I am an organizational freak - I get that from my Dad. We are two annal peas in a pod (I say this with love). 24 people (25 now - oldest's boyfriend is coming too) for a sit down dinner is a joy for me but I know it strikes fear in the hearts of many.
First make a menu. It can be very simple. I've found most people like simple good food. Determine the quantities needed - about 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person if you want leftovers, 1 potato per person with an extra 1 thrown in for good measure (unless they are really small potatoes then add a few more). One batch (or dare I say can) of cranberry sauce is enough. Write out a list of ingredients needed for each recipe. Check your pantry and then make a grocery list. If you haven't done so already get your turkey NOW! It takes a while for it to defrost in the fridge. Make room in the fridge for your turkey. If you are really panicked have family members contribute a dish to the meal. Or find a good bakery and buy some of the menu items. I prefer they just bring the wine but, hey that's me. I also make a list of what needs to go in the oven or on top. What can be done on the grill or in the microwave. I only have one oven and it can be a juggling act. Not enough fridge space - if you live where it is cold try utilizing the hatchway or porch. Get creative.
Determine the seating - do you have enough? do you have tables and chairs? Do you have plates and cups for everyone? If not you need to get these. I'm lucky and have access to tables and chairs. I've been collecting plates and now have enough for 30 people. You can use paper (I think I am the only one who really cares). You can mix and match - hey pull out your Christmas dishes or the stuff you received at your wedding. Go for it. I have my mom bring extra silverware.
Look at your menu and see what you can prep ahead. I have a three day list. Cranberry sauce and batch one of ice cream on Monday. Peel and chop root vegetables these I roast on the grill. Tuesday I make the second batch of ice cream and the cornbread for the stuffing. Wednesday night is the big prep night. I make my pie(s), the stuffing, the scalloped sweet potatoes and prep the turkey. Take a deep breath, relax and get a good night's sleep.
Thursday I put the turkey in the oven. When that comes out I heat all of the sides. The root veggies are on the grill. With the oven and grill full I can concentrate on the stove top dishes - mashes potatoes and my creamy Brussels sprouts. Mashed potatoes will keep really well in a bowl placed over simmering water for hours. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water below (double boiler idea). I was told that they also stay well on low in a crock pot. I am going to try that this year.
I also utilize my hubby and kids. They each get jobs - cleaning, setting the table, lugging chairs, helping cook - whatever needs to be done. I try and have all prep dishes washed and put away before guests arrive. That way I can sit back, eat a good meal and enjoy my company. Dirty dishes will wait and I have no problems piling them up once the dish washer is full. I have Friday to clean. Luckily when I host someone (usually my MIL or my hubby) does the dishes and I just have to put them away.
I love Thanksgiving because it is about family, food, comfort and giving thanks. My stress comes a month prior when my MIL tries to take this away from me but hey, that is another post.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone!