Having a Thanksgiving Meal Planner can help you stay on top of the many details for Thanksgiving dinner. You can be sure to defrost the turkey in time for cooking and manage the cooking times for the various side dishes.
My inlaws are joining us for Thanksgiving Dinner this year. While 9 at the table isn’t overwhelming, I like to spread out the tasks on my Thanksgiving Dinner checklist over a number of days. I’m fortunate to have a flexible schedule as a work at home mom; you may need to move some of these tasks around to fit your schedule.
Essential Tool for Managing Cooking Times on Thanksgiving Day
This QuadTimer has four independent timers (1 minute-24 hours): all timers may be adjusted, paused, or reset independently. Meaning you can track the time for your turkey, potatoes, green beans, and one more side dish all at the same time. Running timers illuminate in green and flash red when expired.
Thanksgiving Meal Planner
- Make room in the fridge for your defrosting turkey.
- Make a menu plan for the week that relies on leftovers already in the fridge or in the freezer.
- Talk to your kids about Thanksgiving dinner and your expectations for their behavior. Sometimes kids need to be reminded that certain behaviors like burping or slurping their food are not okay when having guests for dinner.
- Defrost your turkey. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds for a turkey defrosted in the fridge.
- Wash your linens you’ll be using on Thanksgiving Day. Launder kitchen prep towels, too.
- Start collecting the serving dishes you’ll be using for Thanksgiving Dinner. I like to stack mine on the dryer in the basement. Also grab serving utensils and put them with the serving dishes.
- Review your recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand.
- Do your final food shopping. Double check your ingredient list before going.
- Make a cooking schedule for Thanksgiving. Assign jobs to family members.
- Assign hosting jobs to family members, too.
- Write out your menu plan and indicate which dishes are being brought by guests. Call your guests and find out if the dish needs cooking or reheating to be ready for dinner.
- Forgot to defrost the turkey? You can defrost it in a sink of cold water. Allow 30 minutes for each pound of turkey, changing the water occasionally. Once the turkey is defrosted, refrigerate it. (Food Safety)
- After dinner, prepare the table(s) for dinner the next day. Use this table setting diagram from Today’s Creative Blog to help you set the table quickly and efficiently. Make sure you put out trivets for hot dishes.
- Do a quick pick up of the rooms you’ll be using for entertaining the next day.
- Restock the bathroom with toilet paper if needed.
- Clear any horizontal spaces you’ll be using for staging dishes. I like to clear off our dining room buffet and set up a warming tray for dishes that need to be kept warm.
- Start your cooking schedule. Timers are your friend. I just bought a Quad-Timer which can track the time for 4 burners on a stove. (Amazon link)
- Do a quick wipe down of the bathroom and set out a towel for guests. Make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper and hand soap.
- Vacuum the rooms you’ll be using.
- If you weren’t able to set the table completely Wednesday night, finish setting the table.
- Make sure you have plenty of towels handy in the kitchen in case there’s an accident.
- Do a quick review with your kids about their jobs as hosts and their table manners. Don’t sweat it if they forget.
More Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Resources