Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility

PSA: Start thawing your Thanksgiving turkey before it's too late

WASHINGTON (SBG) -- Many Americans are getting into the holiday swing, juggling Christmas shopping, travel plans, preparing to visit relatives or have family visit them.

While you might feel like you have plenty of time to plan a Thanksgiving meal, preparations for the big day (at least when it comes to the turkey) need to start several days before the actual holiday.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are only three ways to safely thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, submerged in cold water or the microwave.

Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator is the safest way, according to the USDA, since it maintains a "consistent, safe temperature."

So, when is the right time to start thawing and how big of a turkey should you buy? Let's say you're trying to feed 25 people that day.

Several food blogs say a good rule of thumb is anticipating the average person eating around 1.25 pound of turkey on Thanksgiving. Based on that recommendation, you'll need around a 32-pound bird if you want to have enough for your guests plus leftovers.

It takes a day to thaw four to five pounds of turkey. So, to feed 25 people with a 32-pound bird, you'll need to start thawing about a week before the Thursday holiday. If you're not trying to feed 25 people, the size of your bird and thawing time can be reduced. Many websites offer helpful charts you can reference.

If you find yourself scrambling to thaw your turkey Thanksgiving morning, don't worry. You can still cook your turkey, even if it's frozen. It will just take twice as long.