Easy Organizing: Your Thanksgiving Table Settings
Before you begin baking and roasting, remove anything that's not Thanksgiving-related from your dining room. Then decide which Dutch oven, casserole dish, and servers will appear at the feast, and try them out on the table. Stick a note on each platter-and-utensil combo marking its purpose. You'll see what works where, and whether you're short on dishes and servingware. Plus, you'll avoid that last-minute scramble for a slotted spoon. To cut down on cleanup, pick bakeware that's nice enough looking to go from oven to table, or dress up plain pots by wrapping a festive tea towel around the base.
Save space in the refrigerator and on the sideboard: Set up a tray table with an ice bucket for chilling wine, along with glasses and an opener, so guests can refill without causing a bottleneck in the serving line. Stash sodas and other beverages in a separate ice bucket or bowl.
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Make it easier for people to navigate the feast by providing utensils that only require one hand, such as connected salad servers (and if your platters are roomy, it doesn't hurt to double up on serving tools). Also try using cake stands to elevate certain foods and clear space on the surface. Expecting folks who are new to your traditions — or thinking about testing out a few different dishes this year? Label food so that diners know what they're digging into.
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Pass This On
Once everyone's seated, make sure the salt, butter, and other fill-in-the-blank condiments are within reach by stationing sauces, seasonings, and bread at each end of a long table. And even if food is being served buffet-style, have a napkin and set of utensils at each seat, so guests won't have to juggle them.
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Keep vs. Toss
Keep and clean takeout containers, margarine tubs, and similar lidded plastic dishes in the weeks leading up to Turkey Day, so that guests can use them to carry home leftovers (rather than whisk away your Tupperware when you need it most). Save sturdy shopping bags, too, for handy toting.
Toss expired or unwanted food and drinks to clear out the fridge and freezer before you go on your first grocery run — you'll need every inch of space. Then, don't waste those newfound nooks: Compress and store items like make-ahead salad or veggies in large resealable plastic bags instead of bowls.
Keep backup supplies. Catering pros will tell you that napkins, utensils, and glasses always get dropped or lost in the meal's bustle.