Beth's Thanksgiving Day Prep Checklist

Preparing for Thanksgiving can be one daunting task! But I find if you break it down, starting the weekend before the big feast, it actually can be manageable! Here is my Thanksgiving Day Prep Checklist to keep you organized as you prepare for the biggest meal of the year!

Pomegranates, pears and bay leaves on a cutting board


The Weekend Before Thanksgiving:

  • Finalize your recipes. Collect all your magazine clippings, internet print outs, family recipe emails and place them in a file folder. This file folder will become your greatest ally over the next few days so keep it safe!
  • This is also a good time to check-in with family or friends for any dietary needs. Have any vegetarians in your family? You might like my Gardener's Pie or my Thai Red Curry.  Both would be great options for a meatless entree!
  • Then, with your recipes close at hand, create a shopping list.
  • Divide your list into grocery store departments (i.e. produce, dairy, baking etc.) This will make your trip to the store more efficient as you move through the store.
  • Take your recipe folder with you to the store. It’s helpful to refer to it if needed.
  • Buy everything that is shelf-stable such as chicken stock, canned goods, spices, wine, and baking supplies. Star any item on your list that is fresh and pick those up 3 days before.
  • Stock up on aluminum foil, plastic wrap, paper towels, dish soap, and sponges. I also like to buy a stack of high-quality paper plates for packing up leftovers for guests. Or you can get really fancy and go to a restaurant supply store and buy a sleeve of actual takeout boxes. That's a nice touch!
  • Get the house in order by doing any household tasks that can be done ahead of time such as ironing napkins, polishing silver, digging out serving platters etc.
Green Bean Casserole Made with fresh green beans.
Fresh Green Bean casserole made better with homemade creamy mushroom sauce and fresh beans.

3 Days Before:

  • Purchase your Turkey and all your fresh items at the grocery store.
  • Set your Turkey in the refrigerator to defrost. Need an easy turkey recipe? Try my roast turkey breasts which are easier than roasting a whole bird. 
  • Plan your buffet table.
  • Keep your buffet easy by concentrating on a simple theme. I like to use all white serving pieces in different shapes and sizes. White will make the food pop and alleviate the need for having to match up all the pieces to a more specific color.
  • Review the recipes in your file folder and “assign” a serving dish to each one. Stage the dishes on your table to be sure they all fit. Make adjustments where needed.
  • Write the name of the recipe to be served in the dish with a post-it note and stick it to the dish. This will help you remember where everything goes and guide well-meaning guests what to put where when they come into the kitchen to “help”.
  • Be sure each serving dish has serving forks, spoons or tongs. You don’t want to be rummaging through drawers looking for these things while the food is hot.
  • Set up your bar. Stock it with wine glasses and short and tall glasses for sodas and mixed drinks. Place your bottles, mixers and small bowls for garnishes. It helps to create a self-serve bar AWAY from the kitchen. This will keep guests self-sufficient and out of the kitchen as you prepare the food.
Vertical image of sliced turkey on a platter
Turkey Breast can be easier to prepare than a whole bird

2 Days Before:

  • Prep all the side dishes that will be reheated such as sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and stuffing if not being stuffed in the Turkey.
  • Wrap casseroles tightly in aluminum foil. Place a post-it on top of foil indicating the temperature and time needed for re-heating. This will be helpful to have in plain sight when your party is in full swing. You won't have to rummage around looking for the recipe for heating instructions.
  • Make your cranberry sauce and place it in an air-tight container and put it in the fridge.
a large casserole of corn pudding casserole
My Corn Pudding casserole is a fantastic easy side dish for Thanksgiving

1 Day Before:

  • Bake your desserts and make your homemade whip cream.
  • Create a Thanksgiving day “Run of Show”. This is basically a timeline of how the day will flow with a chronological order of everything you need to do when.
  • I like to write this up on the inside my recipe folder so everything I need is in one place. (I told you this folder would be handy!)
  • A run of show should include things like what time to put the turkey in, re-heat the side dishes, set out the appetizer platter, etc.
  • Place all wine, champagne and sodas in the refrigerator to chill overnight
  • Slice bar garnishes and place in the fridge
  • Write out place cards and design a seating plan. Store both together to remember who sits wear. Be sure to flank introverts with extroverts, split up married couples and I say ditch the kiddy table (who needs 1 more table to set?!) Integrate the kids with the grown ups. It’s how kids learn manners, family traditions and I find it makes them feel special. Just be sure each child is seated next to a favorite relative or parent who can provide a gentle hand if needed.
  • Create flower arrangements and centerpieces and put into place
  • Stock powder room with fresh towels, hand soap, and a clean waste paper basket.
Fully Baked vertical shot of the Best Apple Pie Recipe
My Foolproof Apple Pie is best made the day before!

Thanksgiving Day:                    

  • Remove turkey from the fridge and prepare the stuffing.
  • Roast turkey according to your “Run of Show” schedule and the size of your bird.
  • Create a dessert station out of the way of the kitchen with your pies, cake servers, dessert plates, forks coffee cups and spoons.
  • Empty dishwasher so it’s all ready to be loaded up when needed.
  • Keep your recipe file in the kitchen for easy access
  • Allow an “Hour for a Shower!” This is an often-overlooked detail that will leave any host feeling frazzled if it does not happen! There’s nothing worse than guests arriving at a chaotic house with the host still blow-drying her hair. There comes a time during the Thanksgiving prep where it is “Pencils down People!” and you must back away from the details and move on. A host needs to feel at their more relaxed and rested (despite everything they have put into the prep of this meal!) and allowing at least one hour to yourself is a real luxury not to be overlooked! So be sure to give yourself that, you’ve earned it.
  • Open wine bottles and place bar garnishes
  • Set music, light candles, and welcome guests!
  • And REMEMBER have fun! Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and no one will remember if the string beans were overcooked or the turkey was dry, they’ll only remember how you made them “feel” so relax have a good time and your guests will too. Seriously, folks, you’ve got this! xx
Homemade gravy in a silver gravy boat
Easy no-fuss gravy can be made with out Turkey drippings

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