7 Thanksgiving Menu-Planning Tips

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your feast. A checklist, prepping in advance, and the right tools will let you greet the holiday season feeling prepared and confident. Use these seven steps to help you get ready for your Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Plan a Guest List

Get a general headcount at least two weeks before your dinner date. Ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions so you can plan a menu that everyone will be able to enjoy.

Thanksgiving Dinner Tablescape

2. Choose Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Once you know how many people are coming, start planning what you’re going to serve. This is a great time to also ask your guests if they want to bring any appetizers, desserts, or side dishes. Besides the main dish, which is almost always turkey, what type of side dishes are you going to serve? You can choose the traditional route or get inventive with dishes that will surprise and excite your guests.

Traditional Side Dishes:

Non-Traditional Side Dishes:

Vegetarian Side Dishes:

Thanksgiving Pies & Cakes:

Once you’ve set your menu, start planning your beverages. Have plenty of choices for the kids and consider mixing cocktails for the grown-ups. Stock up on a few large pitchers to serve them in style.


100092_Caramel Apple Cocktail_HOLIDAY18_V001_RT.psd
Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail


3. Organize Your Kitchen

Make sure your kitchen is fully prepared for the big feast. Go through your kitchen cabinets and drawers, so you’re not scrambling for tools Thanksgiving morning.

Do you have the right tools for veggie prepping like a vegetable peeler or food chopper? Do you have bakers for casseroles and stuffing? It’s also helpful to have a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or a cooking blender to make hot foods and keep them warm without taking up space in the oven. Deciding whether the slow cooker or the pressure cooker is the right tool just depends on your schedule and preferences.


Food Chopper
Food Chopper


4. Buy Your Turkey and Pantry Items Early

Beat the rush to the grocery store and get your turkey and staple items like sugar, flour, cornstarch, and seasonings about two weeks before Thanksgiving. The last thing you want to worry about is running around town looking for ingredients at the last minute. When it comes to the turkey, get approximately 1½ to 2 pounds per person. And check that the bird will fit in your freezer, fridge, and oven! Go back to the store a few days before the feast to get the rest of the fresh ingredients on your shopping list.


Turkey on Wood Cutting Board With Chef's Knife
Wood Cutting Board and 8″ Chef’s Knife


5. Plan Simple Thanksgiving Decorations

Set up your tablescape a few days before the big feast. Decide on a centerpiece or make your own and gather other decorations you need. You can’t go wrong with fake leaves, wreaths, candles, and little pumpkins. Use a Lazy Susan for a pretty charcuterie and cheese board display.

Wine and Cheese Gift Set
Wine & Cheese Gift Set


6. Prep for the Meal

The best thing you can do to help yourself on Thanksgiving is to prepare as much of the food as you can a few days before. Prep your veggies, make your pies, cut your bread for stuffing, and more. This will give you a chance to double-check that you have everything you need and still give you time to run back out if you need more ingredients.


Vegetable Prep With a Quick Slice
Quick Slice


7. Enjoy!

When the big day finally arrives, you can feel confident and relaxed about the meal ahead because you’ve prepared as much as you could. On the morning of Thanksgiving, prepare your stuffing and turkey. Timing is key. If you have dishes that will take longer to cook than the rest, get them in the oven or the slow cooker first. Then, prep any appetizers and finish the rest of your side dishes. By the time your guests arrive, you should be ready to enjoy a fun, festive day.

This post has been updated since it was originally published in October 2016.

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42 Responses to 7 Thanksgiving Menu-Planning Tips

  1. Ruth Stehling November 3, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    Don’t need anything at the moment. Thank you.

  2. Katrina Metzler November 4, 2016 at 4:35 am #

    Helpful tips for counting down to Thanksgiving. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10210158860151043&set=gm.1444333305594362&type=3&theater

  3. Tammy jacksob November 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm #


    • Sue Reynolds November 10, 2016 at 6:51 am #

      Tammy J. Please let me know if there is anything I an order for you to make your Holiday so much easier! Do you need recipes, new easy food to prepare? Can check them out on my website or contact me!

  4. Tammy jacksob November 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    Love this

    • Sue Reynolds November 10, 2016 at 6:52 am #

      Which one do you Love? What can I get for you?

      • Jerry November 5, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

        I need someone to cater my whole Thanksgiving meal, from start to fonish

    • Margit Miller November 15, 2016 at 6:50 am #

      I’m so glad that you love this link. I do too. Feel free to share it with your friends.

  5. Stacie November 15, 2016 at 2:40 am #

    This is INSANE…No one “preps”, and “adheres” to insane, and strict regimens that “Pampered Chef” pretends to adhere to. We all are capable women/men who can, and have, put Thanksgiving dinners on the table for many, many years. It is pathetic, and narrow-minded to think that Thanksgiving dinner is something as pathetic as a junior high school grade in a faux pas familial representation of a holiday. We embrace cultural differences, we embrace our beliefs of what Thanksgiving is to us, our fellow man. PLEASE do not adhere to the strict, and fringent ridicules of Pampered Chef, as we can all embrace our unity as fellow Americans!

    • paula November 15, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

      Stacie, I think you took this blog post way to seriously. This is adaptable to any and all people…if you don’t want to do it like this, that’s fine. Some people do better with a checklist, some do not. It’s all subjective, and a matter of what works for each person. These are merely suggestions, not a strict guide.

    • tonimarie maffione October 24, 2019 at 11:58 am #

      wow relax!! you’re crazy

      • Cristabell Reiche West November 8, 2019 at 11:37 am #

        They are nice to give suggestions . you don’t have to do it Don’t spoil for the ones that try to adopt others suggestions. Relax enjoy the real meaning of thanksgiving Count your Blessings.
        Crista W

        • Teresita November 13, 2020 at 12:01 pm #

          Why can’t we all just be nice? I appreciate a hint or too just to log my memory. People with those unkind remarks look pathetic and should stay off line.

    • Maggie Bond November 12, 2019 at 9:25 am #

      I prep. All of it. Takes me 3 days from start to finish. And i enjoy every minute of it. I work in kitchens professionally and when i actually have the holiday off to cook for family and friends i take my time to try new things. Cant rush the process, if you are a perfectionist like me.

      • Tricia Colson November 3, 2020 at 7:18 pm #

        I completely agree with you Maggie! I so rarely have the entire family present and want to enjoy them as much as possible so being able to complete the prep as early as possible is the key to a delicious meal and family memories!

    • Shirley November 13, 2020 at 1:08 pm #

      Helpful hints were given. Not anything to attack or go off the deep end over. Everyone is stressed and hope you can find some quiet time and enjoy the season after all we’ve been thru in 2020. Remember everyone is going thru something. Hopefully people will get back to trying to find the positive in things and care for one another. Wishing you peace & love.

    • Donna November 13, 2020 at 6:49 pm #

      Wow! Thanks for sharing your opinion with all of the Pampered Chef individuals on the feed. They are just suggestions, not hard and fast rules! Relax a bit! There are many ways to do things. Life it too short! Slow down a bit! Happy Holidays!

    • Tracie Leigh Carbajal November 14, 2020 at 9:44 am #

      I for one love any suggestions to make my life a little easier. Plus, I enjoy new recipes to possibly add each year. No need to attack Pampered Chef for your strong beliefs. Most people who don’t “agree” with certain ideas just move on, not cast out their hatred.

    • Denice November 21, 2020 at 7:42 pm #

      Stacie, maybe someone in your house can give you a hug, It feels as though you must be under a lot of stress right now. Hope you get feeling better.

    • Kelly November 16, 2021 at 3:18 pm #

      Try to remember that there are many new cooks doing their very forst Thanksgiving. These are meant to be helpful tips so people don’t get overwhelmed. 🙂

  6. Linda Clark January 1, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    I am doing this next year! Thank you for doing it!!!

    • Grandy October 31, 2019 at 6:20 pm #

      Whoa! Why so angry?!
      I think this post is very helpful to many! Especially those brand new to making their Thanksgiving feast….
      I sense you are a very sad person for some reason. I do hope you will be more open to tolerance toward others. We must all realize that although we are all human, we also are all at different places in our lives. No need to spew out so much negative toward those that are different.

      • Dianne November 17, 2019 at 7:58 pm #

        I love #7…. one of my favorite holidays. I think I do all those things in some variation. ❤

  7. Jeanne Evans November 9, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    Whoo-hooo!!! Thanks for all the information. This will help me tremendously! Thanks again, Allison Merrill

  8. Roger T. Valinoti November 25, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    I for one really liked all the suggestions as they are just that and not rules, especially liked “How to carve a Turkey”.

  9. Roger T. Valinoti November 25, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    I will be carving that Turkey this afternoon.

  10. Cendy Ide November 4, 2018 at 7:44 pm #

    I’m searching for the Pampered Chef turkey baster. Has it been discontinued?

    • Robin Gorman November 13, 2018 at 10:43 am #


      Yes the Pampered Chef turkey baster has been discontinued, but always keep your eye in the Outlet.

      • Terry Hillegass November 8, 2019 at 5:32 pm #

        Sure glad I bought my turkey Baster years ago!! It’s still doing great!!! Love it!!! They need to bring it back!

  11. Tricia Stimson November 20, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    mashed potatoes and gravy

  12. Virginia Ciaccio November 8, 2019 at 4:16 pm #

    We’re all different, & approach things in a variety of ways. There is no right or wrong way that will fit each one of us exactly. Helpful hints are just that, helpful hints meant to assist with planning & execution for a wonderful dinner experience

  13. Mimi Duncan November 9, 2019 at 11:33 am #

    Great info! Thanks! I love all my Pampered Chef products. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  14. Penny November 10, 2019 at 6:49 am #

    Love this and love the products. Just became a consultant I believe in it so well!

  15. Charity November 10, 2019 at 7:30 pm #

    Has anyone tried the pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake? Looking for something new to share with my Japanese friends and super sweet deserts are not a hit.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Cherie November 14, 2019 at 3:53 pm #

      The pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake is pretty sweet. That might not be the best dessert for them. Japanese desserts tend to be more mild on the sweetness. I did find this site that had some great ideas. https://www.thespruceeats.com/japanese-desserts-4162627 Our tools work great with many of these recipes too. Good luck!

    • Margaret November 26, 2019 at 3:51 pm #

      It was delicious – hope you enjoy it

  16. Denise Dragon November 7, 2020 at 2:33 am #

    How do I become a consultant

  17. Kerry M Laughlin November 14, 2020 at 3:42 pm #

    This list is great! I love your new stoneware…. get that manufacturing going !!! I can’t wait till March 2021…. I’m just kidding… I can wait… Love the taupe painted stoneware and the serving platters ! love the rock crock set ! love the stay warm servers in white !!! I haven’t really looked at PC for years ! nice job guys ! Entertaining & Cooking for all !

  18. Karen Davis November 22, 2020 at 9:53 pm #

    So much of my Thanksgiving menu items are prepared with the collection of Pampered Chef products I have collected over the years. They just get better with use. I am having an online party this week and am looking forward to adding to my collection.

  19. Mary August 11, 2021 at 9:07 pm #

    At 90 degrees in the shade, I’m not thinking about Thanksgiving! Christmas, maybe–made plane reservations. Maybe someone will invite me for Thanksgiving and I’ll ask what I can bring!

  20. Suzanne Brown Tuma December 23, 2023 at 8:56 pm #

    Probably 30 years ago I watched an episode of Martha Stewart where she was showing how to properly make a bed. I was aghast and offended and thought it was ridiculous. But then I realized that there weee probably a lot of people who weren’t ever taught it make their bed, or had it as a daily chore. I realized that knowledge I had acquired, even making my bed, was something that had to be re-taught to every generation.

    So I take guides like the one suggested here, as providing hints and direction for folks that have not yet had to work through these things, and are looking for guidance. And as one responder put it, a good refresher!

    Everyone is going through some kind of difficulty. Be gentle with one another.

    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

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