The Less Stress Thanksgiving Planner

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in which we give thanks for all of our blessings. The first Thanksgiving took place in the Autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. Click on the following link to read more about the First Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving by origin was a potluck meal. Both the pilgrims and Indians offered part of the meal. With that being said, when/if your guests offer to bring food or beverages, not only is this is a kind gesture and a Thanksgiving tradition, it will alleviate some of the stress on the host of having to do ALL the work! Keep that in mind when you are planning this special major holiday. Remember, the holiday is about giving thanks. If your turkey burns or one of your glass baking dishes shatters on the stove with potatoes in it (yes, this happened to me), it will not take away from the blessings in your life and spending time with family and friends. Don’t sweat it because you’ll l laugh about it one day.


The Turkey

Last year is the first year I ever brined a turkey.  The turkey had a wonderful flavor and I left it in the brine for only 8 hours or so. This is the brine recipe I used. If you are thawing a turkey and are unsure if the inside is completely thawed, brining will finish thawing it.

I only baste the covered, brined turkey hourly because the more you baste it, the more heat will come out of the oven and it will take much longer to roast. If you plan to baste every 15 minutes, plan to roast it at least one hour longer. Oven temps vary so, keep that in mind when cooking according to package directions and add some extra time. When the turkey is done roasting, it can rest covered outside of oven for up to 1.5 hrs and still be hot to serve. During the 1.5 hours your turkey is resting, which is recommended so the juices become more savory, you can bake your side dishes or reheat them if you only have one oven.

Planning Ahead

I am a proponent of planning early and completing tasks  as soon as possible because I don’t like to be stressed out closer to the event and be anxious about not getting everything done. The day before Thanksgiving, I  don’t want to be thinking about table set up  and find out I don’t have enough tables in  case I need to buy or borrow them. I don’t like to be scrambling at the last minute and being organized will help alleviate stress. Allowing plenty of time to complete tasks helps.

To minimize the stress of hosting, I’ve created a planner so that you can organize yourself weeks in advance and have a point of reference to remind yourself of what you may need to do and when. I hope this planner helps to organize your thoughts and minimize hosting stress. Have a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with the ones you love!

NOTE: For the printable version, click this link the-less-stress-thanksgiving-dinner-planners-thanksgiving-dinner-planner

Also, a sample Thanksgiving Dinner Menu is provided at the end of this post just to get you thinking. Gobble gobble!

The Less Stress

Thanksgiving Planner

3-4 weeks before

  • If your carpets need cleaning, now is the time to make the appointment.
  • Think about how many people you’ll be hosting, if you will have a sit down dinner or buffet, what food your guests will like to eat and make a budget.
  • Invite guests, keep track of RSVPs and what guests are bringing with Evite, Facebook Event, or Sign Up Genius which, is especially helpful if you are hosting a large crowd.
  • Find out how many kids are coming so you can be prepared with juice, toys, activities, and a kids’ table
  • Plan your menu around what your guests have offered to bring, if you know. Keep in mind how much oven space you have and that it may be helpful if someone brings a side dish made in their own oven.
  • Think about a delicious menu that is all encompassing- one or two meats, three or four sides (two starches and two non-starch vegetables) gravy, cranberry sauce, appetizers, dinner rolls, dessert variety, beverages, condiments, etc.
  • Decide what beverages you’ll serve-both alcoholic , non-alcoholic (include coffee, tea, creamer) and kids’ drinks.
  • If you will be hosting out-of-town guests, make a list of what you’ll be serving them for breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving Day and add it to your grocery list.
  • Write out a first draft menu including beverages.
  • Order turkey or ham if you wish to have a specific fresh turkey or Honey Baked Ham or similar.
  • Decide what tableware you’ll use-table clothes, napkins, centerpieces.
  • Make a grocery list categorized by grocery section i.e. dairy, produce, meat, bakery, etc.
  • Make a list of supplies for other retail stores i.e. Party City, Target, Costco Inc.

2-3 weeks before

  • Confirm RSVPs and contact people from which you have not received an RSVP.
  • Decide if you want to brine or fry the turkey. If so, find a brine recipe noting the brining time and add the ingredients you need to your shopping lists. If you choose to fry the turkey, research the method and ingredients you’ll need and add them to your shopping lists.
  • Peruse the recipes you will be making, check your pantry and add the ingredients you need to your grocery list.
  • Finalize menu and store lists.
  • Wash table clothes, your good dishes, serving platters, wine glasses, coolers, if needed.
  • Think about table set up. If you need to rent/borrow tables and chairs, do it now.
  • If you are having a buffet-style dinner, think about where and how you’ll set up the food. Remove extraneous small appliances and kitchen items from your counter tops to make extra space.

1 week before

  • Any planning items that have not been done prior to now, do it!
  • Peruse your recipes and make sure you have all of the ingredients you need
  • Buy non-perishable groceries, items and beverages.

Thanksgiving Monday

  • In the morning, place the frozen turkey in refrigerator if you are using one.
  • Ensure you have all ingredients (perishable and non-perishable) for your menu, including all beverages.
  • Make fresh cranberry relish if you choose not to use canned.
  • Clean your house and set up bedrooms (clean sheets, make room in closets, activities for kids) for out of town guests if applicable.

Thanksgiving Tuesday

  • Think about any ingredients you forgot and buy what you still need.
  • Make the desserts.
  • Clean your powder room, vacuum and dust any rooms where most of your guests will be congregating.
  • If there is anything else you can do on Tuesday that will alleviate the work for you on Wednesday or Thursday, do it. Don’t procrastinate.

Thanksgiving Wednesday

  • If you are brining the turkey, in the morning, make the turkey brine and place turkey inside. Here is a good brine recipe from Make or prepare appetizers, cover, and store them in a second refrigerator, if you have one.
  • Wash and cut up vegetables you’ll be using for stuffing or side dishes.
  • Prepare side dishes if they can be made ahead.
  • Set up tables and chairs

Thanksgiving Day

  • Ask a family member to decorate and help set up.
  • Have someone buy or bring ice if you need it.
  • Chill white wine and/or beer
  • Set the table(s) with table clothes, silverware, napkins, centerpieces, and light candles.
  • Make the stuffing and stuff the turkey, if applicable.
  • Make the potatoes.
  • Place turkey in oven according to package directions.
  • Make the turkey gravy from pan drippings if you are making your own gravy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help setting up, cooking, cleaning up afterward. Your closest family members will not mind helping a gracious host. Smile and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Veggie tray, Chips and dips, Cheese and crackers, Shrimp cocktail

Roasted turkey, Ham or some of both

Herb Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes or Baked Sweet Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole, Sweet corn, Glazed Carrots, or Broccoli

Bread rolls, butter

Turkey gravy

Cranberry Relish

White wine and/or beer

Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Soft Drinks, Water

Coffee, Tea

Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie a la mode, or Cherry Pie


Fresh fruit


8 Comments Add yours

  1. What a thorough plan! I love how detailed it is. I am planning to host my husband’s family for Thanksgiving, so the week-by-week idea of planning is very helpful 🙂


    1. I just wished I would have realized that it is only 3 weeks and 2 days from now. I should have posted this planner last week! Good luck with hosting! I hope the planner helps you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. alexandra says:

    Thank you so much for making this a printable version as well! I’m not sure if we’re hosting yet this year… but I have a funny feeling we will.


    1. Thanks. I hope I covered most tasks. If you want to refer back to it, pin it! Good luck hosting!


  3. This is my first time hosting the Big Dinner. We’ve cooked/prepared the whole dinner before, but brought it elsewhere. Having this timeline is a HUGE help for me. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. THANKSGIVING IS MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR! I have count-downs for it the day after Thanksgiving happens. LOL!!! This year though is going to be very different for me as I will not be spending it at home. And I will not be a single woman! I will be with my NEW HUSBAND!!! And we will be staying in Los Angeles!!


    1. I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving and that this planner helps to keep it organized and special for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for providing a planner! Planning makes things run a lot smoother around the holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

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