Turkey Day is almost upon us, and with it comes a lot of pressure. After all, this is an event that only comes once a year, and it’s steeped in tradition, so everything needs to be just right and just as people expect it to be: You’d better not mess up Grandma’s sweet potato casserole recipe when she’s sitting at your table! The pressure turns up another notch if your dinner guests are staying for the whole day or even multiple days. And that’s not to mention the added stress of prepping dinner under your mother-in-law’s watchful eye! Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to minimize the headaches and maximize your enjoyment of the holiday.
Readying the House
If you’ve got long-term guests coming, ideally, you’ll start cleaning the house at least a week before, so you have plenty of time to deep-clean everything while still getting all of your pre-dinner prep done. But if you’re pressed for time (and really, who isn’t?), triage the situation: Make a mental list of the parts of the house your guests will spend the most time in, and ration out your cleaning time accordingly. Make sure to pay special attention to the bathroom, since a dirty bathroom can really gross guests out. If you’re only having guests for dinner, skip cleaning most of the rooms of your home if you must; nobody should be going into the bedrooms, for example. But do make sure to clean out the fridge, if you haven’t already, to clear as much space as possible for dinner fixings and leftovers.
Containing the Kitchen Chaos
While the Thanksgiving table is always piled high with food, most people’s sinks are usually piled high with dishes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I find that it helps to get as much of the cooking done ahead of time as I possibly can. I usually make the stuffing a day or two before, along with the coleslaw and, of course, the pumpkin pies. The more things you can cook ahead of time, the more dishes you can have cleaned and ready to use again before the big day. It’s also a popular idea to order a pizza for dinner the night before Thanksgiving. That way, you can minimize the amount of dishes you’ll dirty. Just run the dishwasher right after lunch, then use paper plates for dinner or just eat right out of the pizza box, and you won’t find yourself short a clean plate or fork when it’s time to set the table for turkey time (which you should do the night before too so that it’s done and out of the way).
Play it Safe
Remember while you’re prepping your holiday meal that one of your biggest cleaning concerns will also be the biggest thing on your table: the turkey. Before it’s juicy and delicious, it’s germy and hazardous, so make sure to keep those germs contained before the bird goes into the oven. If you’re thawing the turkey in the fridge, put a pan underneath it, just in case there’s a little hole in the wrapping and it leaks. Once the bird’s in the sink, avoiding rinsing it off; you’ll splatter germs everywhere. Do your best to keep the mess contained to the sink as you get the bird unwrapped and cleaned out, and once you’ve got the turkey in the pan, wash your hands immediately. Then, right then, before you do anything else and risk contaminating the rest of the kitchen, wash anything that the raw bird might’ve touched or dripped on with soap and hot water. Once that’s done, then you can move on with your meal prep.
Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll spend less time cleaning up the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner and more time lounging on the couch, wondering how long you should wait to suggest dessert.