Thanksgiving Checklist

Thanksgiving week is here and for some, there is a lot of work to do. Don’t let this week overwhelm you – start organizing yourself today so that Thursday is as smooth as possible. First, write your menu and shopping list. Take an inventory of exactly what you have in your pantry to ensure that you’ve got enough of the basics; nothing is worse than coming up short on a few ingredients and needing to rush out to the store. Test your meat thermometer, and calibrate if needed. If you do not have one, be sure to pick one up at the store when you go to buy your groceries.

Next, decide what you can buy from a reliable source. Why bake if you can get a delicious dessert that’s professionally made from scratch? If you’re serving vegetables and dip, pick it up at the local gourmet specialty store, like our parent company, Joe’s Produce Gourmet Market.

Everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving dish and it seems like the number of sides can multiply, especially when different family traditions intermingle. If you’re overwhelmed by the preparation of just the right accompaniments for the turkey, consider ordering a few sides from a caterer or specialty store where they’ll prepare it from scratch, just the way you would. Pick it up on Wednesday, and reheat it just before dinner on Thursday.

Decide which flatware, plates, glassware, etc. that you plan to use. If you plan to use any plasticware, or paper products, be sure to pick that up in advance. Take out the serving pieces, dishes, etc. that you’ll need for the meal and wash them and then set them aside for later. If you plan to make place cards or name tags, make sure you have them at the ready.

Your goal should be to have almost everything done prior to Thursday. There are SO many things you can do in advance. Here’s a quick checklist that I’m using this week:


*write the menu, make the shopping list, print a back-up of recipes to take with me to the store, make a list of which serving pieces needed for each dish.

*buy any paper products, plastic ware, etc.,

*start cleaning the house

*If you’re using a frozen turkey, pick it up from the store and start de-frosting


*wash and dry the serving pieces needed for dinner. set them aside and out of the way.

*expand on the areas of the house where deep cleaning is necessary.

*tidy the front porch, empty the coat closet so there’s plenty of room for the coats of your guests.

*Go to warehouse store (Costco, GFS) and buy plastic souffle cups, deli containers, etc., for easily measuring and storing ingredients in your fridge. These will also help you contain leftovers easily and send guests home with leftovers without having to part with your good reusable storage containers.

*set the table, print place cards or name tags. Tag each serving piece so you know which ones will be used for which dish.


*grocery shop

*unpack the groceries and start organizing ingredients so that the things you need for each recipe are together. If time allows, start portioning ingredients for recipes. Be sure to label each container with a permanent marker so you can easily identify what you’re picking up.

*wash any herbs, chop onions and garlic (hint – do this in a food processor to save time since you’ll likely be using quite a lot of each!)

*make pie or tart crusts. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

*peel potatoes and cover them with cold water. Keep in the refrigerator.

*pick up any flowers, pumpkins, etc., needed for decoration. This will allow tight blooms to open by Thursday.


*pick up any food that you’ve ordered from a caterer, pastry shop, or specialty grocery

*brine turkey

* make mashed potatoes

*make pie/tart

*partially prepare any appetizers that can be done in advance and warmed up before your guests arrive

*prepare easy sides like stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, etc. Refrigerate.

* Finish any last-minute cleaning that hasn’t been done yet.


*9:30 am – remove the turkey from the refrigerator, allow to rest at room temperature for one hour.

*while waiting for the turkey, finish any vacuuming, laundry, or other cleaning details that have yet to be attended to.

*11:15 am – preheat the oven and stuff the turkey

*11:30 am – place the turkey in the oven and start to roast, basting it every 30 minutes.

*Noon – chill the white wine

*12:15 pm – Prepare the mashed potatoes

* 12:30 (while the potatoes are cooking) finish working on appetizers

*1 pm – finish the mashed potatoes and keep them in a crock pot

*set-up the bar and buffet areas, if needed. Be sure to have all of the necessary items nearby.

*3 pm – set the appetizers out (assuming your guests are arriving at 3:30 or 4)

*4 pm – check the temperature of the turkey at the thigh, which is the thickest part. If the thermometer reads 165 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven. If not, check the temperature every 15 minutes until the bird is done.

*4:15 pm – The turkey will need to sit for 30 minutes prior to carving. Take advantage of the break to make the gravy and any last-minute vegetables. Remove stuffing from bird; transfer to a baking pan. Bake until stuffing reaches 165 degrees.

*4:20 pm – Reheat any sides that may have been prepared in advance.

*4:30 pm – while other dishes are heating in the oven, make the whipped cream for the pie.

*5 pm – Dinner is served

I hope these tips help you to have a more enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday this year. Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.