Make your Thanksgiving easy and stress-free! Check out this Thanksgiving Planner with so many holiday tips and tricks, and don't forget to grab your FREE printable checklist!
We have resources, so you know how to cook a moist turkey and some time-saving Thanksgiving tips!
Also, you'll want to get your house ready for guests! Finally, you'll want to know what to do with all your Thanksgiving Leftovers!
Ultimate Thanksgiving Planner
Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year and not sure where to start?
No problem! We've got you covered! With this Thanksgiving Planner, your Thanksgiving celebration will be easy and stress-free 🙂
It does take some planning, so let us show you how to tackle Thanksgiving organization like a pro, one week at a time.
4 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
- Make your guest list and decide who to invite.
- Decide on what type of Thanksgiving you want to host - formal, casual, potluck, etc. Do what works for you!
- Create a Thanksgiving Menu and then create a detailed shopping list. (see below)
- Send out invites if necessary. Either via post or electronically. Make sure you specify if (and what) they should bring.
- Place your order for a fresh turkey if that's what you're serving. The best turkey, in our opinion!
- Order a centerpiece that goes with the ambiance of your celebration, or buy supplies to make one. Here's a DIY Thanksgiving Table Decoration idea that takes very little time and effort.
3 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
- Make sure you have enough tables & chairs to seat all your guests. If you're going to have a kids' table, make sure you factor that in.
- Decide on the linens and the dishware you want to use.
- Buy any kitchen items you need. Has your potato masher gone missing, or do you need a new roasting pan? Here are all the cooking essentials you need for Thanksgiving.
What to do 2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
- Shop for any non-perishable items to beat the rush. Grab any paper products, wine, or any other items that won't go bad.
- Clean out the fridge & freezer. You need to make room for all the food and leftovers you'll have.
- Cook anything that will freeze well - pie crusts, soups, stock, etc.
- Make place cards & table decorations. Enlist the kids to help!
Here's a Thanksgiving (or Christmas) place card idea using cranberries!
1 Week Before Thanksgiving
- If you're buying a frozen turkey, now's the time. Check local supermarket ads to get the best deal.
- Review recipes and prepare a cooking schedule. This is a key step to ensure success.
- Prepare items to keep the kids busy - games, crafts, puzzles, etc. Here are some great Thanksgiving Games for kids.
- Make sure you have enough storage containers or storage bags for leftovers.
4 Days Before Thanksgiving
- Prep & clean house for guests. We have some tips on how to clean the house quickly for guests or print out our "how to get ready for guests in a hurry" checklist.
- Begin defrosting your frozen turkey if that's what you purchased. Frozen turkeys can take longer than you think to thaw.
- Decorate the house and put out non-perishable decorations like candles, pinecones, or wreaths.
2 Days Before Thanksgiving
- Buy your perishables & don't forget to get ice!
- Clean veggies and then refrigerate them.
- Chill your beverages.
- Take anything out of the freezer you made ahead to defrost.
What To Do The Day Before Thanksgiving
- Prep food that can be made ahead, like cranberry sauce. See below for ideas.
- Chop and peel all your veggies.
- Brine your turkey. We highly recommend this step and can tell you it makes a big difference if you don't want a dry bird. Here are 7 Tips for a Moist and Delicious Turkey you must read!
- Spot-clean all the rooms that you will use while you're entertaining.
- Set out serving dishes & silverware. We also recommend setting your table.
What to Prepare on Thanksgiving Day
- Fill condiment dishes like cranberry sauce and refrigerate.
- Put the turkey in the oven according to the cooking time.
- Set out appetizers and snack foods.
- Assign family members tasks like watching the kids or filling beverages for guests.
- Make all other dishes, rolls, and gravy.
- Prep coffee 20 mins before you plan on serving it.
- Enjoy your dinner, and give thanks!
Grab Your Free Printable Thanksgiving Checklist!
Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
For a traditional Thanksgiving menu, here are the most popular homemade side dishes.
Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Parker House Rolls
Mac & Cheese
Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese
What Thanksgiving Food Can you Make Ahead?
Thanksgiving dinner can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned cooks. This little step is a lifesaver! There are several recipes you can make ahead to save time and stress leading up to Thanksgiving day.
Here's a guide to what food you can make ahead:
2 Weeks Before you can make and freeze:
- Pie Crust(s)
- Cranberry Sauce
- Dinner Rolls
- Sweet Potato Casserole
2 Days Ahead:
- Dessert (pies, cakes, or cheesecake). Try out Easy Pumpkin Dump Cake.
- Roasted Vegetables
1 Day Ahead:
- Mashed potatoes
- Salads (without dressing)
- Other sides
Printable Thanksgiving Shopping List
When it's time to go shopping, you need to track what you need to buy. Here's a printable Thanksgiving shopping list, so you have everything in one place!
Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist
If you need something to help keep things organized on the day of Thanksgiving, here's a Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist.
Best Thanksgiving Treats
One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday is with cute Thanksgiving treats! The kids can help with these, and they'll bring a smile to the face of all your guests!
What Time is Best for Thanksgiving Dinner
So, we call it Thanksgiving dinner, but the feast is usually served earlier in the day. The most common times are 2-4 pm, but you can also serve it as early as noon if your turkey is done.
Eating earlier gives you time for leftovers later in the day 🙂
Essential Kitchen Supplies You Need for Thanksgiving
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Click to view these essential items for preparing a delicious Thanksgiving feast.
Your must-have Thanksgiving dinner preparation essentials!
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster
A wonderful professional-grade stainless exterior pan that's dishwasher safe.
Stainless Steel Turkey & Roast Lifters
With long handles, these lifters double as carving forks. Dishwasher safe as well.
Waterproof Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Easy to use a digital and waterproof thermometer. Great for checking meat or candy making.
Gourmet Stainless Steel Wire Masher
Ideal for mashing potatoes and vegetables. Made with ergonomic handle.
Large Serving Platters
Beautiful white platters that are microwave and dishwasher safe.
Deluxe Stainless Steel Baster with Injector and Cleaning Brush
The secret to beautiful and flavorful roasts, turkeys, and grilling meats, served moist and golden brown, is basting!
4 Cup Fat Separator
The easiest way to separate fat when it's time to make gravy. This dishwasher safe variety has all the features you need.
Classic Pie Dish
This classic pie plate has superior heat retention and looks beautiful on your table.
What Size Turkey to Get for Thanksgiving
First, we suggest ordering a fresh turkey to ensure you get the type and size you want. We can tell you from experience, the flavor difference from a frozen one is worth the extra expense!
Pro Tip: Follow the USDA food safety guidelines for thawing your turkey. Plan ahead and allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.Erin
Make sure you reserve a fresh turkey two to three weeks in advance. The supermarket or farm will have time for picking up your bird just before Turkey Day - just make sure you put it in your schedule!
As for the size of the turkey, for a large party (10 to 12 people), you'll need approximately a 15-to-20-pound turkey – figure 1½ pounds per person.
Turkeys of 12 pounds or less have a smaller meat-to-bone ratio, so if your guest list is smaller, plan for two pounds for each guest.
Remember that the larger the bird, the more likely you will have leftovers, which is a good thing in our book!
How Much to Serve At Thanksgiving Dinner
This guide should be helpful when planning your meal. Numbers are approximate.
|6 People||10 people||20 People|
|Turkey||6-7 lbs||14 - 16 lbs||24 - 28 lbs|
|Appetizer||1||2||2 - 3|
|Salad||1 green||1 green||2 (green & other)|
|Bottles of Wine||3||6||12|
How to Carve Your Turkey
Other Thanksgiving Tips
- Try making your own Homemade Turkey Soup with your roasted turkey carcass. So rich and flavorful!
- Here are the Best Tips and Tricks for Thanksgiving to help you be thankful you hosted Turkey Day this year!
- Here's what you need to know about choosing wine for Thanksgiving.
- Use your coffee thermos to keep your gravy warm. Once your gravy is done, pour it into a thermos, and it will be hot when ready to serve, or you can use your crockpot.
- Here's a quick and easy Thanksgiving Table Decoration Idea.
- Guests love this Thanksgiving appetizer.
- 7 Tips for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey.
Here's the Complete Guide for What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers. Includes how long they keep, how to store them, and how to reheat them for the best results.
Follow these Tips from the Thanksgiving Planner and make your family's celebration run smoothly this year! Don't forget to Grab Your Free Thanksgiving Checklist!
Enjoy and create some memories!
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This post was originally published on October 25, 2018. We updated it with enhanced information on October 9, 2020.
Lola Osinkolu | Chef Lola's Kitchen says
There are so many great tips here! Already pinned it! Thanks for sharing this at our Merry Monday party; I'll be including your Thanksgiving planning post in my Party Features this coming week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table says
SUCH a great resource! This is going to be so useful to keep me on schedule, organized and make the holiday stress-free!
This is truly the ultimate guide to a fabulous Thanksgiving!! I'm loving all these details and the video on how to carve a turkey is super helpful!
Thanksgiving can get overwhelming very easily. I hope this guide help relive some stress and provide some tips to make things easier.