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Thanksgiving Timeline Checklist: Stress-Free Planning

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Thanksgiving can be one of the most stressful days of the year, but with this Thanksgiving Timeline , it can actually run super smoothly. Make Thanksgiving a festive day, filled with laughs, memory-making, and a delicious feast. Don’t forget to leave the stress at the door. If you don’t properly prepare your day you run the risk for last-minute stress. As Thanksgiving draws closer, you should start creating a Thanksgiving timeline to help you plan out exactly what you need to do to get ready for the PERFECT Thanksgiving. Using this Thanksgiving timeline will help ease the stress of the most delicious day of the year!

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, you are in luck and you can start right here! The Thanksgiving Timeline and Checklist is an essential holiday tool that I use each year to assist with my stress- free planning, and you better believe I am thankful for it.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Timeline

3-4 Weeks Until Thanksgiving

  • Make a guest list of friends and family you plan to invite
  • Call/Email to invite everyone on your list
  • Outline your menu – start thinking about what you are going to make, what you are going to ask people to make and if you plan to cater any part of your meal
  • Go through your decor, china, cooking tools, silverware, glassware, serving pieces and whatever else you might need to host this year
  • Create a list of things you may need to purchase (take pictures and save receipts, better safe than sorry)
  • 3 weeks out is the perfect time to start purchasing items from your inventory list. Try not to leave this task to the last minute as it will cause stress if you can’t find what you need
  • Begin deep cleaning your home – the more cleaning you do now the less you will have to do as Thanksgiving draws near

2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving

  • Test new recipes if you plan in making something different this year
  • Finalize your full menu and assign your guests different things to bring (don’t need this part –> based on what they offered when you invited them earlier)
  • Shop for all of your non-perishable items
  • Finish shopping for any supplies or equipment you will need for your dinner
  • Rent any chairs or dishes you may need to supplement
  • Gather everything you need to decorate or to create your tablescape
  • Create your playlist. My favorite app for creating a festive playlist for any occasion is Spotify or Amazon Music. Both seem easy enough to use and you can play your playlist straight through your Alexa devices. Investing in an Alexa device has made my holiday so much simpler. Playlists, weather reports, trivia questions, and pretty much anything to entertain us while we cook and even (recipe help –> huh? is this correct?). Such a lifesaving piece of technology!
  • Plan your entertainment ideas for the kids on your guest list.
  • If you are planning on using cloth napkins or tablecloths now would be the best time to press them off
  • Continue deep cleaning and prepping your house for your guests
  • Purchase paper goods if you plan on using them for appetizers, dinner, or dessert. While I’m a HUGE fan of using China for holiday dinners, I’m equally as big of a fan on using themed paper plates and such for appetizers or dessert. This helps with clean up so much easier
  • Place your order with the bakery, liquor store and the butcher for anything you will need to help you prepare your feast.
  • Purchase disposable take-out containers so you can send your guests with the best part of Thanksgiving dinner – the LEFTOVERS!

1 Week Before Thanksgiving

  • Schedule your hair appointment or any other self-care treatments you plan to get before Thanksgiving. Every year that I host I always treat myself to a mani/pedi and a professional blowout the day before so I’m the most presentable I can be with the smallest amount of effort
  • Plan what you are going to eat the night before Thanksgiving. You are going to be up late prepping and the last thing you will want to think about is what to feed your family. My husband and I share the cooking duties so we normally just order out. In fact, our newest tradition over the last few years of hosting is ordering in Chinese and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the kid’s picnic style
  • Get your turkey situation sorted. Figure out how long it’s going to take you to thaw it out, if you are going to brine it, stuff it, glaze it etc. Now is the time to worry about the turkey.
    • PRO TIP:Thaw the turkey if frozen. Get your refrigerator ready to house your turkey for the next week. You want to be sure you have a pan ready to host your bird. Normally we make a 12lb turkey and for that you normally need at least 3 days (sometimes 4) to thaw it completely
  • Check-in with your family to see who’s bringing what so you can finalize your menu
  • Purchase any wine and beer you intend to serve that day
  • If you are hosting any overnight guests now would be the time to prep their rooms or to be sure your air mattresses work.
  • Create a day-of schedule. Make it as precise as possible. This will help you get all your food ready at the same time.

3-4 Days Ahead of Thanksgiving

  • Shop for your perishable items
  • Pick up any orders you placed with specialty shops such as the butcher or bakery
  • Set the table. Fill the salt and pepper. Make sure all the glasses are cleaned and ready to roll
  • Plan out what serving pieces you intend on using for each side dish.
  • Set up a self-serve bar area so your guests can help themselves to the beverage of their choice.
  • Complete one last clean up of your home making it party-ready

2 Days Ahead of Thanksgiving 

  • Brine the turkey and set it aside in the fridge
  • Bake any desserts you are responsible for making
  • Do one last grocery run for any last-minute items
  • Prep any vegetables you can ahead of time

1 Day Before Thanksgiving

  • Make all the side dishes, stuffing can be made ahead and reheated before dinner. If you are making a sweet potato casserole that can be made ahead as well as prepping the regular potatoes for mashed potatoes.
  • Clean and stock your bathroom and make it has everything your guest will need
  • Pick up ice and any other last-minute items you may need
  • Make sure your self serve drink is stocked in case you haven’t done so yet. Some things to include: beer, wine, mixed drinks, water and soda. Some things you might need think of include wine opener, cut lemons and limes, an ice bucket, glasses
  • Layout your serving pieces and using a post-it note, mark them with what goes in them  – this way if someone is helping in you in the kitchen the next morning everything is self-explanatory.
  • Get the kid’s table set so it’s ready to roll for your smallest guests
  • Set up an area for things you’ll need for dessert including paper plates, coffee pot, sugar, and creamer, utensils and serving pieces
  • GET SOME REST! Tomorrow is the big day!

Thanksgiving Day

  • Dress in something comfortable and unplug as much as possible
  • Personally, I love creating a cooking playlist. Nothing motivates me more than a good jam
  • Layout your clothes so you can quickly change before your guests are set to arrive
  • Do a once over of your kitchen so you are ready to get cooking
  • Get your bird in the oven
  • Prep your side dishes and cook them as needed
  • Greet your guests and have them help with the drink station or appetizers
  • Carve your gorgeous, juicy, delicious turkey


I hope this checklist helps you have stress-free Thanksgiving filled with memories with your favorite people.

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