DON’T PROCASTINATE (yes, I’m yelling)! Time flies this time of year – it seems like the 3-4 weeks between Halloween and Turkey Day zooms by in the blink of an eye. Without a bit of planning, you could get caught in a daze by the quickly passing days and find yourself on Thanksgiving with a turkey in the oven, a house full of guests, and no idea what to do with either one – especially if you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving meal!

Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

Here are a few suggestions to help you get prepared. (Tweet These First-Time Thanksgiving Tips)

Determine your guest list.

It’s kind of hard to plan the meal without knowing how many people will attend. And some of your guests might offer to bring something (more help = less stress, and wasn’t the first Thanksgiving a potluck, anyway?). You’ll also need the guest list to help you consider how you’ll set up the table or room. It’s a good idea to shop for décor and your table setting in early November so those tasks don’t get in the way of the food planning. If you’re a place-setting novice, the internet is your friend. There are a lot of websites and blogs that explain how to properly set up a table. You don’t even need to go to etiquette school.

Tackle your Thanksgiving menu.

Try to narrow down the menu at least two weeks before the big Gobble day. Try to resist the urge to get too fancy – keep it simple for your first Thanksgiving and stick with traditional recipes that don’t require too much time to create. Making everything from scratch sounds exciting, but that’s a time consuming endeavor, so you might want to buy some pre-made dishes. It can be done, however, if you cook in advance and have room to freeze/store the dishes you make. Purchase or order your turkey at least two weeks in advance (turkey is king this time of year, and can be in short supply closer to the holiday). The rule of thumb is that you should buy a turkey that weighs one pound per the number of guests you have.

Make your lists (and check them twice).

If this suggestion works for Santa (think about how much work HE has to do to get organized), then it should be sufficient for the rest of us. Begin developing your grocery and to-do lists about 1-2 weeks before the holiday. If you’re new to the Thanksgiving Dinner game, you probably won’t have a gravy boat, which means you’ll have to buy or borrow one. You might also need to borrow a few pots and pans if you’re just starting out in the world – this is a big meal! Determine your cleaning schedule (in addition to the rooms in your house, you’ll need to tidy up the pantry and fridge to make room for holiday groceries, especially the star of Gobble Day). You can also start making seating arrangements and create place cards to give your table a more personal touch (and help keep feuding relatives away from each other, unless you enjoy a side of drama with your Thanksgiving meal).

Turkey time!

Make sure to defrost the big bird in time for his big day. If you’re going to defrost your turkey in the refrigerator, it’s recommended that you allow a day for every four pounds your turkey weighs. So, if your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take four days for your turkey to defrost in the refrigerator. Make sure you find a recipe ahead of time. But, if all else fails, you can call on the pros (the Butterball Turkey talk line is available every November and December to guide you through your poultry problems, and they even have digital resources to keep up with the changing times). You’ll probably have plenty of leftover turkey; you can find delicious ideas for leftover food online to help you make the most of it.

Although it may seem overwhelming, your first Thanksgiving will be a success if you plan ahead and stay focused on the reason for the season – giving thanks for your blessings and spending time with the ones you love! Please share your tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts below.

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