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.
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:
- Butternut Squash & Apple Stuffing
- Easy Cranberry Sauce
- Easy Mashed Potatoes
- Quick Cooker Multigrain Bread
Non-Traditional Side Dishes:
- Moroccan Meatballs With Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
- Autumn Baked Ziti With Squash
- Apple, Beet & Carrot Salad
Vegetarian Side Dishes:
- Greek Potato & Green Bean Salad
- Spicy Sesame Cauliflower
- Creamy Brussels Sprouts Dip
- Quick Cooker Root Vegetable Mash
- Roasted Vegetable Salad With Cider Vinaigrette
Thanksgiving Pies & Cakes:
- Homestyle Apple Pie
- Mini Pecan Pies
- Pear Apple Spice Bundt Cake
- Quick Cooker Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.