This printable Thanksgiving day timeline worksheet will show you exactly what to do and when to do it, on what is usually one of the most hectic days of the year.
Based on when you want to serve your meal, this timeline worksheet will help you get dinner on the table right on time. It will help to keep you organized and remove much of the stress!
In my family, we are nothing if not deeply rooted in tradition when it comes to the holidays.
Thanksgiving always has to take place at my house. Always. My daughter, granddaughters, the rest of the family and myself have a big discussion about this every year. If they have anything to say about it, it will take place here until the day I die. 🤣
We all know that there’s a lot more to Thanksgiving than just the meal itself though. There’s planning and list making and shopping and so much more!
I somehow managed to fumble my way through for longer than I care to remember! But, a few years ago I came up with a solution that reduces my stress level and gets dinner on the table on time.
I’ve learned to follow a timeline that starts well ahead of the big event. It starts weeks ahead of dinner time and ends with a minute-by-minute timeline that leads me right up to mealtime. itself.
You’ll find the blank printable timeline down below. It is set up to be filled with your own menu items and the time that you want to serve your meal. Add the cooking time for each dish and you’ll have the start times to follow throughout the day.
You can make it as detailed as you like, even adding time for putting recipes together if that helps you! I’ve included a mockup of how mine would be filled out so that you can get a better a idea of how it works.
If you’re new to hosting Thanksgiving, I highly encourage you to go ahead and put yourself on a schedule now. It will take much of the stress away so that you aren’t overworked and frazzled and can enjoy the holiday too!
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MY THANKSGIVING MENU
Our other steadfast tradition is that my Thanksgiving menu has to stay the same every.single.year. I can add new dishes, but I’m not allowed to take anything away.
We usually have anywhere from 12 to 18 people, so the quantities in my menu are a reflection of that. And I’m one of those who always wants to have more than I think I’ll need. The thought of not having enough of something stresses me out!
- 20+ lb whole Butterball turkey
- whole, boneless Honey Baked ham (I freeze quite a bit of this to eat at future meals)
- 4 2.6 lb cans Hanover green beans
- 2 sweet potato casseroles – GET THE BEST-EVER RECIPE HERE
- 1 wild rice casserole
- 3 corn casseroles
- Pepperidge Farm stuffing
- McCormick turkey gravy
- Ocean Spray cranberry sauce
- Spiced peaches
- Crescent rolls
- 2 pecan pies
- 2 pumpkin pies
I guess we’re a little weird in that we don’t have mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole as side dishes with our Thanksgiving feast, but this menu consists of everyone’s favorites from throughout the years.
TWO+ WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING
At least two weeks or more ahead of turkey day, I spend time reviewing my menu and making a grocery list.
This is also the time when I’ll be on the hunt for any new dishes to try. Even after all the years that I’ve prepared Thanksgiving, I still cannot find a stuffing/dressing recipe that I like any better than good ole Pepperidge Farm, so I’m still on the lookout for that.
I very carefully review each recipe, list all of the ingredients that I need and then check my pantry to see what I may already have. It really irritates me when I buy a duplicate of something. Ha!
I’m not only looking for recipe ingredients though. I’m also checking for supplies that I need, such as Brown-n-Bags, which is what I like to cook my turkey in since I cook it ahead of time.
Once I have my list in hand, I go ahead and shop for everything, except for anything that is perishable or any fresh-baked items.
FOUR DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING
Four days before the big day is mostly a doublecheck day for me. Another stress reducer for me is to ensure that every T is crossed and every I is dotted.
- I review my shopping list one more time. I don’t want to have to send the hubs out in search of a grocery store or curb market that’s open on Thanksgiving day for some forgotten item.
- Review the guest list to make sure that I have enough plates, glasses, silverware and serving pieces and that they are all sparkling clean.
- Make sure my table linens and napkins are clean and ready for setting the table.
- Remove the frozen turkey and any other frozen items from the freezer and place them in the fridge to thaw.
TWO DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING
Things kick into high gear once Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away!
Now is the time that I purchase the perishable items and fresh-baked goods.
Once I have the needed vegetables at home, I’ll go ahead and batch chop and refrigerate what I need into cubes to speed up the casserole making process.
Sometimes I do it earlier, but today my is my self imposed deadline for setting the table and putting together a centerpiece. I actually set two tables because of the number of dinner guests we have, but I try to set both of them very similarly.
When my grandchildren, nieces and nephews were small, I set tables for the adults and a table for all of the kids.
As you can tell from any of my Thanksgiving tablescapes, I don’t place serving dishes on the table. There are two reasons for that:
- We always have people seated at two tables, so the food would have to be split up.
- All of the food would not fit in the middle of the table.
- It can be difficult to pass around large serving bowls filled with hot food.
The day that I set the table is also when I prep the buffet area, dessert area, beverage center and coffee bar by setting out dinner plates, dessert plates, coffee cups, extra napkins, etc.
The last item on the list for this day is to label serving dishes (with a sticky note) for what will go in them and add the appropriate serving utensil.
My family thought I was crazy when I first started doing this, but it is a lifesaver on Thanksgiving day when it seems that all of the food is ready at the same time!
ONE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING
One of our favorite things about Thanksgiving is having leftovers that last the through the entire weekend afterwards.
Everyone who can always comes back multiple times, throughout the following weekend, to enjoy them. (Can anyone say turkey sandwich? Yum!) So because of that, I purposely prepare more than we will consume at Thanksgiving dinner.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my daughter and granddaughters come over and we have a fun day of cooking, baking and laughing. This is a tradition that they started with me a few years ago and honestly, I look forward to this time together more than the meal itself!
To this day, I can’t convince my oldest granddaughter that cleaning the turkey should be her job. 😂
In between laughing, we work hard to get as much done as we possibly can ahead of the big day itself:
- Bake and slice the turkey. After baking, we wrap it in aluminum foil to that it is ready to pop into a low temp oven for reheating.
- Separate the necessary amount of ham slices and package them so that they are ready for heating.
- Prepare 3 sweet potato casseroles, which are covered and refrigerated and will be baked the next day.
- Prepare the wild rice casserole to be baked on Thanksgiving day and refrigerate.
- Prepare 3 corn casseroles and refrigerate for baking the next day.
- Bake 3 pecan pies and 3 pumpkin pies.
- Make lots of ice tea – both sweetened and unsweetened.
People start arriving at my house early on Thanksgiving day, so it’s essential that I’m as organized as possible.
There’s quite a bit to do to get ready for dinner and this timeline always saves my sanity and gets dinner on the table on time.
Print more copies if you need more than one page!
Happy turkey day!