If you have plans to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, you’re probably wondering where to begin. The amount of “to-dos” on your list can be overwhelming and you certainly don’t want to leave anything out! Start here with our list of ten things you need to do to plan and organize the best Thanksgiving dinner ever.
1. Make a guest list and get a head count
Invitations need to be extended early if you want certain friends and family to make an appearance. Make a list and start making phone calls and sending emails as soon as possible, and make sure you ask guests to RSVP by a certain date so you can get a final head count.
2. Plan your meal and make assignments
Once you know how many guests you’ll have, you can start planning your meal. If you’re planning a potluck be sure to contact your guests and ask what they’ll be bringing, or give them an assignment so you’re sure to cover all the Thanksgiving classics. You’ll want to let everyone know how many people will be coming so dishes can be prepared accordingly.
3. Make a grocery list and plan your shopping
Gather the recipes you’ll be using and make a grocery list from them. Plan to buy as many items as you can in advance to be sure that you won’t be hunting for something at the last minute. Some items may need to be purchased closer to Thanksgiving day, so make note of these for a final shopping trip.
4. Plan your table and décor
You may want to plan something special for your supper table and holiday decorating, or you may need a few more place settings for the amount of guests you’ll have. If you’re not sure where to start, these simple Thanksgiving tablescapes are sure to inspire you! Add any decorations, dinnerware, and other special items to your shopping lists.
5. Make a cleaning and decorating schedule
A cleaning and decorating schedule will be your best friend in the weeks leading up to the big meal. You’ll want to make room in your freezer, arrange for guests who will be staying with you, and complete any DIY decorating projects in advance. Plan to have fresh linens, fully-stocked bathrooms, and plenty of room for all the food!
6. Complete your shopping
Make your shopping trips as simple as possible. Have your lists at the ready and take some helpers if needed. You may want to delegate the shopping to a trusted family member if you need to complete other tasks. Make sure your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry are clean and ready for the abundance of Thanksgiving items.
7. Plan “busy activities” for kids and adults
The last thing you want is boredom at your fabulous Thanksgiving bash! Come up with some simple crafts, games, or other activities for any children you’ve invited, and make sure there are a few things for the adults to do too, just in case. If you feel out of your element in the entertainment department, you may want to ask a friend or family member to take over this task. Check out Pinterest and other websites for ideas.
8. Make a D-day schedule
This may be the most important part of your Thanksgiving organization! When it comes to final preparations, you’ll need a master list for things like what to defrost and when, what to cook and when, what needs to be set up, what needs to be cleaned last-minute, and when guests will be arriving. Ask for help if needed, especially when it comes to the most important tasks like cooking the turkey, making the gravy, and setting the table. You may also want to set out an appetizer or start guests off with something to drink while you finalize everything.
9. List last-minute preparations
You can make these things a part of your D-day schedule by placing them at the end. This part of your list should include things like carving the turkey, setting out the gravy, pouring drinks, lighting candles, turning off the oven, reheating pre-made side dishes, adding dressings to salads, and more. Once you’ve got those things under control, be sure to take a breath and enjoy the meal with your guests – you’ve earned it!
10. Take it easy after dinner!
Hopefully the stress you may have felt leading up to the meal has abated and you can look forward to dessert. You may need to do a few more things like slice pies or whip a cream topping. Chances are you’ll have many willing hands to help clean up once the food has been eaten. Be sure to wrap up leftovers as soon as possible (within two hours is best). More than anything, take time to sit and enjoy friends, family, and your time together on this wonderful Thanksgiving day!
Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.
For more Thanksgiving Inspiration check out these ideas: