Thanksgiving Checklist

Posted by Annette Bellisari on

Thanksgiving Checklist


If you can believe it, it's already time to start planning your Thanksgiving dinner. Here's a handy checklist from Better Homes and Gardens to ensure a successful preparation for this year's Thanksgiving


Early November

·      Invite your guests. If the gathering is shared, keep track of who is bringing what on your menu. 

·      Determine any special food needs for your guests and plan accordingly.

·      Make shopping list of perishables and nonperishables. Don't forget to include beverages. 

·      If you are ordering a fresh turkey, do it now. 

·      Make a Thanksgiving to-do list, listing all the little things you feel must get done prior to Thanksgiving. Be sure to schedule time for each chore and indicate who will take care of that chore. 

·      Decide which china, glassware, and table linens you'll use.

·      If tablecloths and napkins need to be cleaned or ironed, do it now.

·      Once table settings have been decided, order a floral centerpiece or make plans to create your own


Two Weeks Out

·      Make sure you have enough tables and chairs for your guests. 

·      Check all serving dishes, flatware, and glassware. 

·      Polish silver. Wrap in tarnish-resistant silvercloth and set aside.

·      Shop for any paper goods you need for the event. 

·      Clean your refrigerator to make room for your Thanksgiving items. 

·      Shop for nonperishable groceries on your shopping list. 

·      Match up recipes with serving dishes and silverware. Drop post it notes into each bowl and platter indicating which dish goes in each.

·      Plan and make decorations, place cards, and wreaths.


One Week Out

·      Plan seating arrangements. 

·      Review your recipes and prepare a cooking schedule by day for the days ahead, and by the hour for Thanksgiving Day.

·      Check thawing time for frozen turkey. 

·      Prepare guest room with fresh linens and other amenities.

·      Do any needed outdoor work like raking leaves or cleaning the glass on your front door. 

·      Will you need a high chair, crib, or booster seat? Bring them out and clean, or arrange to borrow these items from a friend or the parent.

·      If children will be attending, get out games or movies for them. Or ask parents to bring things for the kids to do.


Four Days Ahead

·      As appropriate, begin defrosting the frozen turkey in your refrigerator. 

·      Do major housecleaning and organizing.

·      Put up wreaths and nonperishable decorations like candles. 

·      Phone guests regarding menu plans and find out what oven space they may need. Also inquire if they are bringing serving pieces or if you should furnish these.

·      Plan ahead for leftovers. Organize containers, bags, and wraps so guests can take home the meal's bounty.


Two Days Ahead

·      Chill beverages. 

·      Have centerpiece delivered or buy flowers for the table.

·      Shop for perishable items. 

·      Clean vegetables and refrigerate.

·      Set out bread for homemade stuffing. 

·      Make cranberry sauce

·      Fill salt and pepper shakers and butter dishes. 

·      Complete light housecleaning.

·      Lay a fire in the fireplace, ready to light later.

·      Put up decorations.


One Day Ahead

·      Peel potatoes, place in a pot of cold water. Keep in refrigerator. 

·      Clean vegetables and refrigerate.

·      Make all dishes that can be prepared ahead. Don't forget the pies and any chopping, peeling, or toasting that can be done ahead.

·      Check your bathrooms. Be sure to have extra paper goods and hand towels available. 

·      Prepare stuffing. 

·      Do spot cleaning of the rooms that will be used. 

·      Let your family set the table in the evening. 

·      Make the side dishes that can be baked ahead of time. 

·      Make a staging area for coffee, desserts, and drinks. Stock with flatware, sugar and creamer, cups and saucers, etc. This could even be set up on a tray stashed in the pantry until needed. 

·      Make sure there is plenty of ice.


Thanksgiving Day

·      Get out all serving pieces. Set out in order on a counter or buffet table.

·       Fill condiment dishes with your choice of pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, etc. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Lay serving spoons on top.

·       Assign specific family members or relatives to be in charge of tending the fire, pouring drinks, answering the door, hanging up coats, and watching the children.

·       Remove turkey from the refrigerator for one to two hours. Add stuffing to the bird or place into casseroles to bake separately. 

·       Preheat oven.

·       Put turkey in oven and baste every half hour or according to your recipe.

·       Prepare coffee and brew 20 minutes before serving. 

·       Remove stuffing from turkey and let it rest, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing. 

·       Microwave food to quickly reheat if all the burners of the stove are occupied. 

·       Make gravy and last-minute vegetables. 

·       Set out refrigerated dishes including condiments, cranberries, and salads. 

·       Heat bread or rolls as needed. 

·       Pour drinks.

·       Carve turkey.

·       Keep the oven on the lowest setting to keep foods warm until the meal is over.

·       Enjoy the dinner! Clear the table and serve dessert



·       Before leaving the table, blow out candles. Collect used cloth napkins and place them in the laundry.

·       Quickly fill the dishwasher with one load of dinner dishes and glassware. Add soap and run a cycle.

·       Fill the sink with hot soapy water and drop in silverware and any items to be hand-washed.

·       Put away leftover food in containers, foil packs, or plastic bags. Distribute into labeled bags for guests to take home. Refrigerate everything. 

·       Wash items in the sink, then refill with hot water to soak pots and pans.

·       Clear and wash kitchen counters.

·       Wash serving pieces belonging to guests. Set labeled bags in a mudroom or hall, ready to take home.

·       Organize games or other entertainment.

·       Finish dishes as time allows, or after guests depart.

·       Launder tablecloth and napkins.

·       Put away dishes, serving pieces, and glassware.

·       Return any borrowed tables, chairs, games, etc.

·       Make notes on what worked -- and what didn't -- and keep in your recipe box by the "Thanksgiving" tab.

Source:, "Thanksgiving Countdown

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