★ 22 Nov: Stir-up Sunday ★
Today is traditionally the day to make your Christmas pudding – get started early, as they need to cook for up to six hours. Or buy one ready-made … just don't tell the neighbours.
23 Nov: Christingles
If you're feeling really keen, make Christingles, for which you will need: an orange with a red ribbon tied around it, a small candle inserted in the top, and some dried fruit or sweets (usually dolly mixtures), which are secured to the Christingle orange using four cocktail sticks. Gorgeous.
25 Nov: Freezer
Clear the freezer. You're going to need space, if only to hide all the mess before the guests arrive. Might not be a bad idea to give the fridge a clear out, too.
★ 26 Nov: Stock up early ★
Start stocking up: goose fat for the best roast potatoes, plain ﬂour (for dusting said potatoes), sliced bread that can go into the freezer for turkey sandwiches, mayonnaise, pickles, mustards, cranberry jelly in jars, peeled cooked chestnuts , and brandy for the brandy butter .
28/29 Nov: Baking weekend
Make your cake this weekend, so you've got time to soak it with brandy. For homemade mince pies you'll need mincemeat in jars, ﬂour, butter and lard. Make them now and stick them in the freezer.
30 Nov: For the aftermath
Stock up on bin liners, dustbin bags and washing-up liquid. There'll be some serious cleaning up to be done after Christmas. (But remember, if you cook, you shouldn't also clean...)
1 Dec: Temperatures
A day to consider temperatures. A meat thermometer can help prevent undercooking, and stop everybody getting drunk while the bird has an extra hour in the oven.
2 Dec: Emergency supplies
Matches, ﬁrelighters, candles,and torch batteries in case of power cuts, and perhaps some burn ointment for the kitchen drawer.
★ 3 Dec: Order the meat ★
If you haven't ordered your turkey by now, do it today. Also chipolatas, whole ham, pork joint – whatever comprises your main meal. You could also think about getting a whole or half game pie, which will keep well over the festivities.
4 Dec: Find cheap drink
Be on the lookout all month for good champagne and wine offers – they're out there. Just don't get through your stocks before the holiday starts.
5 Dec: Table decorations
Buy crackers, napkins, candles, lots of matches, paper plates, table cloths and decorations. Also cake decorations so you can cheat if you've bought one, or decorate your own.
7 Dec: Frozen peas
Buy two huge bags of frozen peas. You always need them. If not to eat, then to hold on the forehead as a cold compress.
8 Dec: Emergency pudding
Buy in plenty of vanilla ice cream. Somebody always moans about hating brandy butter.
9 Dec: Start your cheeseboard
Buy a good lump of camembert for your Christmas cheeseboard – it's cheaper than brie and will be nicely ripe by the time you need it.
10 Dec: Herbs in pots
Herbs: buy pots of growing parsley, basil, coriander and thyme. You may also need bay leaves, cinammon sticks and sage.
11 Dec: Stale bread
Don't chuck out stale bread: you'll need it for stuffing and bread sauce.
12 Dec: Get the right kit
Got enough wine glasses, plates, a sharp knife and a decent vegetable peeler?
13 Dec: Do a dry run
Have a few friends round this Sunday who you won't get to see over Christmas and do a dry run of the meal with a chicken – it's still early enough in the season for people to be excited by pigs in blankets.
14 Dec: Make your own booze
Saving money by making presents this year? You've just enough time to infuse spirits with fruits and spices to give as gifts – try good quality vodka with lemon zest and sugar syrup or whisky with sugar, cinnamon sticks and orange peel.
15 Dec: Ice
Buy and freeze bags of ice cubes before everyone runs out.
16 Dec: TV snacks
Crisps, nuts, dates, orange and lemon slices, plus chocolates in big tins to squabble over during the Doctor Who Christmas special.
17 Dec: Vegetables
Don't forget: greens, salad (try to buy it growing in a box so the leaves last longer), potatoes (twice as many as you think you'll need). Plus lemons, carrots, root vegetables and sprouts.
18 Dec: Fill the larder
Christmas Day is a Friday so you have a whole weekend of catering stretching in front of you. Stock up on dried pasta, tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and mince in the freezer. That way you're covered for surprise hungry guests when the leftovers run out.
19 Dec: Check your bird is big enough
3-4 people will need a 2.25kg turkey; 5-6 people require a 3kg bird; 7-8 get a 4kg one; 9-10 people, 5kg; 11-12 people, 6kg; 13-14 people, 7kg; 15-16 people, 8kg. Any more guests and you'll need two birds, probably two ovens and a nice lie-down afterwards in a darkened room.
20 Dec: Turkey test
Check your turkey will ﬁt into your baking tray, likewise your oven. If not? Move house.
21 Dec: Medical supplies
Buy an emergency pack of Nurofen. And some Alka-Seltzer.
Dec 22: Breakfasts
Don't forget breakfasts over Christmas. For some reason everyone is always hungry, so make sure you've got bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages and, possibly, black pudding.
23 Dec: Check the cupboards
Got enough staples like pepper, salt, kitchen towels, oven gloves and cooking oil?
★ 24 Dec: The day before ★
Collect your turkey and any other meats or ﬁsh. Make the stuffing for your bird – you can keep it in the fridge. Work out your cooking times now, and write them down, then assume you'll eat two hours later than you plan to. And whatever you do, enjoy!
★ Key days - You might be in trouble if you forget these