Thanksgiving Dinner Homemade

How to Be Ready for Thanksgiving

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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. Now is the time to plan and prepare for 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. Don’t get jammed at the last minute by failing to plan ahead as needed.

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 and that’s why I decided to update this post!

How to Be Ready for Thanksgiving

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. That approach to marketing helps keep people like us 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. That way, when you go shopping 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, that non-perishable items can be bought weeks in advance! Meat Thermometer

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 out of the busy day, 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 who are not helping with the food, they’re the perfect candidates for any last-minute tidying up and setup 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 empty spots. That way you’ll have room 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. You’ll do that by placing it in the coldest part of your fridge in plenty of time.

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). I recently updated my post about how to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey. Check out that post by using the recipe link above and look for Thanksgiving recipes. I also have links towards the bottom of this post you can access.

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Prepare Any Side Dishes in Advance

Aside from the turkey, there are bound to be loads of side dishes like veggies that you’ll be serving on Thanksgiving. To make things easier for yourself, prepare any of these dishes the day before. Then you can store them in the fridge until it’s time to heat them up and serve them. This will save you a lot of stress on Thanksgiving when it comes to cooking everything in a timely manner.

Cranberry sauce, soups, stocks, mashed potatoes, squash, appetizers, and pie dough for pie crusts can all be made one or two days in advance. Then you won’t have to worry about them going bad. Your green bean casseroles and sweet potatoes can also be prepared and 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. You can also set out the salt and pepper shakers so they’re ready to go.

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, pecan pie, apple pie, or apple crumble, make sure you leave room in the oven for baking. You can also set out plates and utensils for serving them while they’re being cooked. 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’ll 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.). You can also prep your toppings, salads, and garnishes beforehand. If you’re making stuffing that requires stale bread, be sure to cut them into cubes and set them on a baking sheet at room temperature so 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)

5 from 2 votes
How To Cook A Turkey
Turkey Cooking Temperatures
Prep Time
30 mins
12 lb. Turkey
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 people
Author: Linda Loosli
  • 1 Turkey
  1. 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. Please use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast or thigh and make sure the internal temperature is (165°F) = (73°C) in the breast and (175°F) = (79°C) in the thigh.

Remember that not all ovens cook at exactly the same temperature and that altitude MAY make a difference too.

Read More of My Articles  What You Need In Your Working Pantry

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

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:

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 for the holiday as well.

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. We often take for granted what we have. 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 2023 occurs on Thursday, November 23. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag native Americans 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. They were like Mark’s and my ancestors who came here to experience 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.

Final Word

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. Always remember the many reasons why we should be thankful and share your thoughts with loved ones. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Thanksgiving Table AdobeStock_530181539 by Kristen, Thanksgiving Dinner Depositphotos_88743644_S by Bhofack2

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  1. Linda,

    These are great tips, but since it’s just the two of us, Jane and I usually just roast a chicken–though sometimes we do a turkey breast. This year we’ll have fresh, garden grown, Dragon Tongue green beans to go with our normal mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and corn (or maybe corn soufflé).

    I’ll also toss a garden grown salad (Jericho and Crispino lettuce, Pak Choi, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Detroit Dark Red beets, Scarlett Nantes Carrots, Early Girl and Sweet 100 tomatoes, De Ciccio broccoli sprouts, and clover and radish sprouts. I’ll also add store bought cucumber and celery, craisins, garbanzoes, roasted sunflower seeds and sometimes sliced oranges or mandarins. I squeeze lemon juice over it since we don’t use dressing–the juice keeps the salad fresh for days.

    1. Hi Ray, oh you know I love hearing about your garden!!! SQUEAL!! It is so fun to grow our own food. You are getting fancy on me with that corn souffle, I have never made one!! I love it!! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving! Linda

  2. I bought my turkey last week. Thank you Walmart for 99 cents a pound on that bird! I always make mashed potatoes from a recipe a friend gave me years ago. It has cream cheese and sour cream and butter of course. It freezes well for up to a month so that’s ready to go. Daughter- in-law makes the pies so that’s one thing I don’t have to think about. We have a relaxed thanksgiving at our house.

    1. Hi Paula, oh my gosh, you make your mashed potatoes a month ahead??? Can you share the recipe??? I love this idea! It’s nice when others bring pies or appetizers or side dishes!! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving! Linda

      1. Here’s the recipe for the make-ahead mashed potatoes: 6-7 medium potatoes. Peel, cook and prepare as you would for mashed potatoes. While mashing them, add 1/2 stick of butter, 3 oz.package of cream cheese, 1/2-1 cup of sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Mash until smooth and place in greased casserole dish. Dot top with more butter and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your baking dish. If freezing for up to a month ahead of time, wrap the casserole dish in foil. I thaw it in the refrigerator a couple of days ahead of baking it. Consider the size of your potatoes when adding the cream cheese and sour cream; you may need more or less. This recipe can be doubled or tripled for bigger crowds!

  3. Linda:
    Great list I just wish you had the forms separate from the article because they would have been easier to print. No offense I am getting too old to figure out what page is what. Just a hint for us of Fuddy duddies

  4. I’ve mentioned this before but when we hosted Thanksgiving. DH and I would cook the turkey and potatoes the day before that way I can get the bones out of the way and ready to make broth and soup with them. Everyone coming will do a dish to pass, coordinating with me. So it’s not all put on the hosts.

  5. I grew up at a time when my parents insisted on turkey – we raised our own and had several to sell or give away to neighbors. So, while we had all kinds of other meats raised on our farm, turkey it was. I am not a huge fan of turkey or for that matter, chicken or other poultry! Oh well!! My parents also made Thanksgiving about showing and sharing our bounty. It was so important that to my mom and dad (both raised during the Great Depression) to show off what they have accomplished in regard to raising food. I think one of the hardest things for me is to not have that bounty showing – we have plenty of food but not a lot of leftovers! Where are the mashed potatoes? the turkey sandwiches? the turkey ala king? turkey soup?  

    So, my daughter & son-in-law are hosting as they do most years. This year she was going to roast a couple of chickens but said that it would have been $60 for two roasting birds. YIKES! So instead, she is doing a brisket (one already in the freezer)! How they are cooking it is NOT up to me! I had planned stuffing and a veggie tray to contribute, and she said stuffing will always be good. I have to make it dairy free this year as some of the guests don’t eat any dairy due to health concerns. That is almost sacrilege to me!! Oh well. I was also able to find dairy free ranch dressing for dipping the veggies (just for the dairy free guests – regular ranch for everyone else!!).

    We are all (I think 14 or 15 of us) are going to hang out all day so I am also taking some appetizers to share along with lots of apple cider.

    Thanksgiving to me is family/friends, glorifying God and sharing His bounty.

    To everyone – have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you are traveling, I pray for your safety. Linda, we all appreciate you and your blog! Thank you.

    1. Hi Leanne, oh I have to have the dressing/stuffing, with gravy. If people have dietary issues we ask them to bring what they can eat. We may have 30 this year, not sure. The more the merrier, we always have plenty of food. I love hearing your story about your parents showing their bounty, what a blessing. I’m not a fan of turkey either, LOL! But I love turkey leftovers with homemade cranberry sauce and cream cheese with a little stuffing on it. My mouth is watering now, I will make enough dinner rolls for two days because we make sandwiches. We really do need to be thankful for the things we can enjoy each day and block out the news. We need a weekend filled with love, thanks you for your words. Happy Thanksgiving to all, Linda

  6. 5 stars
    We usually have “roast beast” (any good cut of beef) for thanksgiving and Christmas. I am cooking a turkey today, though, for the leftovers… lost my injector for putting butter inside so my sweet husband went to pick one up… it cost more than the turkey!!! But butter basted turkey is the best!

    1. HI Jan, thank you for the 5 stars, my sweet friend! I believe the cost of the baster cost more than the turkey! Wow, prices have soared the last few years on just about everything. Boy, a butter basted turkey sounds fabulous! Happy Thanksgiving, Linda

  7. 5 stars

    I did not receive your email with the forms. I want to print off everything not just for myself but for my daughter and daughter in Love so should the day I am no longer around they will learn from a expert YOU!

    1. Hi Jackie, it’s in this post. They will look like this:
      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

      There are three of them. Please look at the post again, they are towards the bottom. Linda

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