Here are my tips for a Thanksgiving meal plan that includes everything from recipes and grocery shopping to serving platters and name cards.
Just like I pull out the silver on holidays, I pulled all my best entertaining photos for this post : )
We are hosting Thanksgiving this year!
New house, new kitchen = a new space for the big feast. We certainly have the counter space to fit all the dishes! We are excited to entertain our families this year.
We are hoping for warm weather so we can set the table on our screened in porch, which has been a dream of mine since we built it.
Our families do Thanksgiving pot luck style where the host does the turkey but everyone brings a side or two to share. And usually people bring the same dishes that they love to make and eat each year, so we have a pretty good idea of the menu. But we still need a solid execution plan!
I know from hosting year’s past that the more organized you are, the easier the plan is to execute on the day of. So let’s chat strategy for a Thanksgiving Day timeline.
Make A Thanksgiving Meal Plan
I get a little anxious about hosting big dinners. The number of guests who come multiplied by the variety of dishes is out of my normal comfort zone.
And the number one way I can calm that anxiety is to start writing down the things I need to do and work backwards from dinner time. From cleaning to carving the turkey, here are tasks to consider in anticipation of the big day!
Get Organized For Thanksgiving
You can skip this step if you make the same menu year after year or if you’re doing a potluck event. We usually do a hybrid and divide up recipes between 3-4 families so we each contribute.
Make your grocery list
Long before you think about going, make a grocery list from all of your recipes. You might want to sort based on staples and fresh food and if you’ll need to head to more than one store. Never save grocery shopping till the last day or you might miss out on the cranberries or canned pumpkin! Also: don’t forget to thaw your turkey.
Obviously I am a huge fan of the Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board! Choose which board you’ll use (especially if you need to maximize cutting boards in the kitchen) and set out some serving spoons. You can even group your pantry ingredients for apps with the board – the crackers, nuts, dried fruit – to gather them together.
From fancy wines and a variety of grapes to non-alcoholic options for those who don’t drink, set aside a few minutes to choose which wines you’ll serve and which drinks you’ll offer. Plus decide where will they be stored on the big day. Consider a tub of ice and/or a bar cart to keep people out of the kitchen and fridge. Don’t forget to chill your white wine (chill even more than you think you might open!) and put out an opener.
Make a timeline
I find it helpful to start at dinnertime and work backwards based on how long everything takes to cook. Since the oven, stovetop, and microwave might all be in use, make sure you have dishes that can be reheated or cooked in a variety of ways. Bonus points for anything you can make the day before!
Clean + Tidy
The last thing you want to do with guests arriving is tidy up, so do this as far in advance as you can. Remove anything breakable or precious from your main areas if you’ll have kids running around. Maybe even drape a blanket on the sofa to avoid sticky fingers! Add a few special touches to your guest bathroom that folks might need while they’re visiting.
Set out serving dishes and wash them
I store my turkey platter out on display, and serving dishes in my house get quite dusty. So giving them a nice clean rinse is a must. Once they’re dry, I plan which recipe will go in which dish – down to the serving spoons!
Set the table
If you only have one dining table like we do, you might need to wait until the day of, but the more you can do in advance the better! Since the food is going to need your attention most on the day-of, the decor should come before that, if possible. At the least choose a tablecloth or runner, arrange flowers and decor, place napkins, plates and flatware, and choose glasses. Bonus: your house will look like a magazine!
We’re planning to have a kids table this year, so simple settings and/or favorites at that table need a little attention too : )
Plan name tags and games
Thanksgiving is one of the days when I love to make name tags. We have chalkboard ones, and kids love to be the ones to write the names. We also play a Thankful Game and I like to make little cards with topics that we pull out of a vase like “What is a place you’re thankful for?” or “Who is a person who has made an impact on your life?” Even just locating your deck of cards or bringing a few board games up can be a great step to get the games going! Or maybe you’re a football family – get the gear ready!
Organize your food storage containers + fridge storage
Finally, clear out the fridge of anything non-Thanksgiving themed to make space for both ingredients and leftovers. And then get all of your tupperware ready – with some tape to write on if you’ll be sending it away. You could also purchase some recyclable boxes to send food home with guests.
Have extra cranberry sauce? Make Cranberry Sauce Smoothies!
Or extra cranberries in general? Try Cranberry + Kale Chicken in the slow cooker!
Extra pumpkin? Try Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal for breakfast the next day!
Once your plan is ready, enjoy your holiday as stress free as possible! And read my recommendations for a Mindful Holiday <3