Thanksgiving Planner: The Four Week Plan Article -
Add a Comment

Thanksgiving Planner: The Four Week Plan

With four weeks to go, you have plenty of time to prepare for the biggest feast of the year!

Four Weeks Ahead

  • Plan the menu.
  • Order your turkey, roast, duck, ham, etc.
  • Create a timeline for make-aheads, freezing, thawing, reheating, and Thanksgiving Day cooking.
  • Making fresh cranberry sauce? Purchase and freeze berries before the stores run out.
  • Clean out your freezer.

Two Weeks To Go

  • Confirm your guest list.
  • Finalize your shopping list. Break it down into what can be purchased ahead, such as canned goods, and what perishables should be picked up closer to the day. Make your first shopping run.
  • Make foods you can freeze: rolls, pie crusts, cornbread for stuffing, casseroles, and soups.
  • Do a test run on new recipes.

One Week To Go

  • Clean out the fridge.
  • If you're roasting a frozen turkey, pick it up and start thawing. Note that thawing in the fridge will take one day for every 5 pounds of meat. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to thaw thoroughly.
  • Review the menu; are you on target with make-ahead dishes?
  • You're so well prepared, you might have time to whip up some appetizers to store in the freezer.

Two Days Before

  • Pick up that fresh turkey you ordered.
  • Purchase fresh produce.
  • Make pie crusts and refrigerate (if you haven't gone the frozen route).
  • Set the table or decorate the buffet.
  • Set up the bar.
  • Lay out serving pieces and utensils.

One Day Before

  • Wash and prep produce.
  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and make turkey stock for gravy. (Don't use the liver in the stock. If you want it for the gravy, cook it separately, mince it, and add to gravy at the last minute.)
  • If you're brining your turkey, give it no more than a 24-hour soak.
  • Assemble stuffing but do not put it in the turkey until just before roasting. Better yet, put it in a separate pan, moisten with your homemade turkey stock, refrigerate, and bake it on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Bake pies and make cranberry sauce.
  • Arrange frozen dinner rolls on a sheet pan and thaw overnight in the fridge. (Otherwise, thaw at room temperature on Thanksgiving morning.)
  • Make sure your camera is charged and ready.

Thanksgiving Day

This is when all your advance work pays off and you look like a genius. Yes, there might be dishes to be prepared on the day, but you won't be in a panic. Do remember to map out oven and stove time for items brought by guests. Here's what you might have to plan for:

Congratulations! Now give yourself a solid hour or more to relax and get yourself ready to greet your guests. And just in case things go sideways:

Get set for your best Thanksgiving!

    Nov. 2, 2011 4:17 am
    Very good article. I do 99% of this every year. Makes the Holiday more fun and less work. I prepare for 20 family members and everything comes out just fine.
    Barb K. 
    Nov. 2, 2011 5:28 am
    What a schedule! One I especially need! However, we'll be in FL til the 23rd, so I'll need a little different timeline! I would like to make my 1st turkey one that's memorable (hahaha).
    Nov. 2, 2011 6:09 am
    Good stuff!
    Nov. 2, 2011 8:32 am
    Love this list but personally I don't like making the gravy while the turkey rests (just me). So what I do is buy some turkey parts (drumsticks, wings) and roast them a day ahead and make the gravy. Then the next day all I need to do is reheat.
    Nov. 2, 2011 8:43 am
    Thank you for such a helpful article. Very well done.
    Nov. 2, 2011 11:16 am
    This is great. It goes right in line with my plans thus far. I decided this year I would have a better Thanksgiving by doing everything early. In going over my menu with my sister last week, she said I was crazy. Its nice to see that I'm not the only genius here. lol. I can't wait till she comes over to offer help day before/of and I can proudly say I'm done because I got everything done way ahead of time.
    Nov. 2, 2011 1:27 pm
    This timeline really helps, and it serves as a handy checklist! And with two small children (2 yrs and 2 months), I need all the help I can get!
    Cooksey Ellen 
    Nov. 2, 2011 2:35 pm
    Thanks for the planner. I look forward to utilizing the notes. I like the way the timeline has been layed out. I have begun my planning now as I will be in Florida for the holiday and we plan to have Thanksgiving here on the 13th.
    Nov. 2, 2011 4:07 pm
    Awesome...this helps! Nothing like a good time line!! Third thanksgiving and can't wait for it
    Nov. 2, 2011 5:26 pm
    What a great guideline. And it will work for any holiday meal or festive occasion.
    Nov. 2, 2011 5:47 pm
    I've been doing this for years. With around 20-25 people every year it really helps. I save the timeline and menu in a file, update and print it out every year to keep me organized. Do the same for Easter and Christmas too. Day before when I lay out the serving dishes, I put a labeled note (e.g. potatoes, rolls, etc.) in it so helpers know what to put in it.
    Nov. 2, 2011 6:14 pm
    I have found that preparing the mashed potatoes and stuffing early in the day and then placing in crockpots eliminates last minute work. I place parchment paper in the bottoms and around the sides of each pot and neither dish gets burned or overdone. I mash the potatoes, put a little milk in the bottom of the crock (on top of the paper), load the potatoes and place on warm. With the dressing I let it go on high for 2-3 hours and check--when done, place on low until ready to serve.
    Nov. 2, 2011 6:20 pm
    Great idea with the crockpots for the mashed potatoes and gravy! Its on my list!
    Subscribe Today!

    In Season

    A Day To Remember
    A Day To Remember

    Memorial Day is a time to get together with friends and family for food, fun, and memories.

    Potato Salad
    Potato Salad

    Nothing beats a big bowl of cool, creamy potato salad at your cookout.

    Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
    Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

    Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

    Related Videos

    Have a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

    One more reason to give thanks: Planning ahead so you can relax!

    Thanksgiving Timed Right

    See how to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table on time and piping hot!

    The 8 Essential Thanksgiving Dishes

    Watch how to make Thanksgiving’s eight essential dishes!

    Most Popular Blogs

    Read our blog

    Recently Viewed Recipes

    You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
    Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
    Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

    Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States