How To Win Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Planning

Alright y’all, in collaboration with my momma and momma-in-law I’ve come up with a list of tips and tricks to make your Thanksgiving dinner go smoothly so you can enjoy the time with your family! There’s a lot of info so I’m just going to jump right in.

*This page may contain affiliate links. I appreciate you fueling my coffee habit. Know that I may make a little bit of money at no extra cost to you but I would absolutely not share anything I do not believe in here!*

Planner Template

Before you get started

First, write it all out!! I’m a visual planner. This way I can see what needs to be done and nothing gets forgotten! I’ve created a printable checklist for you to use. The one I'm using here will be included in my November Newsletter. Sign up here!

Second, I like to do as much ahead of time as possible. I may work well under pressure but it is not nice to do that to those around me (you know what I’m talking about!)  This means I will plan out my guest list, menu and decor EARLY!

Third, remember your recipes don’t have to be complicated for them to taste good. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best! This is why I love doing roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, it can be prepped a day or two ahead and requires very few ingredients. And salad is an acceptable side, you don’t have to take up any oven or stove top space AND you can delegate it out to someone else (enter my nine year old.)

Because I don’t know your menu or what time you are eating I can’t effectively give you an exact timeline for the day of, but I can give you a way to figure it out. Count back from the time you want to eat. You will need at least an hour to rest and carve your turkey, and most sides cook in about 30-60 min. You want most of that in the oven so that you have your stove top (and your attention) for gravy. You can prepare the appetizers 2-3 hours before meal time. And, if you haven't already done them, get the drinks together before that and give them time to chill.

Don't forget to check out my Favorite Tools page for your kitchen tool needs!!

My General Timeline for Thanksgiving

3 Weeks Out:

Create guest list and menu, and you can shop for decor too (I’m guessing your local craft stores will have most of it marked down to make room for Christmas at this point anyway!) When you are creating the menu, keep in mind cooking time and temperature. My goal is to do as much in the oven while the turkey is resting as possible. This will make sure all is hot and ready close to the same time AND it’s passively cooking while you make the gravy on the stove top. I know oven and stove top space are in short supply so I try to maximize the time and space.

2 Weeks Out:

Confirm guest list (there is nothing worse than running out of food), finalize menu, (check for food allergies) shop for non-perishables to include food, as well as cooking and serving tools. If you haven’t already, get decor items also.

Week of:

Sunday: Thaw * That * Turkey

Remember, it takes 24 hours of thaw time for every 5lbs of bird you have. Which means you may need to start thawing sooner for a bigger bird, DO NOT undercook your turkey!

*hands down my favorite turkey recipe*

Monday: Shop, Clean, Set

Shop for the rest of your ingredients, I like to organize them in groups of what goes together; also makes it easier for me to stay on track when prep time comes.
Clean all of the serving dishes, tools, and tableware (including linens)
Go ahead and set your table.
Table Decor

Tuesday: Sweets and Labels
Most desserts can be made ahead, so go ahead and bake off your pies.
Also go ahead and cut up your heartier produce (sprouts, beans, sweet or regular potatoes can also be boiled and mashed at this point)
Label your dishes. A trick I learned recently is to designate your serving dishes with a post it! Appetizer tray, sweet potato dish, green bean dish, salad bowl. This is great for you but also if you have some extra hand on turkey day you can delegate ;)

Wednesday: Brine and Prep
Most turkey recipes these days call for you to brine them (y’all if you don’t, you should!!) The jury is out on wet or dry brine (I prefer dry) but either way you get a better flavored and more tender bird. This process is usually a 12-24 hour process.
Prep all the rest of your recipes. Make sure all the veggies are cut up, pre-cook your noodles for mac, grate your cheeses. If you are making a tea or a specialty adult beverage, put that together. You could even put together a few dishes (green bean casserole, sprouts, salad except the dressing) so all you have to do it put them in the oven or serving dishes the next day!

Be sure to check out my Favorite Tools tab for all the tools I use to make great food easier.


Start the day early enough to have time for turkey to come close to room temperature (fully if possible) before you start and a good 45-60 min for it to rest after cooking. Plus you need time to carve and make it pretty.
Once you have the turkey cooking you can start getting everything else put together. Anything that hasn’t already been prepped, do that now. And don’t forget to eat some snacks. I know you are probably saving room for the amazing meal but it’s hard to think on an empty stomach!
I don’t know about your list but nothing on my menu will take longer than about an hour (max) to heat and have ready for the meal. Depending on how many you are cooking for, these sides are all able to cook at the same time and at the same temp (generally) while your turkey is resting. If you have to, this can go in shifts. My oven is big enough to cook something while the turkey cooks, so IF you need to put something else in, you could do the mac or roasted veggies with the turkey.

Bread should be cooked last and taken out of the oven just as you’re ready to eat so it is piping hot. And real butter is the only way to go, in my opinion.

How’d I do? What would you add or take away from this? Was it helpful? What other questions do you have?