UNITED STATES—I seriously don’t know where the time has gone, but it seems like as soon as Halloween comes and goes, Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner. I mean in less than 2 weeks many of us will be cooking that massive meal to host for the family, cleaning the abode and preparing to deal with family members that we may not be too fond of.

With so much to do, where do you start to ensure you don’t get in over your head? Most might say cooking; I would argue it starts with having an idea on who will be attending your home for the big dinner. Having an idea of a number of guests helps to determine how much food will be needed, not to mention if you’ll have the space in your home to accommodate all those individuals. Once you have a head count, the work now begins.

First, the home has to be in tip top condition. I mean you don’t want to host dinner in a dirty home. However, so many people make the mistake of cleaning the home 2 weeks in advance, only to turn around and have to do it again a few days before the big holiday. I would recommend, as someone who has hosted Turkey Day on more than one occasion cleaning the home from top to bottom like 3-4 days before the holiday is best. Why? You’re not worried about cleaning the house again before the big day.

Cleaning is one thing, but having to clean and to cook at the same time is not smart or wise people. In addition, you shouldn’t indulge in cleaning the home by yourself. It’s important for everyone in the household to partake in helping keep the house tidy. It’s not fair for one person to do all the work, while others sit around and watch. If you plan to eat, you should plan to clean people. It’s that simple.

Now, let’s turn our attention to what matters most: the food. Have an idea of what dishes you plan to cook and what dishes others might be bringing to the big dinner. Why is this important? It’s one thing to do all the cooking, it’s another thing just let guests not assist with the process. If you have your guests bring dishes it cuts down on the workload. Also, speaking from the perspective of someone who has done all the cooking, you will be EXHAUSTED and so burnt by the time dinner rolls around, you’ll want to go to sleep.

So once you have an idea of what dishes will be on the menu, now is the time to start shopping in advance. You can absolutely purchase that turkey around 2 weeks in advance and keep it frozen until a few days before Thanksgiving. Now, for those pantry items buy them while they are on sale! So various broths, boxes of pasta, canned goods, spices and some meats can be purchased and stashed away until you’re ready to start cooking.

Now there are some food items that people should be weary of purchasing too early. I’m referring to fruits, vegetables and various dairy items, like milk and eggs. Do you want to wait till the last minute? No, but you don’t want to purchase fruits and vegetables 2-3 weeks in advance, and have to turn around and purchase those items again because they expired or molded.

Lastly, since the cleaning is done and the food shopping has been completed, the next thing is to prepare those dishes. How do you plan what to cook and when to cook? It’s all about advance preparation. For things that have to be chopped, you can do such 2-3 days in advance and store in the fridge. When it comes to the turkey, most begin cooking the day before or very early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. Dishes that might be labor intensive or that can be refrigerated; it’s wise to cook those a few days early in my opinion. Your goal is NOT to be cooking everything on the big day; you want to have those options for stove space and oven space. Remember not everything cooks at the same temperature in the oven.

Everything is cooked, the house is clean, and the guests have started to arrive, so one more important tip: make sure you utilize paper plates and dishes. Why? It’s nice to use the fancy dinnerware, but no one wants to clean those dishes if you don’t have to. So don’t feel pressured to utilize the fancy stuff unless it is something you want to do. Enjoy the festivities, entertain your guest and try not to get burnt out people. Remember, Thanksgiving is all about family and being thankful, don’t forget that people!