Thanksgiving Countdown: A stress-free guide to hosting for the first time

Our Thanksgiving plan guides are here to help save your holidays!  By starting your dinner planning in early November you can get the ideal ingredients for a holiday appetizer, cocktail, and side – dishes. Put up early Thanksgiving decor or arrange side dishes can cut down your Thanksgiving work. Our Thanksgiving dinner checklist will aid you in planning a good meal easily. Plan a successful Thanksgiving by following the list to plan and cook healthy meals! 

thanksgiving kid crafts

Thanksgiving planning checklist

By Three Weeks

Create your Budget

Before all the planning begins there needs to be a budget in place. Take a moment to glance at all your other expenses for that month. Come up with a number that you are comfortable with and set a limit. Keep in mind the number of guests and the items on the menu.

Plan the Menu

Craft a menu for Thanksgiving, this will come in handy once you start to purchase. Considering the number of people when you select certain dishes. Also if any of your guests have known allergies or food requests, add additional options. 

Check out all the Local Grocery Ads

My advice is to do alot of price comparisons. One item might be less expensive in one place than another. Since you made your menu, along comes a grocery list. Right after Halloween, stores will start to push for Thanksgiving-related products. First, check your cabinets to make sure that you are not buying double. Then create your grocery list. Make sure you write the name of the store and the price. Total up your list to make sure it’s still within budget. 

Invite your Guests

Send out a guest invitation at least three weeks before thanksgiving. Make sure to add as much detail to the invitation. If you want your guests to bring an item, specify desserts or drinks. You can easily send out a text message invitation for little to no cost.

Ordering a Fresh Turkey

If you decide to order a turkey from a local farm it’s best to order early. This is a great way to support your local economy. There’s one thing I would keep in mind. Alot of farms will start to sell out way before Thanksgiving. 

Check out your Thanksgiving Decor from Last Year

Pull out your old inventory of Thanksgiving decor to make sure they are still in good condition. There might be some centerpieces that are falling apart or if you want to update. Make a list of any additional items you have to buy and or replace. Add these items to your shopping list while you’re picking up all the food items.

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thanksgiving tablescape

By Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving

Plan out your Centerpiece and Table Decor

The centerpiece sets the main decor piece in the center of the table. Take time planning out what you would be placed in the center and the tablescape. Get some centerpiece ideas from Pinterest, there are a ton of DIY things you can do. Run by the DollarTree to grab a bunch of small items to add to your decor. If it cost less time and money purchase a centerpiece from TJMaxx, Etsy, or Walmart. 

Check your Kitchen Supplies and Tools

I’m sure there was that one tool last year you wished you had grabbed to make cooking easier. Make sure you have all the measuring cups, and utensils you need to cook this feast. If your can opener is on its last leg, maybe grab a new one.

Buy your Frozen Turkey

Remember your frozen Turkey needs time to thaw. Think of 24 hours for every 4 pounds. So depending on the number of guests and turkeys start shopping now.  Allow plenty enough time to defrost your Turkey. 

Figure out What Dishes your Guest are Bringing

This is very particular if you’re doing a Friendsgiving or a potluck Thanksgiving. Contact all your guests and finalize exactly what dishes they are bringing. This will save you alot of time in the long run. If there are alot of dessert options you don’t want to waste money on dessert. Make a list and update your menu. Keep the communication open and make sure everyone knows if each update is in the menu. 

thanksgiving dressed turkey

By One Week

Buy the Wine

Since you already have the food menu down, now it’s time for the drink menu. There might be some guests you confirmed are bring wine but you want to make sure that you have extras.  Drinks are consumed if not faster than food, so make sure to have plenty of red and white wines. 

Order the Flowers

Order the flowers for a delivery day to be before Thanksgiving day. A day or two before is enough time to put out the arrangement without any dying flowers. You want to make sure the flowers are fresh for the feast.

Plan out Activities for the Kids

No one likes the kidding running around the kitchen when hot things are coming out. Keep the kiddos busy by coming up with fun activities up into dinner time. Make sure they are both fun and educational. The history of thanksgiving is one educational subject to add.

Finalize your shopping list

At this point, all the shopping should be ceased. Go through your list and make sure you have everything you need. As the stores empty it will become more difficult to grab these items. Avoiding last-minute trips will save you alot of money. 

woman cutting the turkey for thanksgiving

3 Days before Thanksgiving

Clean the House

Every Time I have a large company over I like to make sure they are walking in a clean space. Two days before is the perfect time to thoroughly clean your home. You will need to do all the deep and surface clean. Vacuum the carpet, wash the linens, clear the counters. There might be some areas that have been overlooked for a while. For example, the oven could probably use a deep clean before it’s used a lot on Thanksgiving.

Tidy up the Outside of your Home

Make the outside look festive and neat. Clear out debris and rake up fallen leaves. You want the first impression to be a good one. The outside of your home and the entryway is what they will see first. Make sure the entryway has space to walk through and is tidy. Clear off coat hangers for your guests. 

Move Furniture Around for Guests

If you are inviting a large party with little space you may want to do this task. Move around Furniture to allow more space in traffic areas. Find space to add more seating. Move the actual dining table if you don’t plan to eat where it is now. Make accommodations to sit the children separately if that is best for seating. Take a look around and see what is in the way and move it. 

Prep anything that can be Frozen

This tip will save you tons of time on the actual holiday. Prep any food that you can thaw and reheat on Thanksgiving. Some ideas that come to mind are cranberry sauce, and pies. Anything that can be frozen, I would prep now and place it in the freezer. Early Thanksgiving morning take them out to defrost. 

Start Defrosting your Frozen Turkey

Depending on the weight of your Turkey it’s 24 hours for every 4 pounds. I typically defrost 3 days before Thanksgiving. So if you have a really large Turkey I would actually do this the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. Once it’s defrosted you can marinate place it in the roast pan and cover it with plastic wrap. After you wrap it let it stay in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

pumpkin pie for thanksgiving

The Day Before Thanksgiving

Plan your cooking Schedule

I’m a big planner and I like to plan every detail. Since I know there will be times when I need to use the oven or not, I need to plan my cooking times. Some people do all the sides first then the Turkey and others do Turkey first then the sides. Whatever you prefer is up to you. Just make a plan of what you are cooking first, how much time it needs, and then whatever is next. If you are going to have multiple cooks in the kitchen a plan keeps it organized. 

Make your Pies ahead of Time

Most pies can be made earlier and then reheated on Thanksgiving day. Save yourself some oven time by making all your pies early.  Put them in the freezer or fridge and thaw them out on Thanksgiving morning. Reheat them 30 minutes before dinner so they are nice and warm.

Finish All your Decorating

Decorating can take a huge chunk out of your time. Plan on doing this task the day before even down to the plate settings. Set up your dining area with linens, placemats, napkins, and silverware. Hang your fall wreaths and add any other additional autumn decor. If you have to make some nameplates, create, print, and add them to your table settings. 

Prep for your guests

Make sure there is enough, hand soap, hand towels, and toilet paper for your guest to use. You don’t want to run into an issue later on. Make sure there is some air freshener in the bathroom as well. 

Chill your Wines

If there are some wines that are best-chilled place them in the fridge the day before. White wines are good wines to have a cold. On Thanksgiving day they will be cold and refreshing.

Chop and Peel all you Veggies

If your recipes include a lot of vegetables, chopping them ahead of time is best. Place all the chopped vegetables in containers and use them on Thanksgiving day. When you try this tip, you’re going to want to do it every holiday feast. 

thanksgiving turkey in the oven

Thanksgiving Day

Place your Turkey in the Oven

The earlier the better when putting the turkey in the oven. The turkey usually takes up all the space so I would get this out of the way. Also, it takes the longest. Plan in your schedule for cooking time and reheating time if it turns cold. Preheat your oven and start roasting.

Assign Tasks

Since you already planned your cooking schedule this part should be easy. If you need help make sure everyone has something to do. It could be helping in the kitchen, spot cleaning the house, or wrangling the kids. 

Set up a pot of Coffee

If you’re cooking for 24 hours you might need it. Have some nice hot coffee to help get you back in the game. One Thanksgiving I starting cooking at 3 am and started to fall asleep.  You don’t want to burn anything, plus you have to watch everything. 

So I started making sure I had a pot of coffee ready to go. A little caffeine goes a long way when you’re up in the late hours. 

Prepare the Side Dishes:

Most of the side dishes can be done the day before. If you prepped most of these all you would have to do is place them in the oven for desired time. It’s okay if you didn’t get to prep too, just start preparing them while the turkey cooks. That way when you pull out Turkey you can start popping them in the oven. Always start with the side dish that takes the longest to cook and so on. 

Make the Gravy

Making the Gravy is the last step because you need the Turkey drippings. Even if you bought store gravy you want it to be nice and hot. After you take Turkey out use the dripping to begin making the gravy. 

Carve Turkey

Cut the turkey into pieces before the guests arrive. It’s easy to make plates when it’s all cut up already. This will save a lot of time when serving. 

Don’t stress about your Thanksgiving dinner anymore. Read through this Thanksgiving planner checklist. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and will be here before you know it. Print it out so that you can easily check stuff off your list. This list makes hosting achievable even if it’s your first time! Follow the guide step by step, and mark it on your calendar.

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