Thanksgiving Timeline: How to Get it All Done

Whether it is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or you have been hosting for years one thing is for certain, it is one holiday that you should plan ahead of time. This is a timeline of what you should do from next week until the BIG day! Once you have designed a menu, it’s time to begin preparing your timeline. If you aren’t sure where to begin here are some helpful ways to line out the next couple weeks.

Timeline for Thanksgiving

Next week

The weekend before Thanksgiving

basket of veggies

  • Shop! Plan your menu and make a detailed list of what you need to buy. Right now is when to buy vegetables that will store well like potatoes, onions, garlic, squash and sweet potatoes.
  • Cook and Freeze. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to cook everything! A lot of what you’ll be serving can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. What can you freeze ahead of time? Pie dough, gravy and soup all freeze really well.
  • Thaw your turkey! It is best to make sure that your bird is completely thawed before the big day. A 20-pound turkey can take 5 days to thaw in the refrigerator. Don’t thaw your bird in the sink; you don’t want to risk it! A good rule of thumb is to plan one day for every 4 pounds.

The week of Thanksgiving


making pie dough

  • Make ahead gravy. If you didn’t already make and freeze your gravy as I mentioned above, it’s not too late. Simply use the giblets and neck bone inside the bird and make the gravy now. You can easily refrigerate and reheat it later. Plus, if you want to make extra gravy it is easy to make more with the turkey juices once you’ve roasted it. The more gravy the better in my opinion. You don’t want to run out!
  • Prep your side dishes. Getting ahead of these will save time.. Dips, relishes and even cranberry sauce are great make-aheads and will keep well in the fridge until Thursday.
  • Assemble your stuffing. If you are making your own, set bread out to go stale.
  • Make casseroles. Cook any casserole, like sweet potatoes, and refrigerate until Thursday. Simply reheat in the oven until warmed through.
  • Construct your pie dough. Now is a good time to defrost any frozen dough or make fresh dough. Either way, it will keep in the refrigerator.
  • Go shopping again! Buy any leafy greens, green beans or asparagus now. Wash them and store them in the fridge and it will save you time on Thursday.


Place setting

  • Cook whatever else you can that will keep in the fridge until tomorrow. This will free up your time and space in the oven on Thanksgiving.
  • Assemble oven-baked stuffing. Once assembled, put it in a casserole dish and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake it.
  • If you’re brining your bird, now is the time to begin. Place your turkey in the fridge (if there is room) or in a cooler filled with ice.
  • Bake you pies! Make sure to place any custard, cream or pumpkin pies in the fridge.
  • Chill any wine or other beverages that you will be serving. If there isn’t room in the refrigerator, place them in a cooler filled with ice.
  • Set the table. You won’t want to think about doing setting the table after your guests have arrived.

Thanksgiving Day

turkey thanksgiving

  • Roast your turkey. In a 325 degree oven, roast your bird 15 minutes per pound. This means for an 18 pound turkey it’ll take about 4 ½ hours. To ensure the turkey is cooked to the proper temperature, test at the thickest part of the breast. It should read 165 degrees. You also need to check in the thickest part of the thigh, it should read 170-175 degrees. Remember to plan for an additional 30-40 minutes for the bird to rest before carving it.
  • Finish baking any pies you prepared and/or froze.
  • Make the mashed potatoes.
  • With any room in your oven, finish cooking or reheating dishes you have already prepared.
  • Cook any stovetop items while the turkey is resting.

If you’re not sure how much food to make for the big day, check out my simple tips for a plentiful Thanksgiving!

Please leave your comments below, I would love to hear from you.  Until next time, cheers!

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