Thanksgiving can seem like a massive undertaking if it is something you haven’t done before. But, I am here to tell you, it is actually one of the simplest meals to make, it just requires a little bit of planning (oh my absolute favorite word!) If you fall into the Thanksgiving for Beginners category, don’t worry, I’ve got you completely covered.
I started hosting Thanksgiving a handful of years ago and have fallen in love with it. Over the years I have figured out what works the best to ensure all the food is done at the correct time and is still hot (nobody likes cold mashed potatoes).
Thanksgiving dinner preparation can become a well-oiled machine if you have everything mapped out ahead of time. This will allow you to actually relax on Thanksgiving Day, have a glass of wine, socialize with your guests and make them feel comfortable because you aren’t all stressed out in the kitchen.
Get the Step-by-Step Thanksgiving for Beginners guide below. This guide is basically you and me making Thanksgiving Dinner together. I have everything planned out for you. This Thanksgiving plan is for a typical meal with 10-15 guests.
Included in this guide is:
- Guest list
- Planned menu
- Grocery list
- Preparation timeline leading up to the big day
- Oven schedule
- Recipes for the entire menu
- My best tips and tricks to help make the day go as smoothly as possible
What are the pieces to this puzzle called Thanksgiving Dinner? Glad you asked!
1. Guest List
Invite people to have dinner with you! If you are new to this, just invite people into your home to share in this awesome dinner you will make them. I have found a great number is around 10-15. It’s a full house, but a happy house!
It’s best to have a finalized head-count 2-3 weeks prior to dinner. Worst case scenario if people back out at the last minute, you will just have more leftovers!
Based on the number of people you have coming over, you can make sure you have enough seating space, dishware, and you can adjust how much food you will be making.
Here are some general guidelines for how much food each person may eat:
- Turkey: 1-2 lbs per person
- Stuffing: ¾ cup per person
- Mashed potatoes: ⅓ cup per person
- Sweet potato casserole: ½ cup per person
- Green bean casserole: ½ cup per person
- Corn casserole: ½ cup per person
- Rolls: 1-2 per person
- Jell-O: ¼-⅓ cup per person
- Pie: 1 slice per person
Pro-tip: If you feel comfortable asking your guests to bring beverages, this can be a huge money saver and everyone will have drinks they love!
2. Grocery List
Once you have your menu planned out, the next step is writing up your grocery list. Plan to buy groceries 3-4 weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Get the groceries off of your to-do list and give yourself one less thing to worry about.
Homemade rolls and baking pies are not something I have the time for nor do I feel like it is worth it to make these myself. My favorite dinner rolls are Rhodes Dinner Rolls (Walmart carries these and probably every other grocery store, except Aldi, has these as well). I get rave reviews on these, year after year.
If you can find a local bakery that has reasonable pie prices (or if one of your guests is dying to bake pies), just purchase a pumpkin (+ whatever other pie you want/need) pie from them.
We have this awesome bakery near us that has $10 pies. To me, the $10 is worth it to have a delicious pie that I didn’t have to bake.
Pro-tip: To save money on groceries I do all of my shopping at Aldi and Walmart. I only have to go to Walmart for about 4 items (which I love because Walmart overwhelms me).
One item you will not see on my grocery list is beverages. I have found this can really be expensive and it can be really hard to have a drink that every one of your guests likes. Obviously, you can have water and coffee available (I also have a stock of wine available), but I don’t specifically buy drinks for Thanksgiving. Most of your guests will ask you if they can bring anything. The response to this would be, “Yes, please bring a beverage of your choosing!” This will make your guests feel good bringing something useful and you don’t have to worry about drinks for everyone.
3. Preparation Timeline
To have a successful Thanksgiving dinner, you should have a timeline planned out. This will make your life so much easier! Things to think about include finalizing the guest number, finalizing your menu and making your shopping list.
Always check your inventory at home to make sure you have all the correct baking dishes you will need. Another thing to think about is making sure you have enough tableware for everyone to have utensils and place settings.
A problem I ran into one year was seating (I didn’t have enough chairs!) so we had to get creative! It all worked out, but I totally forgot to double check that, and you wouldn’t want your guests to feel like you weren’t prepared for them.
As the big day gets closer, you will have to decide when to defrost your turkey and prepare some of your dishes ahead of time. Adequate preparation will make your Thanksgiving Day so much less stressful! I have an awesome schedule to make sure you have everything prepped for the big day, you can get this in my guide below!
The best way to have a smooth day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving is to make small steps in preparation leading up to the day. My guests are always amazed at how relaxed I am on Thanksgiving Day and how quiet my kitchen seems. I take this as a huge compliment and I can show you how to do it too!
4. Thanksgiving Day Timeline
So I already alluded to this, but your Thanksgiving Day should be smooth sailing if you have put in the prep work ahead of time. I consider Thanksgiving Day to be a day to do the “Oven Shuffle.”
Using my menu and preparation schedule will allow you to relax on Thanksgiving Day, and really enjoy your company while you’re cooking. You will still be in the kitchen, but it won’t be the classic slaving over a hot stove all day, my hair is a mess and I look frazzled kind of day.
The cooking schedule for Thanksgiving is an orchestrated event that will be calm, but purposeful. Your day will consist of you moving different dishes in and out of the oven, keeping them warm, enjoying a glass of wine (if you wish!) and hanging out with your guests.
The goal of all the preparation is to allow you to relax on the actual day. A lot of people have to spend the whole day in the kitchen, they work so hard to get everything prepared, they don’t have time to enjoy visiting with their guests, everyone eats the meal in 10-15 minutes and it’s over. This can be so discouraging after all the hard work that went into making it.
If you prepare leading up to the day and follow the schedule, you will have a much more enjoyable holiday with a bigger focus on your guests.
5. Supplies needed
To follow my exact plan for Thanksgiving Dinner, here are the basic supplies you will need:
- 2 Crock-Pots (+ Reynold’s Crock-Pot liners if you want less clean-up)
- Foil Roasting Pan (Turkey sized)
- Reynold’s Oven Bags (Turkey sized)
- 2 Baking dishes (1.5 Quart)
- 2 Casserole dishes (8 x 11 inches)
- Gravy boat
- Standard pots and pans
- Working oven (you probably already knew that one 😉 )
- Apron (obviously for super cute pictures of you being a Thanksgiving Rockstar!)
- Thanksgiving for Beginners: Step-by-Step Guide
The Thanksgiving for Beginners Guide is basically you making Thanksgiving with me!
Just sign up below to get instant access to this awesome guide! You will be impressing your friends and family with your amazing planning and preparation skills. Here’s to the best Thanksgiving yet!
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