I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner! We seem to be barreling towards the end of the year at full speed. But I’ve always loved the holidays, so even if I feel a bit frazzled, I’m not too upset about it. :-) Speaking of feeling frazzled, I’m hoping that today’s post will give you some immunity against frazzled feelings leading up to your Thanksgiving plans!
It’s no secret that preparing for Thanksgiving dinner can be a logistical nightmare! I’ve heard from several readers in the last few weeks who were concerned about being able to get everything done leading up to the big day. I knew there must be something I could do to help, so I got to work! I was able to come up with a practical Thanksgiving prep schedule that can help us all stay organized during the coming weeks. And that’s what I’ll be sharing with you all today!
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I also went a step further by creating a couple of free Thanksgiving printables for you, including a printable copy of the schedule you’re about to read. You’ll find the links to download those printables at the bottom of this post. But before we get to those, let’s dive into that schedule! :-)
Thanksgiving Prep Checklist
Three Weeks Out:
- This week, make sure your guests have been invited! And if you’re still waiting on RSVPs, make those final calls or write those emails this week. (Be sure to find out how many adult guests and how many kid guests you’ll have!)
- Ask your guests about food allergies and dietary restrictions. This will give you plenty of time to plan for those in your menu. (Need a good pumpkin pie alternative for your gluten-intolerant guests? You can’t go wrong with this GF Pumpkin Pie Cake!)
- Once you know how many people you’ll be hosting, do a quick count to make sure you have enough place settings for everyone. You’ll need table space for each person, as well as enough chairs, plates, glasses, flatware, etc.
Two Weeks Out:
- It’s time to plan your menu! Collect your classic recipes, or hunt down new ones if you want to try something new this year! Here are some of my favorites (that also happen to be extremely easy!):
- Once you know what you’re going to make, recruit help if necessary. This will probably depend on how many guests you’ll have. But don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish! (Guests are usually happy to help out wherever they can!)
- Figure out your turkey plan. Order your fresh turkey, or buy your frozen turkey and put it in your freezer. Don’t know what size to get? A good rule of thumb is one pound per person for whole birds, and 3/4 pound per person for bone-in turkey breasts.
- Shop for your non-perishable ingredients now. Getting things like flour, sugar, canned pumpkin, cornbread mixes, and canned cranberries ahead of time will save you a lot of hassle down the road!
One Week Out:
- Start getting your table ready. You don’t have to set it up now, but you’ll want to wash your tablecloth and napkins (if necessary). You can also polish up any silverware you plan on using.
- Round up all your serving dishes and utensils, like your roaster, carving knife, platters, and any special occasion serving dishes. Wash them if necessary.
- Make sure you know when to start thawing your turkey. You’ll need to plan for at least one day of fridge thawing for every 4 pounds of frozen turkey. When in doubt, start thawing early—it’s better to have your turkey properly thawed a day ahead of time than to get behind!
- If you’re antsy and need more tasks to keep yourself busy, check out the Thanksigiving prep projects listed at the link below!
3-4 Days Before:
- Round up your cleaning crew (mine is my husband and youngest sons) and delegate any chores than need to be done. I like to tackle the kitchen, dining room, and guest bathroom so they’re ready for the big day.
- Shop for your perishable ingredients, like produce and fresh herbs.
2 Days Before:
- It’s time to start cooking! Make your pie crusts, or thaw your frozen pie crusts.
- Make pumpkin pies and custard pies now. These will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. (Fruit pies and pecan pies don’t keep as well, so hold off on making those.)
- Make dinner rolls and/or bread.
- Make things that will keep for a day or two in the fridge, including dips, salad dressings, soups, and cranberry sauce. You can even make your mashed potatoes now too!
- Assemble casserole dishes. Store your assembled sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and oven-baked stuffing/dressing in the fridge. All you’ll have to do on the big day is bake them off!
The Day Before Thanksgiving:
- Set your table with placemats, plates, utensils, and whatever else you plan to set out. (Setting up a kids’ table too? Read this post for cute and simple decoration ideas!)
- Finish any remaining baking, including fruit pies and pecan pies.
- If you ordered a fresh turkey, pick it up from the store or butcher.
- Use the printable cooking schedule provided below to jot down your cooking plan for tomorrow. Make note of which items need to be baked in the oven, which foods will go in your Instant Pot or slow cooker, etc. (Don’t forget about dishes that guests are bringing, as those may need to be warmed up at some point.)
- In the morning:
- Prepare stuffing, either to put in the bird or to bake separately.
- Get your turkey ready and get it into the oven according to your schedule.
- Get yourself ready for dinner!
- After the turkey is done:
- Tent the turkey with a big piece of tin foil. The turkey should rest for an hour or so before serving.
- Finish baking or heating your side dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, and casseroles.
- Troubleshoot any food issues that may have arisen. (Check out this post for Thanksgiving troubleshooting tips!)
- Prepare your gravy.
- Get the food into serving dishes and set it out on the table or countertop.
- Grab a plate and dig in! Let everyone know you’ll be eating first, because you deserve it! ;-)
Download The Printable Checklist & Cooking Schedule
I’ve put together a couple of free printables for you! The first is my Thanksgiving Checklist, which includes all the steps I laid out above. This handy list will help keep you on track during the coming weeks!
The other printable I have for you is a Thanksgiving cooking schedule. (I mentioned it earlier under the “Day Before” section.) This simple schedule will help you plan when each dish needs to go into the oven, Instant Pot, or wherever you’ll be cooking it. I recommend thinking about when you want the turkey to be done, and working backwards from there. (For example, if dinner is at 6, the turkey should be done at 5, which means you’ll want to put it in the oven at 1, and so on.) It takes some thought, but you’ll feel so much less stressed once you have a schedule to rely on!