Thanksgiving Checklist to Help You Plan, Prepare and Partake

Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner can be a big undertaking, but the following Thanksgiving checklist can help you stay on task and enjoy the day with your loved ones.  Just a heads up – this list assumes you have knowledge approximately three weeks in advance that you’ll be donning an apron on Turkey Day.  If you are finding this out in less time, simply condense tasks into a shorter timeline.

Three Weeks Before Thanksgiving

  • Make your guest list.
  • Contact and confirm attendees.
  • Determine if it’s going to be sit-down or buffet-style.
  • Confirm you have a table or multiple tables (card tables) for seating capacity as well as a place to display all food dishes.
  • Make sure you have enough place settings and chairs
  • If you don’t have enough matching plates and napkins, simply mix and match complementary colors or patterns (think bronze, gold and pumpkin shades).

Tableware Checklist:

  • Tablecloth
  • Napkins
  • Dinner plates
  • Forks, knives and spoons
  • Bowls, pots, serving trays
  • Carving knife, serving knives/spoons
  • Dessert plates
  • Coffee cups and saucers
  • Water glasses
  • Wine glasses
  • Breadbasket
  • Gravy boat
  • Trivets

Once you have a final head count, determine the recipes for your menu.  Not sure what to have?  Here’s a basic list:

  1. Turkey
  2. Gravy
  3. Mashed Potatoes
  4. Sweet Potatoes
  5. Stuffing
  6. Cranberries
  7. Green Beans
  8. Dinner Rolls
  9. Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Sweet Potato Pie
  10. Coffee
  11. Various Coffee Creamers
  12. Wine, Punch, Apple Cider
  • Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need and split them into items that you can buy now and items you’ll need to buy fresh the week of.
  • Decide how each menu item will be served and if it needs a warming tray.  If the meal is buffet-style, make sure there’s ample room for these needs.
  • Make a list of décor items such as candles, a centerpiece, gourds and more, to create a warm ambience.  The nice thing is many of these items are on sale at your local craft store!

Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving

  • Buy or order your turkey. You will want to make sure you do this ahead of time so you can get a turkey big enough for all of your guests.
  • Make a seating chart.  If you are short a few chairs, this gives you time to borrow some.
  • Clean the freezer to make room for the items you’ll be freezing.
  • Cook items that can be frozen such as pie dough, relish, gravy and broth.
  • Create a drink menu (wine, punch, cider). When buying bottles of wine, consider approximately a half bottle per guest.
  • Iron table linens, polish silver and launder sheets and towels for guests.
  • If kids are attending, dig out a few items such as board games, crafts, crayons, and more.  The kids will be kept occupied and their parents will think you are host of the year.

Weekend Before Thanksgiving

  • Sparkle and shine everything, do laundry, vacuum, etc.
  • Decorate with the autumn items you’ve gathered.
  • Buy aluminum foil and food-saving bags for guests so they can take home leftovers.
  • Wash all china and glassware and iron napkins and tablecloths.
  • If you are using card tables, add tablecloths for a seamless classy look to all of the tables.
  • Clean out your refrigerator so that you have space for the fresh groceries you’ll purchase over the next couple of days.
  • Buy any remaining non-perishable items.
  • If you don’t have your turkey yet, you’ll have to buy it this weekend so it has time to thaw.  It takes about 24 hours to thaw for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.

Monday

  • If your turkey is frozen, defrost it! 
If this is not enough time for your giant bird, you can thaw it faster in the sink with cold water.  Factor in about 30 minutes per pound of turkey and change the water about every half hour.
  • Set a cooking schedule for the rest of the week.

Tuesday

  • Beat the crowd and head to the market to purchase the fresh items on your list.
  • Buy drink items that you’ll need, seltzer, punch, cider, sugar/salt for glass rims, etc.
  • Buy any fresh flowers, or arrangements for your centerpiece if you haven’t made artificial ones.
  • Set a schedule for the big day: know the timing of when everything is going in and out of the oven and kitchen. Factor in time for any religious services or Thanksgiving volunteer events your guests may be attending.

Wednesday

  • Prepare and refrigerate desserts and side dishes.
  • Set the table, arrange seating and place any additional fall decorations throughout the house.
  • Chill beverages and make extra ice cubes if you aren’t buying a bulk bag.

Thursday (Thanksgiving Day)

  • Follow your cooking schedule.
  • Put the turkey in to roast.
  • Defrost dinner rolls and any other frozen items.
  • Complete all other dishes needed such as salad, fruit trays, etc.
  • Serve, enjoy, relax.

And there you have it…a Thanksgiving checklist to help you pull off the best Turkey dinner of all time.

(written by Victoria Araj)

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