Getting your home and food ready to host Thanksgiving can be daunting. Don’t worry, your stress-free Thanksgiving dinner checklist will keep you on track.

Your Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist

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Getting your home and food ready to host Thanksgiving can be daunting. Don’t worry, your stress-free Thanksgiving dinner checklist will keep you on track. And there are links to all of our family tradition recipes too!

pumpkins and thanksgiving feast on a table

Hosting Thanksgiving checklist

Are you planning to host your first ever Thanksgiving dinner? Let our stress-free Thanksgiving dinner checklist help you do it without stressing out about the details. 

Getting a lot of things done ahead of the big day will help eliminate the pressure on the day of your event, but if you don’t like cooking a big meal and don’t enjoy planning it out, it’s okay to order pizza or go out to dinner. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do something you just don’t enjoy doing! Decide what you want to do and make a checklist for Thanksgiving to help you get it all done.

Do you look at all the yummy goodness you want to serve on Thanksgiving and wonder how people can get all that done? 

Check out this adorable printable planner to keep your stuff straight.

Thanksgiving food checklist

PLAN PLAN PLAN! Nothing turns out well when we don’t start out with a game plan. There is no better secret to stress-free Thanksgiving than planning.

Relax! Everything is not going to turn out perfect like it does when Martha Stewart does it. That’s television, not real life. It’s airbrushed, so let that dream go. Your meal is going to be wonderful and shared with people who matter. Perfection is not what is important.

Enlist help. Make sure everyone who is coming contributes in some way. There’s no reason why mom should have to do it all. Whoever lives at your house or is coming to visit can bring something that will make your holiday easier and make them feel more like a part of the day. They don’t have to bake up a soufflé, just bringing some store-bought cookies or a beverage can help take some of the time pressure off of the hostess.

Three weeks before Thanksgiving-

Plan your menu. Decide what you want to serve. Decide what you want to cook and designate the rest to guests who are coming or someone else who lives in your house. Write a list of what you are cooking, check each recipe, and make a shopping list.

Here’s what I decided to have on the Thanksgiving menu:

Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, rolls, sweet potato casserole, broccoli, corn, green beans, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, and dessert plus iced tea to drink. You’re welcome to change the menu any way you’d like, it’s your holiday, use your traditions.

You can also assign sides for people to bring and just make roast turkey or ham and mashed potatoes and gravy. Everyone else can bring something to go on the side. There’s nothing wrong with that either. That’s how my family does it when we go to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving.

Plan out any decorating you’ll be doing and make your decorations now so you won’t have to worry about them when you’re cooking.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving-

Shop. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your goodies for two reasons. One, if you buy your turkey on Wednesday, it’s not going to have time to thaw before Thursday. Two, the closer it gets to Thanksgiving, the crazier the store will be. Avoid all the stress of a crowded shopping experience and get your stuff early.

One week before Thanksgiving-

Get that frozen turkey in the refrigerator to thaw. Put it in a pan so if the turkey bag leaks, it won’t spill all over your refrigerator. It takes about a week for the average-sized turkey to thaw.

You might need to run out and get any fresh fruits and veggies you need for the occasion, but that’s okay. It won’t be as hard as getting all the food and you can always send a family member to do it.

Do all your dusting and basic cleaning you want to get out of the way before your guests arrive. If you are having overnight guests, you can get their beds ready with fresh sheets and blankets.

If you have a guest room, you can set out towels and other necessary items for your guests to use. This way, when you are working on cooking your thanksgiving meal, everything is ready for your guests and you won’t have to think about that while you’re getting food ready.

Bake homemade rolls and put them in the freezer in an airtight container. Anything you can make ahead is a HUGE time saver. 

Bake some muffins or another easy breakfast item to serve the morning of Thanksgiving and put them in the freezer so they are ready. Make-ahead food is a great way to have a more stress-free Thanksgiving dinner. 

Here is the menu I’ve decided on for this year’s feast:  

Thanksgiving side dishes

2 days before Thanksgiving-

Bake sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole

Do any last-minute cleaning you want to finish before your guests arrive

1 day before Thanksgiving-

Cook cornbread for the dressing

Mash sweet potatoes and mix up sweet potato casserole to store in the refrigerator and have ready to pop in the oven

Bake pies or other desserts

sweet potato casserole for stress-free thanksgiving

Prepare and season the turkey and wrap it in the roasting bag in the roasting pan before bed.

Thanksgiving day-

This will be a day full of cooking. But you can still have a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner prep time. I’ll serve something easy for breakfast such as some muffins I had baked and frozen last week. My company is coming in on Wednesday evening and I’ll have some soup in the crockpot for dinner for them.

Preheat the oven to 325.

Put the turkey in the roasting pan and put it in the oven. It takes 15 minutes per pound of turkey plus about 30 minutes for the turkey to rest and the remaining dishes to cook. My bird is 15 pounds, so it will take 3 hours and 45 minutes to cook plus another 30 minutes to rest, so I need to put it in the oven 4 hours and 15 minutes before I want to serve it.

I’m planning to serve the meal at 1:00, so I need to put him in at 8:45. I prep my turkey the night before so I don’t have to rush around to do this. I will preheat the oven at 8:15 and take the turkey out to come closer to room temperature. At 8:45 I’ll be ready to get my cook on.

Serve muffins to guests.

I can listen to the festivities while I cook and it can entertain my guests. It was always a tradition to watch the parade when I was a kid. Fun memories come up when I think of it. What’s going to be in the parade this year? What is the coolest balloon? Who will be hosting? Lots of fun stuff. 

Peel and chop potatoes. Put them in a pan of salted water and place the lid on and leave at room temperature until it’s time to cook them

Set sweet potato casserole out of the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature

Chop veggies on the cutting board for cornbread dressing. Toss with cornbread crumbs and other ingredients. Set aside at room temperature until time to cook

Cook cranberry sauce and set aside

Remember, all the recipes are linked in the list above. Just click on the link to go to them and print them out. 

fresh homemade cranberry sauce in the serving dish for stress-free thanksgiving dinner

1 Hour Before Thanksgiving Dinner-

Put the potatoes on to boil. When they are done, drain them, add milk, butter, and salt, and get them mashed up

Put the sweet potato casserole in the oven to bake

Put dressing in the oven to bake

Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet to get ready to dress and roast

Get the juice from the turkey pan and strain it to make turkey gravy with the recipe linked above

Put corn, butter, and a little salt and pepper to taste in a saucepan and cook until corn comes to a boil.

Make iced tea

Toss the frozen rolls in the oven covered in foil and let warm for 5-10 minutes.

Dinner is ready. I love, love, LOVE family time and I love making special meals for them. I get super hum drum bored of everyday cooking, but when it comes to special occasions, I really enjoy putting time and effort into loving my people with food. 

It does take some planning, but it’s so worth it for the finished product. You CAN cook a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner when you have a busy life.

There is so much to be thankful for, don’t forget to take time to be grateful for blessings in your life! 

Getting your home and food ready to host Thanksgiving can be daunting. Don’t worry, your stress-free Thanksgiving dinner checklist will keep you on track.

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  1. You definitely have everything very well organized. My kids love Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I must do a good job cooking. 🙂