The BEST Thanksgiving Planning Checklist

Regardless of whether it’s your first time hosting a Thanksgiving meal or you are a seasoned pro, it takes time and effort to plan the perfect family meal. There’s the décor, menu, guest list, theme, music, and the list goes on and on. Deciding on the menu alone can be a daunting task. Never fear! I have prepared my best Thanksgiving planning tips to make your family’s celebration run smoothly this year. Follow this plan for a truly memorable meal this Holiday season. Happy Holidays!

Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving:

  • Prepare a list of your dinner guests. Ask about food allergies ahead of time so that you may accommodate your guests when planning the menu.
  • Write out the menu and a shopping list (read over each recipe and make a grocery list).
  • Write out a cooking schedule and timetable. Indicate the dishes you can make ahead, those that can be frozen, and those that must be cooked at the last minute.
  • Decide whether you want to ask your guests to help you, either by bringing parts of the meal (pot luck) or by coming early to help in the kitchen. Having some help will free up time for yourself AND oven space for your own cooking.
  • Make sure your have all the kitchen equipment you will need, especially a large roasting pan for the turkey.
  • Gather décor, whether it’s making pumpkin centerpieces or dusting off the fine china. Consider theme and color, too. Upbeat and festive is best.



One Week Before Thanksgiving:

  • Clean out the refrigeratorto make room for the Thanksgiving dinner groceries and prepared dishes. I know you probably don’t want to do this, but you will thank me later.
  • Take inventory. Double-check your home to make sure you have enough of everything for everyone. Napkins, plates, serving bowls, name cards – even ice!
  • Phone any guests who have not responded so you can get a definite head count.
  • Do your shopping now and purchase all non-perishables. Wait until the day before Thanksgiving to buy salad greens, fresh breads, or seafood.
  • Purchase your frozen turkey. Put the frozen turkey in the coldest part of your freezer. To figure out how big of a turkey you need, estimate that each guest will eat about 1.3 pounds, and then round up.
  • Kiddos coming? Not to worry! Have your kids get involved planning activities such as simple board games and coloring stations for the younger guests. Get extra festive by crafting place mats in the shape of turkeys, or better yet, let the kids craft them!

4 Days Before Thanksgiving:


  • Thaw the turkey. If you’ve bought a frozen turkey, you’ll need to start thawing it. A slow thaw equals a juicy and moist turkey.


3 Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • A few days before Thanksgiving, iron table linens, designate serving platters, and make sure your glassware and utensils sparkle.
  • Prepare sauces, jellies, and dressings; store in the refrigerator.
  • Make a playlist. Play a mix of current and classic songs to appeal to your entireThanksgiving Day crowd.
  • Prepare party favors. Send guests home with something homemade to put a smile on their face.

2 Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Clean your house.The most important areas are the kitchen and bathrooms the guests will be using. Resist the temptation to redecorate or rearrange, as this will only stress you!
  • Remove frozen cheesecakes or frozen pie crust from freezer and let thaw in the refrigerator.
  • If you are making a gelatin dish, make it now and store in the refrigerator.

1 Day Before Thanksgiving:

  • Finish preparing any pies that you are making.
  • Purchase perishable items such as salad greens, fresh breads, or seafood.
  • Prepare all the ingredients for your dishes in advance, such as washing, trimming, chopping vegetables, setting out your spices and herbs, etc.
  • Set the table as far in advance as you can. Use your best dishes for special occasions.
  • Set up an extra table and chairs if more dining space is needed.

Thanksgiving Dinner Day:

  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Depending on the size of your turkey, you are going to need to start working on it 5 to 7 hours before dinner is served. Be sure to take the giblets and neck out of the inside of the turkey. Rinse the turkey in cool water, pat dry, and prepare according to your recipe.
  • Complete the vegetable dishes.
  • Make the mashed potatoes or reheat.
  • Warm breads or rolls.
  • Sit down, relax, and enjoy the company!



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