Here is a Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Checklist that is sure to make planning a Thanksgiving dinner much easier for you! Includes a FREE Thanksgiving Dinner planning printable PDF!
Family holiday dinners.
That phrase is enough to send some people into pure panic!! Could holiday dinners be a recipe for disaster? Well, don’t let them stress you out!
November has arrived and Thanksgiving is not far away. With proper planning and preparation, you can plan for your Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, and pull it off without any problem!
How to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner + Free Checklist
Before you start planning, use my free printable to help you! Download the Thanksgiving Meal Planner printable to get started!! (Sign up for the newsletter to get access to other free printables!)
Plan Your Thanksgiving Menu
Do you want to serve the traditional turkey? Or do you plan to do something non-traditional? Maybe you want to serve sirloin steaks? Or Italian? Decide what you want to serve your guests. Once you decide that, you’ll be well on your way.
First, choose your main course. Once you know what you plan to serve at the main course, you can pick side items that will pair well. (And wine!)
You may want to consider having appetizers. A cheese plate would be a great idea. Having something out for people to graze on can help if your cooking is delayed or you are running behind for any reason. It’s also just a nice touch to keep your guests entertained and busy.
One of the things I like to do at the holidays includes considering new and different ways to make food that requires various appliances.
I have a small oven, and quite frankly don’t have room for more than two things. So, I use my electric roaster for the turkey. This frees up the oven greatly.
I also have made a cheesecake in my instant pot for dessert in the past. Again, freeing up the oven. (Check out the different accessories you can get for your instant pot, including some awesome tiny cheesecake pans!) You could also use the instant pot for side dishes, such as mac and cheese or brown sugar carrots.
Related Cooking Post: Five Reasons You Need an Instant Pot
Plan for the Number of Guests You Will Have for Thanksgiving
How many people are coming over? Just four? Ten? Or is it like my family, and it will be more in the ballpark of 50? Not only consider the number of guests but how many servings each person will want. I usually try to provide at least 2 servings per person. You don’t want anyone to leave hungry.
You may consider asking the guests to pitch in as well. Maybe ask them all to bring a dessert, or make it a potluck. Even better, have them all bring a bottle of wine. You could also have them bring in appetizers to graze on as I mentioned earlier, and you can focus solely on dinner!
Once you know how many people are coming, you need to also consider where you will seat them all. Will you all seat comfortably around the dining room table? Do you need to set up other tables in the room? Go ahead and plan out the seating arrangements ahead of time as well.
Make Your Thanksgiving Shopping List
Look at each thing you’ve listed that you plan to make, take account of your number of guests, and make a shopping list. You can jot it down in the note section of the printable if you wish! Use recipes to guide your list.
Triple check your list. My biggest pet peeve is having to return to the store an additional time (or two) to pick up items I have forgotten!!
Another great idea for shopping for thanksgiving groceries is to use a local grocery pickup!! It is awesome to load up your cart online, and just pull in and let someone else load your car. Just be sure if you don’t want substitutions for anything that you specify it on your online list.
Related Shopping Posts: Kroger Clicklist Vs Walmart Grocery Pickup
Before You Shop For Thanksgiving
Hold it right there before you run out to buy those groceries! Before you go shopping, you need to clean out your refrigerator and freezer. You are going to need plenty of room to store your made ahead desserts and all your cooking prep. If you have a deep freeze, I would transfer all your freezer items to it if possible. Free up your refrigerator’s freezer.
Do Not Forget to Thaw Your Turkey!!
Trust me on this. I’m speaking from experience. Do NOT forget to thaw your turkey!
The food safety website has a great turkey thawing chart. It tells you exactly how many days ahead to thaw your turkey based on its weight.
Make as Much Food Ahead as Possible
You can make a lot of desserts a day or two before. You could also go ahead and make any side items that you could microwave and heat up the day of Thanksgiving, such as mashed potatoes.
My favorite chef, Damaris Phillips (that also happens to be from my home state of KY), has been posting all kinds of make-ahead ideas on her Instagram!! (Check those out!! I love her, and I also highly suggest you buy her cookbook.)
Set Your Table the Day Before Thanksgiving
Hopefully, you have already thought about your seating arrangements. Save time, and go ahead and set up your table before. Then, with plenty of time, you can focus on your tablescape and arranging the table the way you want it! You won’t have to worry about placing everything on the table while you are attempting to serve dinner!!!
Consider using a buffet or side table to set all the food on. You can have your guests line up and do it buffet style!
Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Dinner and Your Guests
When it comes down to it, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and appreciating all the great things you have in your life. Don’t let it get spoiled by preparing one dinner. If anything burns or doesn’t turn out, laugh it off. Be prepared as possible, try to do things ahead of time, and when it’s time to eat – sit down and do just that. Eat! Eat, enjoy your loved ones, and soak in the holiday!
Make sure you have extra containers for storage, as you may want to have some to send the extra food home!!!
I hope these tips for planning your Thanksgiving dinner help you! Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get access to my free resource library that has other printables like the free Thanksgiving meal planning worksheet!