Tuesday, November 4

Thanksgiving Is Fast Approaching! Here's My Easy Plan Ahead Timeline

I'm a firm believer in planning ahead, hey I have already started buying Christmas gifts! It's never too early. If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends this year, advanced planning is a must. Don't let a long Thanksgiving to-do list overwhelm you at the last minute; here are some things you can do in the weeks leading up to the big day to keep your to-do list under control.

  • Look for sales at the grocery store and stock up on staple items like paper products, canned goods, any nonperishable items and decorations. Purchase some inexpensive toys for the kids in your family (there are some great deals on toys at the dollar store!) to help calm the commotion on Thanksgiving Day. Include some games like checkers or a deck of cards in a basket under the coffee table to keep teens occupied until dinner. 
  • Assess all your cooking and serving equipment. Do you have enough serving spoons, bowls, pot holders, trivets, etc.? Buy or borrow what you'll need on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Create your guest list for Thanksgiving dinner. Check with your invitees to find out if they are bringing guests with them and what food (if any) that everyone is bringing.
  • Survey your home for any needed minor repairs. If you'll be having overnight guests during Thanksgiving, inspect your guest room and other guest accommodations to make sure you have enough pillows, blankets, etc.
  • If you plan to have any food catered or prepared elsewhere for pick-up, place your orders this week, ESPECIALLY your turkey!
  • Pull out and inspect all linens and guest towels that will be in use on Thanksgiving. Launder, press or dry clean if needed. If you have a nice apron (you know the kind - frilly bottom or seasonal print) make sure it's ready to put on once your guests start arriving.
  • Stock up the beverages you'll be serving and select the music you'll be playing.
  • Purchase inexpensive plastic food containers for leftover food for your guests to take food home in.
  • If you make pie dough, make it now and freeze. Go ahead and roll it out, fill your pie plate and crimp edges. Making pies for Thanksgiving will be fast and easy if the crust is already prepared and waiting.
  • Create your menu, make a master grocery list and print it out. Keep in mind the amount of cooking surfaces that you have and cooking times when planning your menu. Plan a few dishes that can be made ahead of time. If any of your guests are bringing food, double check or assign food dishes during this step.
  • Prepare any food that can be frozen. Heavy pies and casseroles can be made ahead and frozen, like pecan pie or squash casserole. I make pans of cornbread to freeze - yes we make cornbread dressing! Gravy is also a time killer on Thanksgiving day, make it and freeze. Be sure to make extra for all of those left-overs. 
  • Sharpen all knives and polish the silver if you are using any.
  • Purge the refrigerator. Throw out the old and clean down your fridge and freezer. You will need the space in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
  • Decide what you are going to wear Thanksgiving day. Make sure it's cleaned, pressed and ready to go. TIP: I always make sure what I'm wearing is cool because I'll be in the kitchen most of the day cooking.
  • Clean house. I hate to say it, but sadly it has to be done! If you’re lucky, you’ve splurged and scheduled a cleaning service to come early this week and take care of the task. Place a new bag in the vacuum cleaner and charge the battery on the hand vacuum. Keep your home de-cluttered.
  • Take out all your dishes. Begin to run your dishes and glasses through the dishwasher. When they come out, set them on a linen dish cloths or flour sack cloths (something that won’t leave lint) and then place another towel over them.
  • Pull out your cookware. That means your roasting pan, carving board, carving knife, and any specialty pieces of cookware you do not use daily. Have them washed and ready for cooking.
  • Copy recipes. If you need to refer to recipes, make photocopies of them so your originals stay clean.
  • Set up a schedule. I am a list maker! I make a list for my menu based on timing. This way I know what is going in the oven, what’s being reheated and when.
  • Do your grocery shopping for those perishable items. Once home organize everything neatly in your fridge.
  • Make your brine. If you’re brining your turkey, you need to make your brine early enough so it can chill completely before you immerse your turkey.
  • Remove all your frozen prep items and place in the refrigerator. This includes pie crusts, turkey stock and gravy.
  • Chop and dice your ingredients. Have lots of airtight bags available for holding all your diced veggies. Don’t forget your chopped herbs for garnishes. Most herbs may be placed in airtight containers lined with a damp paper towel in the refrigerator. I even cut up lemon and lime for tea.
  • Sauté stuffing/dressing ingredients. I cook the celery, onions, sausage, etc., and once cooled, I place the combination in a labeled airtight bag in the refrigerator. The next day it only takes a few minutes to put the stuffing/dressing together and into the oven for baking.
  • Finish making pies. I use my previously frozen homemade pie crusts.
  • Prepare any vegetables or side dishes you can. I have a beautiful assortment of serving pieces that can go straight from the fridge into the oven, so I prep and place dishes in the serving piece, wrap tightly in foil, label and store in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare a veggie tray to place in the living room. I always have a tray of
    crudités ready to set out for my family when they arrive. It keeps the younger crowd from asking, "When is dinner?" I'm know for this. If it were not there, I would be questioned!
  • Set up a self-serve coffee station. I place my coffee pot along with several flavored creamers, sugar, sugar-substitutes, coffee mugs, spoons and napkins on a certain elevated table in my kitchen. 
  • Set up the buffet table. I leave nothing to chance, so I place post-it notes with what food goes in what serving piece along with serving utensils. This comes in handy when your loved ones are in the kitchen helping. It leaves no room confusion. 
  • Set the dining table. My last task is setting my table complete with floral arrangement, candles, and whatever else I have envisioned this year. This is my favorite task and a nice way to wind down the day. I like for my guest to come into my home with a beautifully set table  before the ovens are heated, pots of water begin to boil, and our celebration begins!
For any extra help, recipes, or tips you can refer to The Domestic Curator's Fall Guide. Happy Planning!


Photo Source
Top of Page - Williams-Sonoma
Bottom of Page - Our table last Thanksgiving


  1. Love this! I think a Thanksgiving schedule is as important as the recipes you choose. Thank you! ~Liz (Project Pastry Love)

    1. So true Liz! I am a list maker and LIVE off of them daily! My husband would say a little OCD!

  2. It really helps me to think out a schedule like this ahead of time. That way, I know everything I need to do and I know that if I follow my schedule, it will all get done. It takes a lot of the stress out of planning a big event like Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing with Hump Day Happenings.

    1. You are so right Jenna! I LOVE crossing things off my list and being able to enjoy my family on the big day!