Last Updated on October 9, 2022
This Thanksgiving Guide is not only for that big holiday, it can be used for any celebration you are considering hosting. You are, after all, the best host. You can absolutely do this. Be sure and get my book, Talking Turkey, which will help you with planning and timing.
Your Thanksgiving Guide to Keeping Your Sanity
I wrote this up a few years ago but have since made some adjustments. It’s all about the prep. If you are prepared, you will have a successful and worry-free feast. You are more than welcome to download and print my thanksgiving-check-list. Have fun, and have a great Thanksgiving dinner!
The BIG DAY is coming soon. For me, this is the biggest day of the year. Why?
1. It’s right after my son’s birthday, some years only ONE day after
2. It’s right before or on Spane’s Dad’s birthday
3. It’s the first of the holidays when family and friends get together
4. It’s right before Advent
5. It’s the day that everyone expects to have really good food
7 days before the BIG DAY – Thursday
- Clean out the refrigerator. Now is the time to eliminate any science experiments and consolidate half-used jars and bottles of various things. You will need it to be neat and organized so finding things you need to cook will not be difficult. You will probably also have leftovers, and finding a place to put them is a pain when rearranging things. If you do it now, you won’t have to worry about it on Thursday.
6 days before the BIG DAY – Friday
- Eat dinner, seriously, you want to eat dinner before you perform this task.
- Make a menu of what you would like to have for your feast. If you need to find recipes, do so now. We have plenty of Thanksgiving recipes here to help you.
- Make a shopping list of the things you need on your menu. Check your now-clean refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and spice rack to see what you already have. Let’s not go broke trying to do this! With that said, if you are going to be baking, put extra flour, yeast, and sugar on your list. Even if you are not going to be baking, put extra butter on the list. If your guests are going to bring wine, put wine on the list anyway – sometimes, well-intentioned guests forget.
- Make sure you have all the serveware, cookware, and dinnerware you need to pull this off. Seriously, there is nothing worse than trying to figure out how to cook a turkey when you don’t have a big enough pan. Do you need a tablecloth, runner, napkins, placemats or decorations? Make sure you have what you need, otherwise, put it on the list.
- Art projects – if you want to make special decorations or want your children to help make them, this would be a good time to start. You and your kids can have all weekend to do this. Put it on the list if you need supplies, glue, etc.
- Make a plan of which stores you need to visit to get things on your list.
5 days before the BIG DAY – Saturday
- Eat breakfast or lunch. Seriously, you want to eat before you do this next task.
- If you have to visit a home goods store and/or art supply store, do this first and get whatever supplies, tableware, or decorations you need that are on your list.
- Go to the supermarket and buy anything on your list that will not go bad in 6 days. Don’t buy things that are not on your list. Remember, this whole site is about “Gourmet Food on a Budget”!
- If you have a frozen turkey, put the turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator so it can start slowly defrosting.
4 days before the BIG DAY – Sunday
- Stuff that can be frozen: Prepare, put into containers, freeze it, then microwave it on the Big Day. This would also be the time to make unbaked fruit pies and freeze them also.
- If you want to use a liquid brine, then prepare the brine for the turkey.
- Put the turkey in the brine.
3 Days before the BIG DAY – Monday night
- Wash dishes, serve ware, flatware, etc., by hand, then dry and put it away. That way, you won’t go nuts when trying to set the table. Also, ensure the tablecloth, napkins, runner, etc., are all clean and ready to go.
- Turn the turkey over in the brine.
- Make roll-out cookie dough. Cut cookies out, sprinkle with sugar if wanted, then layer on wax paper sheets and put in the refrigerator, making sure not to put them under the bird.
- Last-minute grocery list check. Double-check that you really have all the ingredients you need that are NOT on your list. Add extras of things you might use a lot of, like butter.
2 Days before the BIG DAY – Tuesday Night
- Go to the market and buy all the things on the list you made the night before.
- This would be the day to start if you are doing a dry brine.
- Prepare anything that can be refrigerated that will stay for at least two days, salad dressing, anything you are planning on marinating, cheese balls, or herb butter.
The day before the BIG DAY – Wednesday Night
- Buy fresh flowers if you want them on your table.
- Make cranberry sauce and chill it. Prepare refrigerated dinner rolls, and chill them. Make garlic almonds or candied nuts if you need them in any recipes. Cut up bread for croûtons if you are going to need those for salad. Cut up vegetables for a vegetable tray, and make any dip you plan to serve with it – you can put the vegetables on the tray, just cover and chill it.
- Vacuum and dust. Clean the bathroom(s).
- Set the table for tomorrow’s dinner. Tell your family not to sit at the table after you have set it.
- Clean the kitchen thoroughly, including washing the floor. You won’t have time for it tomorrow, and if you are careful, you can keep it clean. After all, you have already done a lot of the cooking.
- Put white wine in the refrigerator to chill.
- Sit down with your favorite libation, put your feet up and rest for a while before going to bed. Try to go to bed early so you will be rested on THE BIG DAY.
I hope this Thanksgiving Guide is helpful to you. Remember this when you have other events to plan. Just print and be happy!