Special Report

30 Ways You Should Start Planning Your Thanksgiving Right Now

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16. Pre-order any specialty foods you might want

If your menu is conventional, you won’t have to worry about this step. But if you plan to offer Spanish ham as an appetizer, put porcini mushrooms into the dressing or gravy, stuff truffles under the turkey skin, present exotic chutneys alongside the cranberry sauce, or otherwise fancy up the banquet, it’s safest to order your unusual ingredients ahead of time at a good specialty food store nearby or online.

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17. Start a shopping list for everything else

“Start” is the operative word here because you’ll likely keep thinking of things as the days go by, but now that you have your menu figured out, write down a preliminary list of all the ordinary ingredients you think you’ll need. Keep it somewhere handy so you can add to it as other items and ingredients occur to you.

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18. Start thinking about decorations

For some hosts, a vase of flowers and a few candles are decoration enough — and some don’t even bother with that. If you plan to get a little more elaborate — branches laden with brightly hued leaves on the sideboard; a cornucopia full of autumn fruits in the middle of the table; a seasonal wreath of the door; or whatever — now’s the time to start deciding what you want and where you’re going to get it.

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19. Make sure you have enough table settings.

Unless you’re the formal sort, plates, silverware, and glasses don’t have to match, as long as everything is in decent shape. Just make sure you have enough for everyone who’s expected at your table. And don’t forget platters, serving bowls, and serving utensils. You know by now what’s on the menu, so match up every dish with something to put it in. If you come up short, you’ve still got time to buy, rent, or borrow what you need.

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20. Make sure you have enough chairs

At large Thanksgiving meals, sometimes somebody ends up sitting on the couch with a plate of turkey on his or her lap. If you have a small or informal household, maybe that’s okay (as long as that couch-sitter isn’t on the couch alone), but most hosts will want everyone at the table (or tables), and they all need something to sit on. Rec-center-style folding chairs are okay if necessary, but remember too that Thanksgiving feasts tend to go on for a long time, and you want your guests to be as comfortable as possible.