- Body wash
- Disposal razors + shaving cream
- Menstrual care
- Contact solution + cases
- First-Aid items: Band-Aids, Neosporin, rubbing alcohol and peroxide, even some pain relievers and allergy meds
A Blessing for Your Week
In this season of gathering, I hope you spend time with the people you hold dear, and celebrate the truths and love that bind you together.
In this season of giving, I hope you receive the joy of being known, and remind the ones around you how much they’re seen and loved for who they are.
And in this season of hope, I hope you remember the love we have for each other—and what a privilege it is to share it.
Simplicity Tip of the Week
If your guest sleeping situation is less than ideal, sometimes a memory foam mattress topper can be a game-changer! You don’t have to break the bank to get something good—right now, you can find a highly-rated topper for about forty bucks on Amazon.
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