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The Last-Minute Hostess'™s Holiday Guide

by Jill Manoff

News flash: Thanksgiving is this week, and—months ago—you agreed to play hostess. Lucky for you, three days is enough time to prep. In fact, we think you could do it in two. Here’s how:

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The Day Before:

Plan your menu.
Keep it simple. Just because you’ve always made ten side dishes doesn’t mean you need to do the same this year. (Will anyone even miss Grandma’s green bean casserole?) Think “quality” over “quantity,” and you’ll be less crazed in the end. What’s more, for once, you’ll be able to close your fridge!


Hit the grocery store.
But be prepared: It’s going to be a madhouse, and some shelves will be bare. Go in with a few backup dishes in mind, and fall back on the fact that you can always borrow ingredients.

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Prep the house.
But don’t go crazy. Focus your cleaning efforts on the center of attention: the dining room. Then move on to the kitchen, the bathroom and the entryway, and call it a day. You’ll want to make sure your dishwasher is empty and your coat closet has space, then set the table using your best silverware and plates. As for that all-important special-making touch? Fresh flowers work wonders, so be sure to leave space!


Start cooking.
As they say, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Consider hitting the kitchen the night before and getting right to work. You’ll rest easy knowing your desserts are perfect and your stuffing is prepped. (Check, and check!)

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The Day Of:


Thaw the turkey.
Start early (maybe even the night before!). The turkey will need to be immersed in cold water long before cook time—for a half-hour per pound, to be exact. Lucky enough to score a fresh turkey? You can skip this step. (It’s oven-ready!)


Get comfy in the kitchen.
It’s inevitable. As the hostess, you’ll be cooking. A lot. Make a game plan based on what can be cooked together (Check the temp recommendations on the recipe cards!) and what needs the most time in the oven. (Start there!) Between the cranberries and the sweet potatoes, the mashed potatoes and gravy, and the vegetable dish and salad, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Our advice? Keep calm and cook on.

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Take time for you.
Remember to break for some all-important primping. When you look good, you feel good—and, as the hostess, your mood sets the mood. Throw on your favorite sheath, shift or wrap dress, then add some bold lipstick to make it all the more festive.


Apply the finishing touches.
Just before your guests are scheduled to arrive, pick a Pandora station, set out your flowers, light a few candles and uncork the wine. Then, pour yourself a glass, and relax. You’ve got this!



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