7 Ways to Plan Ahead for Thanksgiving Dinner

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

1. Invite Your Guests

Get a general head count at least two weeks ahead of your Thanksgiving dinner so you can start planning the menu. Ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions so you can plan accordingly.

2. Plan Your Menu

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.


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Let’s not forget about the desserts. Serve a variety of options like a Homestyle Apple Pie, Mini Pumpkin Spice Cakes, and Mini Pecan Pies.

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.

Sparkling Pear & Pomegranate Sangria
Sparkling Pear & Pomegranate Sangria Served in a Family-Size Quick-Stir® Pitcher

3. Get Your Kitchen Essentials

Make sure your kitchen is fully prepared for the big feast. Do you have the right tools for veggie prepping like a vegetable peeler or food chopper? Do you have bakers for casseroles and stuffing? Go through your kitchen cabinets and drawers before the big day so you’re not scrambling for tools Thanksgiving morning.

Food Chopper
Food Chopper

4. Buy Your Turkey and Staple Items Early

Beat the rush to the grocery store and get your turkey and staple items like butter, sugar, flour, and eggs about two weeks before Thanksgiving. The last thing you want to worry about is running around town looking for some of the most essential foods for the dinner at the last minute. When it comes to the turkey, get approximately 1½ to 2 pounds per person. And be certain the bird will fit in your freezer, fridge, and oven! Go back to the store a few days before Thanksgiving 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 Your Thanksgiving Decorations

Set up your Thanksgiving tablescape a few days before the big feast. Decide on a centerpiece or make your own and gather other tabletop decorations you need. You can’t go wrong with real or fake leaves, wreaths, candles, and little pumpkins. A great way to dress up your table is with beautiful stoneware serving platters and bowls.

Thanksgiving Tablescape
Stoneware Entertaining 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. That morning, prepare your stuffing and turkey. If you have dishes that will take longer than the rest to cook, get them in the oven or the slow cooker first. Prep any pre-dinner appetizers and finish the rest of your side dishes. By the time your guests arrive, you should be ready to go and enjoy a fun and festive day.

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

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16 Responses to 7 Ways to Plan Ahead for Thanksgiving Dinner

  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 #

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

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  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.

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

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

  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.

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

    mashed potatoes and gravy

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