Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown

The holidays may look different this year with fewer guests, but hosting holiday dinners can still be stressful. To simplify things and reduce your stress, here is a countdown to help stay on track for hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

8 days before: 

  • Plan your menu 
    • Be sure to take into consideration the oven space and use of other cooking equipment, such as slow cookers or electric roasters. 
    • Decide on the size of the turkey, how to prepare it and whether you are buying a fresh or frozen turkey. 
    • Finalize items or dishes other guests are bringing.
  • Make 2 shopping lists
    • Number one: Things you can buy tomorrow 
    • Number two: Items to pick up a couple of days before Thanksgiving. 
  • Be sure to check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you already have, especially items like spices, flour, salt, pepper, and cornstarch. 
  • Don’t forget to check the expiration dates! 
  • Check for essentials like a food thermometer, potato masher or other utensils.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on

1 week before:

  • Clean out your refrigerator and freezer so you have plenty of space for the extra food, especially the turkey.
  • Do your first shopping trip 
    • Including: non-perishables, staples and a frozen turkey, if you haven’t bought it yet.

6 days before:

  • If you bought a frozen turkey, start defrosting it in the refrigerator now. It takes about 1 day for each 5 pounds of frozen turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. 
  • The last thing you want is a frozen bird on Thanksgiving morning.

Weekend before:

  • If there are dishes that you can make ahead and freeze, prepare them over the weekend so there will be less to do later in the week.

One to three days before:

  • Do your second shopping trip early in the week to get everything else you need for the Thanksgiving meal.
  • Make cranberry sauce or salad and other prep like washing and chopping vegetables, cutting bread for stuffing, and anything else that will make the week go more smoothly.
  • Start to defrost frozen dishes in the refrigerator at least two days before.
  • Make pies and any other desserts.
  • Consider making the stuffing and any casseroles the night before so they are ready to pop in the oven tomorrow.
  • Bake your desserts the night before so the oven is available for the turkey and other dishes on Thanksgiving.
  • Chill the drinks and make sure there is enough ice in the freezer.
Photo by Askar Abayev on

Thanksgiving Day: 

  • Turkey should be done at least an hour before the meal. 
    • Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
    • If carving ahead, do it about 30 minutes before dinner and cover with foil to keep warm.
    • Make gravy from the turkey drippings and keep it warm until serving time.
  • Make mashed potatoes early and keep warm in a slower cooker.
  • Cook or reheat side dishes.
  • Designate someone to set the table, fill water glasses and pitcher.
  • Get things set up for tea and coffee with dessert. Put pies in turned off ovens to warm up while you are eating dinner. 
  • If you have time, clean up the kitchen and run the dishwasher during dinner.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner!

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