Planning a timeline for Thanksgiving Dinner Festivities

I don’t know very many people who aren’t really, REALLY busy at this time of year. Years ago, I got caught way short on time at Thanksgiving, realizing on Wednesday night that my turkey was still frozen solid in the deep freeze. So….I’ve developed a timeline that helps keep me a little more sane. (I won’t claim to be fully sane, because that is asking a lot!) Some of you are way ahead of me on this, so this post isn’t for you. This post is for you if Thanksgiving dinner is just ONE of the many balls you have up in the air right now. So keep juggling….and do just a little bit at a time!

Here’s my Plan for this week. Obviously, it needs to be tweaked to fit the individual family.


  • Take the turkey out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to defrost slowly
  • Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven until they’re fork tender. Refrigerate them until next week.
  • Make a menu
  • Go shopping
  • Make sure the tablecloth is clean



  • Peel and cook white potatoes. Refrigerate in tightly covered container.
  • Bake fresh pumpkin until fork tender. Clean and process and refrigerate
  • Bake dinner rolls and freeze, tightly wrapped



Thursday AM:

  • Prep turkey for grilling or roasting
  • Cut up veggies for veggie tray
  • Remove dinner rolls from freezer
  • Start cooking turkey on grill

Thursday PM

  • Kids set table
  • Heat garlic mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole in oven
  • Heat green bean casserole in oven
  • Put veggies and dip on tray
  • Put cranberry relish into serving bowl
  • Carve turkey
  • Make gravy
  • Heat dinner rolls
  • Put everything on the table with serving utensils

Eat dinner!!!

  • Clean up leftovers
  • Clean up kitchen
  • Start turkey stock
  • Go for a long walk or take a long nap

Thanksgiving evening:

  • Heat pies
  • Make whipped cream
  • Make coffee
  • Serve dessert

It’s entirely possible that I’ve forgetten steps, so if I think of anything else, I’ll come back and edit this post. For me, one of the most important steps of planning is shopping. Almost every year, I come up with something critical that I’ve forgotten to buy. Finding stores open on Thanksgiving Day isn’t easy. Writing everything out ahead of time really helps me avoid that last minute panic and dash to the store for whipping cream, candles, and cornstarch.

Perhaps the biggest benefit for me of taking some time NOW to plan for Thanksgiving Dinner is that I really will be free to spend some time reflecting on all the many reasons I have to be VERY thankful!

Good luck!


  1. Barb,

    You’ve got it down girl!!! Your schedule is fantastic; it really looks like you have spread out all the duties to not make it too overwhelming. Good for you.

    My immediate family, hubby and two squirts, live a few states away from any other relatives; So if we don’t drive to visit or have guests it’s just a quiet meal at home with a beautiful bird, some simple sides, and a decadent dessert. Having hubby and kids is all I need.

    This year we’re staying home and no guests either, so it’s a simple meal at home. I am however, making it even easier on me than normal. The Knights of Columbus at church are deep frying turkeys on wednesday, so we have a reservation for them to handle the bird, the rest of the dinner is no problem. I’m a baker so you know that dessert will be good, and who can’t handle simple sides.

    Hubby suggested we might as well celebrate Thanksgiving on Wednesday, given the bird will be hot, and we won’t have to store it and warm it the next day. He said that we could then spend Thursday listening to Christmas CD’s (my favorite thing about the holidays) and getting all the holiday decorations put up. At first I thought “no way”, but the more I think about it the more I love the idea. I mean, why not, are we going to be arrested by the turkey police? I’ve now decided that I love it and it may even become a tradition.

    Happy Thanksgiving and
    Happy Baking

    Miss Mary
    Please check out my website and tell your friends.

  2. Miss Mary,

    Thanks for stopping by. Your holiday sounds just lovely! I’ve never tried the deep-fried turkey and one day that will have to happen. I love the idea of someone else frying it for me! If I didn’t have to mess with the hot oil, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    I’m off to check out your website right now.


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