How to Prep Your Food in Advance For a Big Holiday Meal

Hosting all your favorite people for a holiday meal is something that should be looked forward to. It's a delicious opportunity to gather together over traditional dishes and drinks. Cut any stress that comes along with being the best hostess ever and map out when to prep your main dishes so all you have to do on the big day is set the table.

1 Week Before

You might think it's too early to start getting ready, but really, it's not. Here's what you can preprep to make your holiday celebration effortless.

  • Go grocery shopping: Head to the store and pick up everything on your shopping list. Once you get home, separate and store all the items properly so that you can start cooking. Don't forget supplies like dishwasher detergent, which will make cleanup easy the day of the meal.
  • Start thawing your turkey: Pick up your frozen turkey and place it on a large serving platter at the back of your fridge so it can slowly thaw. Big turkeys might need a day or two before they're completely frost-free.
  • Make pie crusts: Pie crusts can be made, rolled out, and placed in a pie plate and then stored in the freezer. Wrap with plastic wrap, then tin foil, and the crusts can be chilled for up to three months. And you can bake a crust straight from the freezer.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry

4 Days Before

Now is the time to make items that can be safely stored in the fridge — and that get better with time.

  • Chop veggies: You can also precut vegetables for use in your stuffing and crudités.
  • Make salad dressings and dips: If you're planning on making any homemade dips or salad dressings, you can also mix those up and store them in the fridge.
  • Simmer cranberry sauce: Make homemade cranberry sauce, then store in a sealable container in the fridge. All you need to do on Thanksgiving is pour it into a pretty serving container.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Camilla Salem

3 Days Before:

It's casserole time! Most actually taste better the second time they're heated up, which makes prepping them before your holiday meal a smart idea.

  • Make green bean casserole: This is a dish you can prep a couple of days before your holiday party for quick assembly. Clean and trim the beans and make the sauce, then store in the fridge.
  • Boil sweet potatoes: You can mash the base for your sweet potato casserole in advance and then store in the fridge. The day of your gathering, simply take it out of the fridge, let it come to room temperature, then top with marshmallows. After a quick visit to the oven, it's ready to serve.
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Lipoff

2 Days Before

Now is when you should give your star a bit of attention so you have the most delicious bird.

  • Brine your turkey: Brining your turkey boosts its flavor — and it's so much easier than you think to do. It also ensures your turkey is completely thawed, which is always a good thing.
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Lipoff

The Day Before

A little bit of work today means a lot less stress once guests arrive. So get in the kitchen!

  • Bake pies: Pies are always better the next day, so bake pecan, apple, or pumpkin pies for a lovely-smelling house.
  • Assemble crudités: Get out your pretty appetizer platters and arrange dips, veggies, and cheese platters. Cover securely and store in the fridge.
  • Make cornbread: If your stuffing is made with cornbread, bake it today so it's ready to go tomorrow.
  • Prep potatoes: Peel and cut potatoes into big chunks and add to a stockpot filled with water. But instead of putting over a high flame, cover and put in the fridge. In the morning you can take them straight from the fridge and start simmering.
  • Wash dishes: Your favorite serving dishes, plates, and silverware have probably been tucked away in dusty cabinets for months, so get everything out and run it through the dishwasher so they sparkle. And the same goes for any table linens you plan on using.
POPSUGAR Photography | Sarah Lipoff

The Big Day!

You've done so much prep work, which means all you have to do is warm everything up!

  • Get your turkey in the oven: Cook time depends on if your bird was fresh or frozen, but the general rule is 20 minutes per pound in a 350˚F oven. And leave out the stuffing for an evenly cooked turkey.
  • Boil potatoes: Grab your potatoes from the fridge and start boiling!
  • Finish casseroles: Take the sweet potato casserole base from the fridge and top with marshmallows. It only needs a few minutes in the oven before serving. You can also assemble the green bean casserole and have it ready for its slot in the oven. And don't forget the stuffing!
  • Arrange appetizers: Set out your appetizers and put dips, sauces, and dressings in serving containers.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry

  • Let the dishwasher do all the work: Cleanup is a snap without any messy prewashing thanks to OxiClean™ Dishwasher Detergent. Let your dishwasher do all the dirty work while you enjoy kicking back with your guests.

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