15 Ways To Save Time And Energy On Thanksgiving


If you’re hosting or helping to host a Thanksgiving dinner, things can go from slightly stressful to panic-inducing really quickly. But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way! It’s very possible to host a great Thanksgiving dinner without suffering a single emotional breakdown in the process. :-)

All it takes is a little planning, and the best time to start is right now. If you’re willing to put in some work now, and a bit more in the days leading up to your dinner, your Thanksgiving Day preparations will practically handle themselves!

Here are 15 tips to help you prepare for your best Thanksgiving yet.

15 Ways to Prep For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

1. Think Leftovers

My family always tends to go a bit overboard with the food for holiday meals. (What can I say? We’re a food-loving bunch.) But more food means more leftovers, which is never a bad thing! You can make divvying up the after-dinner leftovers quick and easy by purchasing disposable containers in advance. Restaurant supply stores offer a variety of disposable food containers for just a few cents each, or you can find disposable baking pans at the dollar store that will work just fine. You can even spruce them up with some homemade stickers or labels for a special touch!

2. Clean Out Your Fridge

Right now is a great time to take stock of everything in your fridge, and get rid of anything that’s expired, smells suspect, or could be stored elsewhere. Fridge space is precious real estate leading up to Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. Save yourself an extra project later in the month by addressing it now. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my post about organizing your refrigerator.

Read More: How to Clean and Organize Your Refrigerator


3. Set the Table

Setting the table can be a pretty big job, depending on how many guests you’ll be hosting. Save yourself some stress by doing it the day before! Set the plates, bowls, and cups on the table upside-down to make sure they stay clean overnight.


4. DIY It

Make sure to tackle any DIY projects you plan on doing well ahead of time. I like to make up place cards, just to make the meal feel extra special. If your Thanksgiving dinner is usually served buffet style, you may want to make up a few food labels to place next to each dish. I also love the idea of making some Thanksgiving-themed conversation cards, to help spark conversation and celebrate the spirit of the holiday. One of my favorite Thanksgiving DIYs in recent years were the embossed paper napkin rings I made.

5. Make A List

I start pretty much any new project or task by making a list. Not only does it help me stay organized, it eliminates the creeping paranoia that I’m forgetting something important. Get your plans on track by making a Thanksgiving checklist! Include equipment, linens, serving pieces, utensils, and other things you’ll need. Make sure to note whether you’ll need to buy an item, or if you’ll be able to borrow it.

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

6. Clean Your Linens

Don’t wait until the last minute to pull out the tablecloth you’ll be using for your Thanksgiving table. If you find some unforeseens stains, that’s one more thing you’ll have to worry about! Pull it out now and determine if it needs to be washed, dry-cleaned, or pressed. The same goes for cloth napkins, too.

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

7. Freeze Grapes

If you’ll be serving sparkling wine or cider at your Thanksgiving meal, prep some frozen grapes to use as ice cubes. They won’t water down the drink as they melt, and they look great, too! Wash and separate a bag of grapes, place them on a sheet tray, and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen grapes to a freezer bag and keep in the freezer until the big day.

8. Make Casseroles Early

One way to reduce Thanksgiving Day stress is to make and freeze your casseroles ahead of time. You can do this up to a week in advance! Thaw the in the fridge overnight before the big day, or you can cook them from frozen. (Just add 30-45 minutes to the cooking time for a large casserole, and make sure to keep an eye on it.)

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

9. Develop Flavors

Certain kinds of recipes always taste better the day after you’ve made them, like sauces, dips, and some salads. The flavors meld together when the ingredients get to spend a little time together beforehand. So plan on making those kinds of recipes the day before Thanksgiving. You’ll save yourself some stress, and it’ll taste better, too!

Read More: No More Canned Cranberries!

Ice bowls

10. Put It On Ice

What’s a dinner party without something made out of ice? ;-) Sure, your dinner party would go on just fine, but it’s fun to do something extra fancy and out of the ordinary once in a while! Rather than committing to an ice sculpture, try a pretty ice serving bowl. Keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to eat dessert, then serve something chilled inside. Oo-la-la!

11. Don’t Forget the Music

The OGT Team has hosted or helped host a number of parties and events over the past few years, and there’s one thing we never forget to bring – a good playlist. People seem surprised when I stress the importance of having music at an event, but I believe in it wholeheartedly! You don’t need to bring out the disco ball or anything, but some good tunes playing in the background will definitely help your guests loosen up and have a great time.

How to Freeze Pie Filling

12. Make Pie Fillings

You can save yourself a lot of time making fruit pies by making your fillings ahead of time. Freeze the filling in a pie tin, then transfer it to a freezer bag and save until you’re ready to make your pie. Arrange the frozen disc of pie filling in a pie pan lined with your favorite dough, and bake!

Read More: How To Make And Freeze Fresh Fruit Pie Filling

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

13. Be Your Own Prep Cook

In a restaurant’s kitchen, the prep cooks are generally the ones who prepare the ingredients that are used to cook the dishes. It would take a LONG time for you to get your food if the line cooks had to do all that work before they could cook it! You can make your own kitchen run quickly and smoothly on Thanksgiving Day by prepping your veggies the day before and storing them in the fridge. Put each ingredient in its own container or storage bag, and label it to make sure you don’t forget what its for.

14. Thaw the Turkey

Don’t forget to figure out when you need to start thawing your turkey. The general rule is that it will take one day of thawing in the fridge for every 4 pounds. Make sure to add in an extra day to your calculations if you’ll be bringing your turkey as well.

Thanksgiving Preparation Tips

15. Freeze the Gravy

To some, this may sound like a cardinal sin. Feel free to avert your eyes if you’re a gravy purist! But another way to save time before the big day is to make your gravy several days beforehand and freeze it. On Thanksgiving Day, just thaw it out, warm it up, and add in some drippings from the turkey for some extra flavor.

What’s your best tip for saving time and energy on Thanksgiving?

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee



  • You can’t make REAL gravy until the bird/roast/whatever is done. Where else would you get the drippings? My dad referred to these sorts of things, such as “instant” potatoes, Cool Whip, or freezer waffles, as “ersatz,” with the most incredible sneer …..

  • I freeze chicken stock ice cube trays then use this to make my gravy–put some in roasting pan after you take the turkey out of the pan–all the fat comes to the top–skim off–take some of the liquid now in the pan-its cold
    add cornstarch to thicken — salt pepper bring to a boil and you have gravy

  • Such practical ideas! Thank you. Throughout the year my daughter and I save containers to share with other family members to take home Thanksgiving leftovers.

  • I did it last year and I’ve already got two bags in my fridge for this time. Get some turkey wings, maybe a drumstick or two. Last year I roasted a breast in there too so we would have more leftovers Roast it as if you were doing a whole turkey Use the drippings to make your gravy. (Many good recipes on Pinterest or use your own). Put the delicious liquid gold in your sealed Foodsaver bags ur Zip lock freezer bags. I use the Foodsaver. Did you know those bags can go in boiling water to heat up, then just transfer to your gravy boats.
    I was just thinking you could roast a small turkey ahead of time. Make the gravy. Carve it up and bag. Then do another small one on Thursday morning to present on the table with all of your pre prepared meat and gravy

    I make mashed potatoes early in the day too and keep warm on low in the crockpot. Not too early. They get crispy on the bottom.

  • Did you mean brining the turkey as opposed to bringing the turkey? Just wondering as auto-correct gets me every once in a while, as well. Plus, I’m planning on brining our turkey this year.

  • Great tips! My family will be cutting the stress this year by going camping in Moab. We don’t have family in the local area and this time of year it is cooler & less crowded in our awesome National Parks!

  • Every idea here is absolutely great! Freezing ahead so many homemade things is a wonderful idea. So much of what you talked about can save the host from a meltdown on Thanksgiving Day. My favorite meal of the whole year! Do you have turkey roasting tips? I’d love to see how you do it Jillee.

    • Another do-ahead tip: make mashed potatoes as usual, with milk, butter, seasoning, etc, then transfer into muffin pans, about an inch or less of potato. Freeze them and transfer the discs into a freezer bag. On the day, place what you need into a pan and gently warm up, adding more milk if needed.
      Here in Britain there’s a popular frozen product line called Aunt Bessie’s which basically uses only traditional ingredients just like any housewife. So I figured I could freeze my own mashed potatoes, thank you very much. Great to have them in the freezer all the year round.

  • Oh! Me again!
    I value your opinion- what are your thoughts on disposable plates and silverware?
    I currently have enough for four. Should I buy, borrow, or go disposable?
    Thanks again!

  • Hi Jillee-
    Thank you for these handy tips!
    I absolutely love the frozen bowls! What do you suggest to corral the melt-off?

    (Unrelated comment: I miss Utah this time of year! I grew up in S. Cal. and spent the Holidays in Price, Sunnyside, Riverton, S. Jordan, Provo, and American Fork. Both parents are from Utah.)

    Enjoy the beauty and smells for me!

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