Can you use some help to be ready for Thanksgiving? We all know that when it comes to hosting the perfect Thanksgiving feast, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it and the perfect timing for everything that is involved. Fortunately for you, I’ve already come up with a list to help you be ready for the big day. One of the main takeaways that I hope you glean from all of this is that it’s best to always plan ahead of time so you don’t get jammed at the last minute.
That way you’re not left scrambling around at the last minute while trying to bring all of the fine points back together. Keep reading to find out helpful tips on how to be ready this Thanksgiving so that you’re not left feeling stressed out. I just love the month of November!
How to Be Ready for Thanksgiving
Beat the Crowd
A lot of people wait until one or two days before Thanksgiving to get everything from the grocery store that they need. Grocery stores know this, which is why most of them typically run a two-week Thanksgiving ad to help keep people like you from having to stand in long lines at the checkout counter. Make sure to create a menu, check your pantry for inventory of what you have, and prepare a shopping list in advance of going shopping so you know exactly what you’ll need. This year, consider shopping for all of your holiday items a week or two prior, including your turkey (keep it in your freezer). This way you will have everything you need in plenty of time for the big turkey day! Keep in mind, non-perishable items can be bought weeks in advance!
Clean the House a Few Days Before the Celebration
There simply won’t be enough time to clean the house on Thanksgiving morning when you’re running around busy with food preparations. To help take the stress off of you, clean your house a day or two before the big day. Now’s also a great time to set up any extra tables and chairs that you may need to take care of all of your guests. On the morning of, if there are members in your family that are not helping with the food, they’re the perfect candidates for any last-minute tidying that needs to happen.
Clear Out Your Freezer
Whether it’s for all the leftovers or for preserving food ahead of time for the actual day, you’re going to need a lot more space in your freezer to handle the job. About a week before Thanksgiving, start clearing out the room in your freezer so you have a spot for your frozen pies, dinner rolls, appetizers, homemade stock, ice cubes, and anything else you might like to freeze.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Thaw Your Turkey
To thaw an entire turkey takes more time and patience than one might think. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a frozen turkey from the grocery store the day before and expect it to be ready in time. If you want it done right, start to thaw your turkey 3 days before Thanksgiving by placing it in the coldest part of your fridge. Also, setting a pan underneath it to catch the drips will keep you from having to clean up a mess in your refrigerator later. I use either an Oven Roaster (roasting pan) or an Electric Roaster Oven (check your local Walmart for a lower price).
Prepare Any Side Dishes in Advance
Aside from the turkey, there are bound to be loads of side dishes that you’ll be serving on Thanksgiving. To make things easier for yourself, prepare any of these dishes the day before and store them in the fridge until it’s time to heat them up and serve them. This will save you a lot of stress and headache on Thanksgiving day when it comes to cooking everything in a timely manner.
Cranberry sauce, soups, stocks, mashed potatoes, appetizers, and pie dough for pie crusts can all be made one or two days in advance without you having to worry about them going bad. Your green bean casseroles and sweet potatoes can also be stored uncooked in your refrigerator during this time and then bake them the day of.
Set the Table Ahead of Time
Another task that can easily be checked off your list early on is setting the table. Make sure you have all of the necessary utensils, plates, glasses, and paper or cloth napkins for each guest. If you want to add a little holiday flair, consider adding some festive decor such as a centerpiece or fall-themed place cards as table decorations. I love to set the table the day before. It’s how I roll. This is when I put out the plates with butter, so they are spreadable the next day.
Don’t Forget About Dessert
What’s a Thanksgiving feast without a scrumptious dessert or two to stuff yourselves with afterward? Whether it be pumpkin pie or apple crumble, make sure you leave room in the oven for baking any sweet treats and set out plates and utensils for serving them. And don’t forget about offering some whipped cream or ice cream on the side!
Hint to make Whipping Cream Easier
If you place your hand mixer or stand mixer whipping tools in the freezer the day before, they will make your cream whip up so much faster!
Prep Ingredients the Day Before
Make your life so much easier on Thanksgiving morning by prepping all of the ingredients that you’ll need the evening or the day before. Clean, peel, and chop your vegetables (such as carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.), and prep your toppings, salads, and garnishes. If you’re making stuffing that requires stale bread, be sure to cut them into cubes and set them on a baking sheet so that they can dry out.
Calculate Cooking Times
Unfortunately, you can only fit so much in your oven at one time. And to make matters even worse, you have a giant turkey that takes hours and hours to cook! I’d encourage you to sit down and calculate your cooking times and cooking schedule the night before. You’ll have to come up with a game plan on what can be cooked before and after the turkey, along with what’s cooking on the stovetop at the same time. That way everything is still hot and fresh when you’re ready to eat.
The key is to try and get the turkey fully cooked and ready to serve when it reaches and maintains a temperature of 165 degrees. The best way to test the temperature of the turkey is to insert a cooking thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or breast of the bird. This will allow you to get the most accurate reading.
I’ve listed below some cooking times based on weight and whether you are also cooking your stuffing “in the bird,” which the USDA frowns upon, by the way:
All cooking times are based on a minimum temperature of (325°F) = (162°C)
4 to 8 lbs = 1.5 to 3.25 hours 6 to 8 lbs. = 2.5 to 3.5 hours
8 to 12 lbs. = 2.75 to 3 hours 8 to 12 lbs. = 3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs. = 3 to 3.75 hours 12 to 14 lbs. = 3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs. = 3.75 to 4.25 hours 14 to 18 lbs. = 4 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20 lbs. = 4.25 to 4.5 hours 18 to 20 lbs. = 4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs. = 4.5 to 5 hours 20 to 24 lbs. = 4.75 to 5.25 hours
Remember that not all ovens cook at exactly the same temperature and that altitude MAY make a difference too.
Make Sure You Have Containers for Leftovers
After a day of nonstop eating, there’s still bound to be plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers hanging around. Make sure you have enough containers and plastic bags on hand for storing them in the fridge or freezer. And don’t forget about sending your guests home with some leftovers as well! It’s always a nice gesture and gives them something to look forward to for their next meal. Ziploc Leftover Containers
Relax and Enjoy Yourself
Lastly, don’t forget to relax and enjoy the time with your family on Thanksgiving day! This holiday is all about spending quality time with loved ones and giving thanks for everything that we have in our lives. So take a deep breath, share some stories and laughter, and dig into that delicious feast you worked so hard to prepare.
Print This Free Thanksgiving To-Do List
Want a free Thanksgiving to-do list? You can PRINT this PDF and get started on that to-do list right away! This PDF will help you get ready from one month ahead, up to one day ahead. This year, you won’t be behind when making your family’s favorite foods. Thanksgiving To-Do List
Print This Free Grocery List
I love lists, they keep me organized. I hope this printable helps a family or two when they go shopping for the big day. Thanksgiving Grocery List
Print This Thanksgiving Guest and Menu List
I always have to write everything down, I hope this helps a family or two this year. Thanksgiving Guest and Menu List
How to Cook a Turkey
Have you always wanted to learn How to Cook a Turkey? Make sure you follow my guide to help learn to make the perfect turkey this year! Here are some of my favorite sides:
- Our Favorite Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Ideas
- No-Fail Soft Dinner Rolls
- Easy Thanksgiving Recipes + Gravy
- How To Cook A Turkey
- Green Bean Casserole
Why do people eat Turkey on Thanksgiving?
I quote the Britannica, “As Thanksgiving became an official American holiday, national mythology formed around it. An 1841 collection of Pilgrim writing had referred to the meal described by Winslow as “the first Thanksgiving.” Although Winslow didn’t specifically mention turkey, his fellow colonist William Bradford did refer to a “great store of wild turkeys”.
It’s interesting to read about turkeys, it seems turkeys were plentiful everywhere and seemed to sit beautifully at the head of the Thanksgiving table on a large platter. So there you have it. I also read that deer meat, aka venison, was popular as well for the holiday.
Do we have to serve turkey on Thanksgiving?
Oh, I love this question, I really do. I remember last year someone telling me they were going to serve ham and another family was going to barbecue steaks. When I was growing up my mom always had a ham and a turkey. It’s all about traditions, right?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?
My favorite holiday tradition is to make some kind of craft or decoration with the family. Mark would be watching the football games while I chilled with the kids. I love holidays with my family. What is your family tradition?
One more thing after the day winds down, the meal is complete and we have some free time, we start to decorate for Christmas. It’s great to have a few extra hands to decorate for the next holiday.
We enjoy getting up early in the morning and watching the various parades that seem to be centered in New York City. It’s fun to see people dressed up as pilgrims, Native American Indians, and other important Americans who helped to make America such a great nation. We often take for granted what we have, but I’m filled with gratitude that President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation on October 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, making Thanksgiving a National Holiday.
National Thanksgiving Day
I quote History, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2022 occurs on Thursday, November 24. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.”
Who would have thought that colonists from England, and other European settlers, would come on the Mayflower and land at Plymouth Rock as they searched for the New World? I’m sure glad they had the strength and fortitude to make that trip and set the stage for others, like Mark and my ancestors to come here and make a challenging but wonderful life for themselves and others.
Why is the holiday always on the 4th Thursday of November?
I quote, The LOC.Gov “In 1939, it would have been difficult to plan your Thanksgiving dinner for 12. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. But that was not always the case. When Abraham Lincoln was president in 1863, he proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be our national Thanksgiving Day.” “After two years of confusion and complaint, President Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday in November. Roosevelt, recognizing the problems caused by his 1939 decree, announced a plan to return to the traditional Thanksgiving date in 1942.
By following these tips, hopefully, you’ll feel more prepared and ready to host the perfect Thanksgiving dinner for all of your loved ones. My hope is that you all have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving and always remember the many reasons why we should be thankful. May God Bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Thanksgiving Table AdobeStock_530181539 by Kristen