Here's a day-by-day and then hour-by-hour countdown to your Thanksgiving feast:
WEDNESDAY (of the week before Thanksgiving)
Finish the guest list. If anyone is bringing a dish, get a commitment on what it will be.
Choose the menu, including appetizers, beverages and turkey size. Figure on 1 to 1½ pounds per person, to allow leftovers.
Make a copy of this checklist and hang it in a handy place.
Assign cleaning chores to your spouse and children.
Clean out the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard.
Clear off the kitchen counters. Put away appliances you won't need this week.
Make a shopping list in two parts: things you need right away, and perishables. Include paper goods such as napkins and cups, cleaning supplies, and bags and wraps for leftovers.
Get out the serving pieces. Match them against your menu and make sure you have a container and serving spoon for every dish. Label the bottoms with tape or sticky notes. Count glasses, plates and chairs and make a list of anything you need to rent or borrow.
Get out your pots and pans and do a mental run-through of the menu. Do you have a roaster that will hold a 20-pound turkey? (Use a sack of potatoes as a rough guide.) Will it fit in your oven?
Polish servers and silverware if needed.
Get out table linens, check for stains, and iron if needed.
Go shopping for nonperishable items. If you're buying a frozen turkey, get it now so it will have time to thaw. If you are ordering a fresh turkey or floral arrangement, do it by today.
Start the housecleaning, or check on chores assigned to family members.
If you're using a frozen turkey that is larger than 16 pounds, put it on a pan to catch drips and move it into the refrigerator. If you're using a fresh turkey, you can get it today.
If you're serving a green salad, core and wash the lettuce. Wrap it in paper towels, place in a resealable bag, press out the air and refrigerate.
Finish the housecleaning and rearrange any furniture if needed.
If you're using a frozen turkey that is less than 16 pounds, place it on a pan to catch drips and move to the refrigerator.
Make cranberry sauce and refrigerate it. If you're making an appetizer such as a cheese ball or toasted nuts, make it today.
Sweep the front walk and porch if needed.
Make up drinks, such as iced tea or mulled cider, and refrigerate them.
Make a final trip to the store for perishables if needed. Pick up a couple of bags of ice if you can store them.
Set the table and arrange the centerpiece.
Make mashed potatoes. Refrigerate. Cut and toast the bread for the dressing.
Bake the sweet potatoes, peel and mash, if desired. Cover and refrigerate.
If you're brining the turkey, make the brine. Unwrap the turkey, remove the giblet bag and the neck from the cavities. Place turkey in brine and keep cold in refrigerator or cooler filled with ice. If you're not brining, check to make sure the turkey is thawed.
Prepare any desserts and refrigerate.
9 a.m.: If the turkey is 16 to 20 pounds, preheat the oven. If the turkey has been brined, rinse it well. If you're stuffing, spoon dressing loosely into body cavity and neck. Place on rack in roasting pan. Place in the oven. Refrigerate remaining dressing.
10:30 a.m.: If the turkey is 12 pounds or under, preheat the oven and start it now.
Noon: Finish setting the table. Make sure salt and pepper shakers are full, put out serving spoons and get the butter dish ready. Get sweet potatoes out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.
1:45 p.m.: Put mashed potatoes in the oven to reheat. If you didn't stuff the turkey, cover dressing with lid or foil and place in the oven. Wrap fresh bread or rolls with foil and set aside.
2 p.m.: Get the cranberry sauce out of the refrigerator and put in a serving dish. Remove the covers from the dressing and add broth if it seems dry.
2:30 p.m.: Remove turkey from oven and tent loosely with foil. Drain drippings if you plan to make gravy. Put the bread in the oven. Ask a volunteer to pour drinks.
2:40 p.m.: Make gravy.
2:50 p.m.: Carve the turkey. Remove the mashed potatoes, dressing and bread from the oven and take them to the table. Put the sweet potatoes in serving dishes and take them to the table.
2:55 p.m.: Start the coffee pot. Get dessert from refrigerator.
3 p.m.: Sit down, relax and enjoy your dinner.