My absolute favorite holiday all year long is Thanksgiving. Something about the act of taking a day to be thankful, gathering with family and friends, and of course FOOD just makes me feel warm and cozy! I always start my Thanksgiving plans early!
Here in Tennessee we enjoy four distinct seasons and fall is my favorite. The air is crisp, the leaves start changing colors then falling so we can rake them up and play in them or stuff them into scarecrows! My mom used to let me do this when I was growing up and the smell of dry leaves always makes me feel nostalgic.
Around this time we are buying sweaters and starting to dress in layers. We take family photos around Thanksgiving Day so I shop in advance for new clothes. If you’re like me and you want everyone to have something fresh for Thanksgiving, it’s best to add that to your “month before” list.
Are you the type of cook who always wears an apron? I definitely am. Because I inevitably lean on a dirty counter, sling something out of the bowl or drip something onto my clothes. My children also help me in the kitchen and, well, kids can be messy too! It’s nice to have a fresh clean apron or one that is just for Thanksgiving Day.
To make sure I don’t miss anything and to have a truly Epic Turkey Day, I follow my Thanksgiving Plans every year.
Don’t worry, I’ve also made the Thanksgiving Plans into a simple black and white printable in case you’d like to check things off as you go. Nothing beats the feeling of checking off a to-do list!
You can also add this checklist on your Cozi app so that you won’t have to keep up with a piece of paper.
The Thanksgiving Plans Checklist
3 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
Create a shopping list based on your menu plan
Order or purchase your turkey
Plan your drinks (buy early to beat the rush and to save your energy for cooking later!)
Decide what you can make ahead and freeze
My Rum Spiced Maple Truffles can be stored in the freezer for 3 – 4 weeks!
2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
Make space in your freezer
Also, make some space in your fridge
Make and freeze any items you can such as pies, rolls, and broth
Take inventory of tableware, silverware, platters, etc. to see what you will need
Order flowers if you’re planning a centerpiece, have them delivered the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day
1 Week Before Thanksgiving
Clean out your fridge to make room for the dishes you’ll be preparing over the next few days
Shop for shelf-stable items such as flour, canned pumpkin, canned cranberries, paper plates (if using), etc.
Create your seating plan if necessary
Identify and schedule tasks and recipes to be made leading up to Turkey Day!!
Pick up your turkey, remember you’ll need time for thawing
Three Days Before Thanksgiving
Thaw turkey in the coldest part of your fridge with a pan underneath in case it drips (never thaw your turkey outside the fridge)
Polish the silverware if necessary
Iron tablecloth and napkins if necessary
Buy perishable items on your list
Two Days Before Thanksgiving
Make pie crusts and cranberry sauce and keep in fridge
Brine or marinade your turkey (using a Brine Recipe makes the turkey taste so much better, I’ve included my recipe below)
One Day Before Thanksgiving
Casseroles can be made the day before
Prep stuffing, toppings, and salads
Prepare soups if making
Finish making pies and desserts today
Set up any extra eating areas or buffet tables for buffet-style dinners
Take a deep breath
Preheat your oven and start the turkey
Prepare side dishes while turkey is roasting
Make the gravy while the turkey is resting
After the Big Thanksgiving Meal
Save the turkey meat for upcoming meals (if you have a crowd, you could provide disposable leftover containers)
Store all leftovers (sometimes I make “meals” using meal prepster containers, so my guys have grab-and-go lunches)
Don’t forget to enjoy friends and family! We love playing word games like mad-libs and word searches, board games, watching a family movie, and of course napping!
Extras for an Epic Turkey Day
Cooking a truly fabulous turkey takes a bit of practice. One year my husband and I bought a “natural” turkey from a local farmer. I had only ever had practice with roasting frozen turkeys but I thought “this should be no problem!” Well, that year, let me tell you, not even the dog would eat our turkey! I’m not kidding you, he sniffed it and walked away.
Since then, I studied up so that I wouldn’t make the same mistake in the future. We’ve made some wonderful Thanksgiving Day memories at home since then. Don’t make these mistakes with your Thanksgiving Turkey.
After you learn to make a killer turkey for Thanksgiving, you don’t want to ruin it with poor carving skills. Here’s a detailed tutorial that will have you carving like an expert.
Many of us follow the tradition of going around the table to share what we are thankful for as part of our yearly Thanksgiving Plans. If you have young children, you might even talk about what it might have been like at the first Thanksgiving, but study up first as it might not be what you think!
Another fun family tradition is to pull out old videos and photo albums and have a stroll down memory lane! Our kids love looking at old baby pictures and clips of embarrassing video footage, right? Well, you’ll just have to decide if that’s a good idea or not!
If your family is into craft projects, it would be a great time to work on one together! Making Christmas ornaments or taking a photo for the family holiday card are both great projects for bonding as a family.
In my effort to stretch out the holiday, part of my thanksgiving plans always include watching some good Thanksgiving movies in the days leading up to the celebration. Do you have any good suggestions? Make sure to leave a few in the comments below.
Nothing beats a good story read aloud with gusto! I love this new book Thanksgiving in the Woods.
How cute is this Thankful t-shirt I found on Etsy?! Perfect for reminding us what this holiday is all about.
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