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The Ultimate Guide to Prepping for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time of year when families and friends gather to enjoy a delicious meal and give thanks. But preparing for Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task, especially if you’re hosting the event. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you navigate the preparations and make your Thanksgiving celebration a success.

Two to three weeks before Thanksgiving

The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is to start early. Two to three weeks before the big day, it’s time to get ahead of the game. Here are some tasks to get started:

Make lists and plan

Start by making a comprehensive list of everything you need to do and buy for Thanksgiving. Consider your guests’ dietary restrictions and preferences when planning the menu. Make a shopping list for food and other supplies.

Buy non-perishable items

Purchase nonperishable items such as foil, cleaning supplies, and canned goods. You can also buy pumpkins, hard squash, cabbage, onions, leeks, root vegetables, lemons, cranberries, and apples at this time.

Order Precooked Meals or Turkeys

If you plan to order a prepared Thanksgiving meal or need to pre-order a turkey, it’s best to do so as soon as possible. This will ensure you get the options you want and avoid any last-minute rush.

Freezing Food

Take advantage of the extra time and freezer space by making and freezing Thanksgiving foods. Items such as bread, rolls, pie crusts, soups, and casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. This will save you time and oven space on Thanksgiving Day.

A week before Thanksgiving (Thursday and Friday)

The countdown to Thanksgiving continues, and it’s time to focus on additional preparations. Here’s what you can do:

Choosing wines and decorations

Visit the liquor store to select the wines you will serve at Thanksgiving. Consider your guests’ preferences and the dishes you’ll be serving. In addition, if you plan to decorate your home with Thanksgiving or fall-themed decorations or centerpieces, now is the time to purchase them.

Defrosting the Turkey

If you purchased a frozen turkey, calculate the thawing time based on the weight of the turkey. The USDA recommends allowing one day of thawing time in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Plan accordingly to ensure your turkey is fully defrosted and ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day.

The Weekend Before Thanksgiving (Saturday and Sunday)

The weekend before Thanksgiving is a busy time for final preparations. Here’s what to focus on:

Shopping for fresh produce

Make a shopping trip to buy fresh produce such as cauliflower, radishes, scallions, mushrooms, celery, peppers, lettuce, greens, sage, rosemary, and beverages. Consider using services like Misfits Market for convenient and fresh options.

Kitchen prep and cleaning

While you’re in the kitchen, take care of any deep cleaning. Clean your oven, wipe down cabinet doors and appliances, and give your microwave a good cleaning. Make room in your refrigerator and freezer for Thanksgiving foods and leftovers. Refill your soap dispensers to ensure you have an ample supply for Thanksgiving Day cleanup.

Three Days Before Thanksgiving (Monday)

With only three days left until Thanksgiving, it’s time to focus on the final preparations. Here’s what you need to do:

Defrosting the turkey

If you have a smaller turkey (15 pounds or less), you can start thawing it in the refrigerator on Monday. Remember to allow 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.

Preparing for Overnight Guests

If you’re expecting overnight guests, use Monday to get their rooms ready. Clean up any clutter, replace sheets with fresh ones, and stock towels, washcloths, and toiletries. Provide closet or drawer space for your guests’ belongings to ensure their comfort during their stay.

Two Days Before Thanksgiving (Tuesday)

The day before Thanksgiving, it’s time to hit the ground running. Here’s what to focus on:

Buying delicate items

While you could have bought some items earlier, now is the time to buy more delicate ingredients such as persimmons, figs, fresh green beans, and other perishable items you plan to serve on Thanksgiving.

Preparing Side Dishes

Start by preparing side dishes that can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. These include dishes such as cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and vegetable casseroles. By preparing these dishes in advance, you’ll have less to do on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day

The big day is finally here, and it’s time to put all your preparations into action. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to do:

Cook the turkey

Follow your chosen turkey recipe and start roasting the turkey early in the morning. Remember to allow enough time for it to cook thoroughly, considering its size. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches the proper internal temperature for doneness.

Finishing the Garnishes

Finish preparing any side dishes that need to be cooked or heated just before the meal. This includes heating casseroles, making gravy, and reheating prepared dishes.

Set the table

Take the time to set a beautiful table for your Thanksgiving feast. Use your best dishes, silverware, and glassware. Add a centerpiece and some festive decorations to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Enjoy the Feast

When everything is ready, gather your loved ones around the table and enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal together. Take advantage of this opportunity to give thanks and spend quality time with your family and friends.


By following this ultimate Thanksgiving preparation guide, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable holiday celebration. Starting early, planning ahead, and tackling tasks in advance will help you minimize stress and maximize your enjoyment of the day. Remember, Thanksgiving is about coming together and giving thanks, so don’t forget to enjoy the moment and the company of your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!


How far in advance should I start preparing for Thanksgiving?

It is recommended that you start preparing for Thanksgiving two to three weeks in advance. This allows you to spread out the tasks and reduce stress on the actual day.

What can I do ahead of time to make Thanksgiving easier?

There are several things you can do ahead of time to make Thanksgiving preparations easier. These include making lists and planning, buying non-perishable items, ordering prepared meals or turkeys, and freezing foods like pie crusts and casseroles.

Can I ask guests to bring dishes for Thanksgiving dinner?

Yes, it is perfectly fine to ask guests to bring menu items when they RSVP. This can help spread the workload and allow guests to contribute dishes they are good at making.

How do I defrost a frozen turkey?

Thawing a frozen turkey should be done in the refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Plan accordingly to ensure your turkey is fully thawed before cooking.

What side dishes can be made ahead of time?

Side dishes such as cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegetable casserole can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. This saves time and frees up space in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.

What should I do on Thanksgiving?

On Thanksgiving Day, focus on cooking the turkey, finishing the side dishes, setting the table and enjoying the feast with your loved ones. Take time to savor the moment and give thanks.

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