If you’re getting ready to roll out dinner for four, 12 or even 24, it’s time to get serious. A schedule of military precision is in order—especially if you want everything to run in a seamless, stress-free manner.

No need to panic. All you need is a strategic game plan counting down to the Big Day. Just follow this straightforward foolproof schedule and you’ll have no trouble staying cool during the holidays. In fact, you might even find some humor and have some fun along the way, not to mention put out a sumptuous feast to remember (for all the right reasons). Cheers to you!

Foolproof Holiday Feasting Plan

2 – 3 weeks before

  • Invite your friends and family. Ask about food allergies or vegetarian/vegan needs and make notes.
  • Decide what you’ll be making from appetizers and entrées to sides and desserts. Figure out what beverages you’ll be serving as well.
  • Order a fresh bird or holiday ham from the butcher, if you’re going that route.
  • Get any non-perishables and storable items if you can: chocolate, wine (plus an extra bottle for you), spirits, Little Potatoes, olives, crackers, and so on.

1 – 2 weeks before

  • Do a thorough kitchen inventory to make sure you have a well-stocked pantry and all the essentials you need: utensils, small appliances, pots and pans, silver and glassware, table décor, and the like. You don’t want to get caught without kitchen string to secure the turkey drumsticks!
  • Review your recipes. Make note of the ingredients you’ll need to buy, what you’ve got on hand, and what utensils/pans/etc. you’ll need to make the dishes. Make lists of what’s needed to fill any gaps.
  • Polish the silver. Washing serving trays and any crystal that’s been in storage.

3 – 4 days before

  • To reduce stress, do your grocery shopping now. Freeze anything that you want to be super fresh, such as dinner rolls. Make room in the fridge and pack it in. Don’t forget to pick up ice!
  • If your turkey is frozen, put it in the fridge to defrost.
  • Make sure you’ve got all condiments on hand: cranberry sauce, S&P, mustard (for ham), etc.

2 days before

  • If you will be bringing the turkey, now is the time.
  • Review your recipes a second time and make a list of which dishes you will make on Game Day and in what order.

The day before

  • Are you missing anything? Do a last shop to pick up any forgotten ingredients or fresh/perishable items, such as herbs.
  • Prep any recipes you can (dicing, mixing, etc.) and/or prepare in advance and store them in the fridge. You can make stuffing and cranberry sauce early, for example, and freeze them.
  • Make desserts and store them. Make the whipped cream and refrigerate.
  • Tidy and clean the house. Put out fresh hand towels in the bathrooms. Re-stock TP, tissues, napkins, candles, etc.
  • Set the table and put out serving utensils and glasses. Take your time. Put on some nice music and enjoy it!

The BIG Day!!!

  • In the morning, put the turkey on the counter to allow it to come up to room temperature before roasting.
  • Chill wine or bubbly.
  • Thaw any frozen dishes.
  • Do any super-quick last-minute cleaning.
  • Dress and stuff the bird, and get it in the oven. Put on a timer for basting and testing doneness.
  • Prepare the appetizers, snacks, and dishes in the order you’ve set.
  • Shower, get dressed, and make sure to eat a snack to keep up your energy.
  • Finish the last recipe to-dos.

Take a deep breath and pour yourself a glass of wine!