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Here’s final game plan to stress-free Thanksgiving

PHOTO: Do you know where your carving knife is? Find it before Thanksgiving. | STEVE CAMPBELL~AP

OK, we’re in the homestretch in our Thanksgiving Countdown. A bit scary, I know, but you’ve got this. If you’ve been prepping and cleaning along the way, things will go smoothly.

Here’s what you should be doing now:

  • Got ice? Make sure you turn the ice maker on in your fridge or start making cubes right now and bag them before storing in the freezer.
  • Home for cold drinks? Your fridge is going to be so full of food. Make sure your coolers are clean so you can use them to keep soda and beer chilled. Make sure you’ll have enough ice for them, too.
  • Buy the perishables. The stores are busy. I used to suggest going early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds, but often that strategy doesn’t work anymore because the off hours can have limited checkout staff. Just leave yourself enough time to do this.
  • Anything that can be made ahead — appetizers, cranberry sauce, for example — should be done now. Some tasks you can do while watching TV. My plan right now is to slice the carrots for a side dish I’m making while catching up on “Empire” episodes I missed
  • Fill ’em. Make sure your salt and pepper shakers have been filled. Put fresh sugar in its bowl too. (If you’ll have guests who use different non-sugar sweeteners, have those ready and on hand, too.)
  • Time to thaw. If you have a frozen bird, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator. (Experts say every four pounds requires a day of defrosting.) Put it on some sort of pan, so it doesn’t drip all over your fridge. Keep it in the wrapper. If Wednesday rolls around and your turkey is still too frozen, try this: put the turkey in a CLEANED sink. Fill with enough very cold water to cover the bird all the way. (I toss in some ice cubes to make sure the water’s nice and cold.) Change the water and ice cubes every 30 minutes. It’ll take about 30 minutes a pound to thaw. The process requires vigilance, but it does work.
  • Fresh bird? Don’t forget to go pick it up. (You think I’m joking. Ask your butcher how many times that has happened. You’d be surprised.)

WEDNESDAY:

  • What’s your game plan? Write it out and follow it.
  • Did you make dishes ahead of time and freeze them? Good for you! Now, figure out when you need to start thawing them.
  • Get chopping! All the ingredients for your stuffing can be prepped, then put in separate plastic bags or containers. (Do NOT mix until right before you are stuffing the bird.)
  • Where’s your carving knife? Find it today.
  • Kids home from school? Get them to be part of the preparation. Have them handle the light cleaning around the house. After all, there’s a good chance the things tossed about are theirs.
  • Are they done with that? Well, aren’t they the efficient. Now they can start setting the table for Thanksgiving.
  • Pies! They can be cooked today and just warmed tomorrow. It’ll free up oven space on Thursday.
  • Get a good night sleep. You don’t want to go into the busy Thanksgiving tired.

THURSDAY:

  • Take five deep breaths. Really deep, and exhale slowly. Notice how much calmer you feel. Remember this. You might need to repeat this later to keep yourself grounded and calm on this busy day.
  • Look at that timetable. Note when the bird needs to go into the oven (remember, you’ll need 15 minutes to let the turkey rest before carving. And carving takes some time. Add that into the equation.) Figure out what time to do other last-minute dishes.
  • Put the turkey platter nearby. Close, but not in the way.
  • Fill the butter dish.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Get out the serving spoons. When I am making a big dinner with multiple courses, I put the serving utensil that I am using on the lid of each dish stored in the refrigerator. Saves time, and if people ask if they can help, it’s easy to have them put food out without having to interrupt you in their search for the right serving spoon.
  • Enjoy! Oh, so what if something doesn’t go as planned? It’ll make a great story for years to come.