Did you know Thanksgiving is exactly FOUR weeks away from today in the US?? Are YOU hosting a Thanksgiving dinner party this year? Here is how I stay organized (and sane) while prepping for my Thanksgiving dinner party.
Over the years, I have learned that the key to minimizing stress is to stay organized! I made a list for myself about seven years ago that I now just pull out and use every single year. No reinventing the wheel here. I guess that’s the easy part about Thanksgiving dinner isn’t it? Nothing really changes – it’s all about the traditions 🦃.
First I Had to Get Over My Fear of Cooking the Turkey
I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a group of anywhere from 9 to 20 people since 2010. I will never forget how insanely scared I was to cook the turkey my first year. I remember my father in law telling me it was delicious. But to be honest, I kinda doubt it was. I am pretty sure he was just being nice to me because he could tell how nervous I was!
I have since gotten over that turkey fear. Actually I even like my turkey that I cook nowadays. I truly owe its moistness 100% to the dry brine that Williams Sonoma sells… it’s my Thanksgiving godsend. That and brining bags – I don’t know how my mom survived without those two items 🤪.
It’s Taken Me A While to Stop Stressing About the Minutia and Focus on the Blessings of the People We Are Surrounded By…
For me, the art of gathering isn’t about appearance or aesthetics. It’s about the way people feel when they’re in my home and around my table. Whether it’s my own kids or new friends, I want them to leave at the end of the night with light hearts and full stomachs. Not just from the food we shared but from the time we spent in each other’s company.– Joanna Gaines Magnolia Table book
It has taken me a while to get to a place where my focus for gatherings I am hosting is to have gratitude for the gifts of friendship and community rather than what the table and house looks like. That said- it certainly helps to stay organized and have a plan so that you truly do enjoy your evening with loved ones.
I am not very good at going with the flow – especially when things don’t go as planned (and trust me – there are always multiple things that don’t go as planned 😂). So keeping to my tried and true schedule helps me keep my anxiety down and the focus where it should be – on the people I am with.
Our Thanksgiving Menu:
I don’t change up my menu for Thanksgiving year by year. It is a special yet simple menu that everyone has come to expect and look forward to for this once a year celebration.
Here is our traditional menu:
- Turkey – I buy a frozen Butterball turkey from our local grocery store
- Gravy – I buy an easy to use gravy base so that all I have to do is add milk on Thanksgiving morning
- Stuffing – I buy my croutons about a month before from Williams Sonoma
- Mashed potatoes
- Roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots
- Arugula salad
- Cranberry Sauce – also from Williams Sonoma and purchased a month in advance
- Cranberry bread – my mom’s recipe that my whole family loves!
- Parker House rolls topped with rosemary, sea salt, and butter
- Apple/cranberry pie
- Pumpkin cookies – you can find the recipe for these cookies here
Schedule of When I Do All the Things to Prep for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner:
I Decorate for Thanksgiving One Month in Advance:
Before I started blogging/Instagram, I would decorate for Thanksgiving on November 1st. This includes the dining room table. I have cute turkeys, pumpkins, and leaves that I use on my table.
Now that I am blogging, November 1st is when all the Christmas decor makes its appearance. But, I leave my dining room in fall mode. Of course, my dining room is next to my living room which is ALL Christmas. However, there is never a Christmas tree in the living room on Thanksgiving because we get a real tree the day after.
One Month Before Thanksgiving
- Order all my food items from Williams Sonoma that I use for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners
Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving
- If you haven’t decorated your table by this time – I suggest you do so now. Definitely do not wait until the week of Thanksgiving for this task.
- Confirm the number of guests
- If buying a fresh turkey from a butcher shop, make sure your order has been placed by now!
- Make your shopping lists – one for non-perishables and one for fresh produce
- Make sure you have all the cooking equipment, tools, and tableware you will need
One Week Before Thanksgiving
- Grocery shop for all the non-perishables you need (I will include my grocery lists below)
- If buying a frozen turkey from the grocery store – buy it now
- Refridgerate any wines that need chilling
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
- Set table with chargers, plates, glassware, and silverware
- Shop for fresh produce (I get mine at Sprouts and Trader Joes)
- Make pumpkin cookies
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
- Dry brine turkey – I buy the brine and brining bags from Williams Sonoma one month in advance
- Make ranch dip for fresh veggie platter that I will have out all day on Thanksgiving
- Make cranberry bread (recipe to follow on another post)
- Make cranberry sauce – I just add some additional lemon zest and orange liquor to the Williams Sonoma cranberry sauce that I purchased a month in advance
- Make turkey stock from simmering turkey giblets in water for a few hours for the stuffing
- Cut all vegetables for stuffing and brussel sprouts recipe – make sure to store in an air tight tupperware container or ziplock bag.
- Make apple/cranberry pie in the evening so that it is as fresh as possible
- Turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while prepping the meal 🦃
- Rinse brine off of turkey and put turkey in roaster pan prepped for stuffing – smear butter and turkey herbs all over the bird
- Make apple cider in small crock pot – put it on warm setting for everyone to help themselves all day
- I always recruit my husband and kids to peel the potatoes on Thanksgiving morning (while watching the parade ☺️)
- Make stuffing and put in turkey – any stuffing that doesn’t fit in the turkey can be cooked by itself in a separate dish while the rolls are baking
- Put turkey in the oven around 12 noon to eat around 6pm
- Prep brussels sprouts with bacon, shallots, olive oil, and Trader Joe’s balsamic vinegar glaze – put them to the side to go into the oven later in the day
- Defrost Parker House rolls
- Make mashed potatoes and place in large Crock Pot on warm
- Prep drinks bar with any cocktails you will be serving as well as water
- Put butter, salt and pepper on the table
- At 4:30pm – put brussel sprouts in oven for around 45 minutes
- Make gravy on stovetop
- Bake rolls
- Take turkey oven out of oven and let rest for 30 minutes before carving (which by the way takes about 30 minutes as well)
Here are all my Thanksgiving dinner items for you to shop:
Williams Sonoma One Month Before
- turkey herbs
- stuffing croutons
- gravy base
- cranberry sauce
- cider base
- brining bags
One Week Before:
- chicken stock
- sour cream/milk/butter/eggs
- lemons for water, oranges, bag of cranberries
- yellow onions
- ice cream
- whipped cream
- orange juice
- frozen Parker House rolls
- pine nuts
- shaved parmesan cheese
- salami for appetizers during the day
- chips and crackers for appetizers
- canned pumpkin
- ground cinnamon
- brussel sprouts
- green onions
- fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, and basil
- cheeses for Thanksgiving appetizers
This year more than ever our focus should be not on what we lost in 2020 but what we have learned. My family suffered a great loss with the death of my brother in law to brain cancer in March. However, we have learned to lean in to the basic goodness life has to offer and the very preciousness of being that losing a loved one reminds you of.
As the saying goes – life is for the living and by doing so you honor all those that have gone before you. I know this Thanksgiving will be unlike any other for most of us. With greater reason than ever, it is important to focus on the little ordinary things that bring us joy.
My hope with writing this blog post is that it will give you some ideas or suggestions on how to stay organized for the holiday so that your focus can truly stay on the most important part of the day – which is the people you are with 🧡.