If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, we have all the tips. How to plan your Thanksgiving menu, make a Thanksgiving cooking schedule, plus free printable Thanksgiving checklist and meal planner sheets!
We have hosted Thanksgiving dinner six years in a row, and have learned quite a few things along the way. I'm so happy today to share all of it with you. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is not for the faint of heart, but it can actually be really fun!
I'm not lying to you, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, I absolutely love it. The key, in my opinion, is making a plan and doing much of the preparation ahead of time. That, and make a good playlist so you can dance while you cook.
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Because I love staying organized and I believe it is the KEY to having a fun and relaxed Thanksgiving dinner, I have made some Thanksgiving meal planner printables. If you stick to a schedule and prepare beforehand, your Thanksgiving will go as smoothly as possible!
Here is my guide to preparing for Thanksgiving.
Print the Free Thanksgiving Checklist and you can add your own items to each box as well!
Four Weeks Ahead
- Finalize Guest List
- Plan your Thanksgiving Menu
- Print and Gather Recipes
- Delegate Cooking Assignments
Three Weeks Ahead
- Buy any kitchen items you will need
- Make your shopping list, separated into perishable and non-perishable groceries
- Order a Turkey, pies or any catered items you plan to order
Two Weeks Ahead
- Clean out your fridge and freezer
- Decide on serving dishes, baking dishes and table decor
- Make and freeze pie crusts and rolls (if making from scratch)
One Week Ahead
- Pick up Turkey
- Buy non-perishable groceries
Three Days Ahead
- Defrost Turkey
Two Days Ahead
- Make pie crusts and pies
- Prepare cranberry sauce and any other sides you can make ahead of time
- Cube and dry bread for stuffing
One Day Ahead
- Prepare a cooking schedule for the next day
- Set table
- Make re-heatable side dishes
- Chop vegetables, prepare garnishes, measure ingredients out, etc.
- I like to measure out as many things as I can the day before, and label the containers.
- There is no shame in buying pre-chopped vegetables or herbs from the grocery store. Time is money!
- Decide which food you will cook in which dishes, beforehand. In the case that you want to do half a batch of some side dishes, make sure you have enough small casserole dishes as well as standard 9x13's! (Find more of my favorite Thanksgiving gear below!)
Speaking of that first step...
Plan your Thanksgiving Menu
Since I host Thanksgiving most years but I only use some of these recipes once a year, I keep a dedicated Thanksgiving binder with all of my recipes and checklists in it. like to print out copies of recipes I'll be using and add them to my binder.
Printing my recipes helps me organize and make a Thanksgiving shopping list. I also like having hard copies so that I have them handy if someone offers to help with the cooking.
Bookmark recipes on your browser, pin them to your Thanksgiving Pinterest board, or print them out for your binder. Whatever is easiest for you.
Thanksgiving Meal Planner Printables
Since I use this binder every year, I wanted to give it a cute cover and side label. I made them to match the other printables so everything coordinates. Feel free to print these and use them for your binder too.
Thanksgiving Day Cooking Schedule
I cannot stress enough the importance of a Thanksgiving Day cooking schedule. Unless you have a kitchen with five ovens, some strategy is necessary. The Turkey will take up a large portion of the oven and takes hours to roast. I recommend making any sides and desserts that you can beforehand, then reheating them right before the meal!
Favorite Thanksgiving Cooking & Serving Gear
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To match the pie dish, this Mod Designs set of retro glass baking dishes is so gorgeous!
These 3-Cup Pyrex dishes are perfect for making small batches of side dishes or for keeping leftovers!
We love this Digital Meat Thermometer.
Gorgeous White Casserole Dishes.
This Roasting Pan is affordable and has great reviews.
Half Sheet Pans are a must for saving space in the oven on Turkey Day!
More Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner
Split up the Responsibilities
You can't do it all. Thanksgiving is a potluck affair for most families, and that is partly what is so great about it!
I have never hosted a gathering when guests didn't ask what they could to or bring to help. Say YES. Or while you're planning your Thanksgiving menu, go ahead and ask your guests if they have a favorite dish they'd like to share.
Typically, the host makes the Thanksgiving Turkey and a few other things. If everyone coming brings one side dish, your work is practically done! Plus, it is fun to get to try new things and see how others prepare old favorites!
Thoughtful Touches go a Long Way
It is all about the thoughtful and simple touches that show guests you care about them.
For example, one of my in-laws hates cheese. If we are making a dish with cheese, we reserve a little bit out for him, cheese-free.
Another way I love to put thought into Thanksgiving is by making a special playlist. I try to throw in songs I know my guests will like. A lot of times we have family dance parties. Maybe that's not your thing, but music always makes for a fun atmosphere. Plus it's a fun talking point!
Prepare some Thanksgiving Activities for Kids
Planning some Thanksgiving activities for kids is a must. Even if you will only have one or two children at your meal. It can be so hard preparing food (let alone visiting with friends) if the kiddos are "bored." I recommend printing some of thes coloring pages, bingo sheets, and activities to keep in your Thanksgiving meal planner binder as well! That way you have it all ready to go the day-of!
My kids love Bingo, and these Free Printable Thanksgiving Bingo sheets are a huge hit every year!
More Thanksgiving Activities for Kids
We also love this Thanksgiving I Spy Game, Don't Eat Tom (a Thanksgiving version of Don't Eat Pete) this super fun Thanksgiving Dice Game and Thanksgiving Mad Libs.
Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages
Coloring is always a hit! We love these printable coloring pages:
Pumpkin Pie Coloring Page, Count and Color Thanksgiving Printable, and this Thanksgiving Coloring Placemat
I hope these tips help you out! Happy Happy Thanksgiving!