UNITED STATES—I swear it seems as soon as Halloween comes and goes, Thanksgiving is literally right behind. We’re less than a week away from the big cooking holiday and the big question of the hour is whether you’re prepared. Why can I say that? So many people wait until the last minute and before you know it, it’s too late. The big thing is the grocery store. Are you cooking for the big day or are you attending a family gathering?

If you are cooking time is of the essence. Do NOT WAIT until the week of Thanksgiving to start purchasing the items you need to prepare your feast. You might be asking why? Well, for starters grocery stores run out of items, trust me, I know from experience. In addition, you’re not going to see the sale items the week of Thanksgiving compared to the week before. Why? The stores know people will be purchasing those items no matter what. So, guess what? They want to get the full amount of revenue they can for the items that are staples.

You need to have your menu jotted down and ready to go. What dishes are you preparing? What ingredients do you need for those dishes? With your proteins like turkey, ham, chuck roast, lamb and other big staples you can purchase them NOW and I mean NOW, this is especially true with the turkey. Why? You can get it for a cheap price and you can freeze it. Not to mention the turkey takes several days to thaw out anyway. Get it early and save a ton of money in the process as well.

Also things that can go into the pantry you can get a lot cheaper. Inflation is so real, anyway you can save money, you want to do it now and shopping around at multiple grocery stores and chains is not a bad idea. I must admit I am ok shopping around to stretch the money in my wallet. Now if there are ingredients you really cannot purchase too far in advance, it is your fruits and veggies. They just don’t have that long shelf-life in the fridge, and you’d hate to purchase them early only to turn around and have to do them later.

Preparation, you can actually cook some of those side dishes early you don’t have to wait until the day before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day itself to prepare the feast. Why? You will indeed be burnt out and exhausted and I don’t care what anyone says. Many of those sides like dressing (that is what we call it in our household) can be prepped and cooked the day before. The same with the prep work for the Candied Yams, Greens, Macaroni and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, you can get a leg up on things. Also don’t be afraid to allow the kids to help in the kitchen. If anything, it gets them excited about cooking and it helps cut down your workload if you’re playing host for the big feast.

Then you have desserts. You can prepare them in advance, but also don’t overdo the desserts. Don’t feel the need to do every single dessert you can think about. Do the desserts that are staples for your family and do the desserts that you know people will eat. Do not feel the desire to try out new recipes that you’ve never done before because mistakes are likely to transpire as a result.

The key about Thanksgiving is to try to prepare in advance so you’re not in a situation where you’re slaving all day on the big holiday. For someone like me, it is a holiday I have worked every year, since I can recall, I don’t get to have the day off, but if I am playing host or cooking a dish as I tend to do, I prepare a few days in advance so I’m not exhausted as a result. Preparation is the key to having a Thanksgiving that doesn’t leave you exhausted or burnt out. It is even worse for those of us who have to work and then find ourselves working after work. However, if you prepare in advance it makes things a bit easier on your mental and physical health.