Wednesday, November 3, 2021

List: The ultimate list for hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

As I'm sure you all already know, Thanksgiving is my absolute FAVORITE holiday!  I love the food, the colors, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the family gatherings, and the zero expectations associated with it.

Even more than the actual holiday itself, I love the preparation.  The day before Thanksgiving is my own personal holiday.  I take the day off of work, play the cheesiest holiday movies I can find, and turn my kitchen into a catering hall.  I make enough food to feed several families and then freeze half of it for future no hassle meals.  I deep clean the house and set the table in our special "Thanksgiving" way.  It's also the one day a year that I unwrap the special Lenox dish set that I inherited.  More recently, my daughter has accepted the role of Thanksgiving Apprentice.  The time spent with her is priceless.  I can keep going, but you get it.  I absolutely adore every minute of it!

That being said, here's my annual checklist that I use myself to prepare for hosting Thanksgiving!

a list of everything you need to do to have thanksgiving dinner

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The ultimate checklist to host Thanksgiving.

Three weeks before

__ Create a menu.  This should include beverages, appetizers, main course, and dessert.  

__Create a to do list for all prep work or just print out this one with added lines for each dish.

__Gather recipes where necessary.

Idea:  Store the recipes in your recipe book or box for next year too.  I love this recipe book to store all my favorite ones and the pass down to my daughter when she gets older.

__Create a full shopping list.  Separate by store and try to add prices where possible.

__Set a firm budget.  You should use your shopping list as a guide.

__Do a deep scrub of your home to prep for the big day.

__Send out informal invitations to your guest list with a designated time.

Idea:  Or be a little extra and send out these super cute turkey invitations to your guests for a visual reminder.

__Start purchasing nonperishable items weekly to lessen the burden of the full shopping.

__Purchase the turkey before the right size, brand, and price is gone.

__Double check that you have enough table space and chairs for your guests.

Idea: If you need to purchase or borrow extra chairs and tables, start asking now.  You don't want to make this a last minute scramble and suddenly people are eating on your couch.

__Start to make room in the fridge and freezer for your Thanksgiving food and leftovers.

__Request the day before Thanksgiving off of work for prep work.

Two weeks before

__Ensure that all last minute decorating of your home is done.

__Pick out your family's outfits and your apron for the big day.

__If you have an extra refrigerator or freezer, plug it in to store the extra food.

__Pull out your fine china, silver wear, and table clothes for a quick cleaning.

__Purchase the wine and other beverages you budgeted for.


__Finish all of your grocery shopping.

__If you're having overnight guests, set up the guest room and bathroom.

__Get the furry family members washed and groomed.

__Make the sauce for the stuffed shells.


__Put the turkey in the fridge to start the slow defrost.

__Make the fresh cranberry sauce and then stick it in the fridge for Thursday.

__Make the chocolate pudding pie and/or jello and then stick it in the fridge for Thursday.


__Clean, dry, and set aside all dishes, cups, and utensils that have been sitting in storage.

__Get fresh flowers and arrange them nicely for the table.

Idea:  Are fresh flowers too much work to do each year?  Try investing in a pretty centerpiece like this one with silk Sunflowers instead.  You'll be saving money each year that use it in place of fresh cut flowers.

__If needed, gather all extra tables and chairs.

__Remove and store the glass protecting your dining room table in a safe place.

__Add the leaf to your dining room table for extra space.

__Iron the table clothes.

__Put away any everyday decor that you won't be using in a safe place.

__Recruit any last minute help to prepare the meal.

__Bake the homemade pumpkin pie or dessert #1.

__Bake the homemade apple pie or dessert #2.

__Go to bed early and prepare the most hectic day of the year!


__Wake up before the sun comes up and send the kids out of the house.

__Tell Alexa to play your favorite play list.

Idea: Be prepared with aluminum half trays or oven safe trays to cook all pre-made dishes for an easy warm up.

__Prepare the stuffed shells with your homemade cheese stuffing and sauce or dish #1.

__Make the homemade stuffed mushrooms or dish #2.

__Make the sweet potato casserole or dish #3
__Make the brussel sprouts or dish #4.

__Make the butternut squash or dish #5.

__Prepare the stuffing for the turkey.

__Make the mashed potatoes or dish #6.

__Prepare the guava and cheese or dessert #3.

__Make the corn bread.

Idea:  Make them as muffins for easier serving and less crumbly cutting.

__Make the pumpkin bread.

__Make the flan or dessert #4.

__Clean the turkey and prepare it for the big day tomorrow.

__Set up all seating arrangements and folding tables.

__Set the table in the special holiday way.

__Finish all last minute cleaning and dusting.

__Charge the camcorder or camera.

__Set your alarm clock & coffee pot with enough time to cook the turkey before guests arrive.

Thanksgiving Day

__Season, dress, and stuff the turkey.

Idea:  Set multiple timers for basting and to check the temperature.  I use my Amazon Alexa for thisbecause she's literally my assistant.  Additionally, you're going to want to make sure ahead of time that you have a reliable meat thermometer like this one.  You don't want to eyeball a turkey.

__Turn on the Thanksgiving parade and relax for a moment with your cup of coffee.

__Pick up fresh Italian bread from the bakery.

__Pick up the struffoli from the bakery.

__Stop and watch Santa Claus end the parade.  

__Bread and fry the artichoke hearts or dish #7.

__Prepare the antipasto.  I use cold meats, sliced cheeses, pesto, nuts, and dried fruits.

Idea:  I plate mine on the biggest cutting board I have to save serving trays for the main course.  Mine is similar to this one and does a fabulous job of holding the antipasto and looking just as pretty empty.

__Once the turkey is cooked, cover it in tin foil.  Remove and plate the stuffing.

__Make the gravy.

__Make the salad.

__Slice, cover, and plate the bread.

__Prepare for an easy clean up after dinner.  Wash the dishes, clean the stove, and take out the trash.

__Hang some extra dish towels in an easily accessible place for the helpful guests.

__Preheat the oven to a low setting to warm up all your dishes.

__Fill the ice bucket.

__Put out beverages and don't forget to fill the water pitcher.

__Put on some calming dinner music.

__Warm up your dinner, serve, say a prayer of thanks, and feast!!

Tip:  Don't forget to put the wishbone aside so it has time to dry.

__After dinner is cleared, make the coffee and espresso.

__Heat up any desserts that should be served warm.

__Break the wishbone.

__Go around the table to say what you're thankful for.

__Be prepared with a lighthearted, fun game to play with your guests.

Idea:  We love to play Color Brain!  This game is fun for the adults and the Disney version is fun for the kiddies.

__Be aware of alcohol consumption.  You may want to order an Uber or make another pot of coffee in preparation for a sleepover.

__Make to go plates if your leftovers are real excessive.

__Don't forget to take lots of pictures to remember this day.

__After your guests are gone, take a moment to relax and count your blessings after a successful day.

__Dust off your Elf on a Shelf to greet your kids Friday morning!

Is this list a bit overwhelming?  I made it detailed because when I'm doing something, I get tunnel vision.  A detailed list helps me remember to do everything.  If you're the opposite, I created a much shorter & printable version for you below.

a list of everything you need to do to have thanksgiving dinner

What is your favorite holiday?


  1. Wow, that is one massive liiiiiiiist LOL Sounds like planning an invasion on Mars, not dindins LOL
    Our Christmas here is similar to Thanksgiving in the way that it is not about presents and decor but about family gathering around the table.

    1. I love that! I wish Christmas was more that way around here as well. Maybe we can adopt your traditions. :)

  2. Well, I only start planning a week ahead of time, but we usually only have 12 people at the table. I’ve always loved Valentines Day because it doesn’t involve me making a meal for a group of people! I prefer to dress up and go out. Also, the champagne and chocolates!

    1. Champagne and chocolates is a great argument for a favorite.

      12 people is enough people to at least need a month of planning!! Can you tell that I'm a little high strung and OCD? lol

  3. I’m exhausted just reading your list. We stopped doing large family gatherings once covid hit and I don’t miss it a bit. I do like to cook for my immediate family though, because they don’t mind that if I wing it and mess stuff up lol


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