Hands holding Thanksgiving turkey on platter

Tick-tock, Turkey Day is coming! But don’t worry: just a little planning and organization will help you pull off the Thanksgiving celebration without a hitch. So don’t worry about sweating the details—we’ve done it for you!

First, use our Thanksgiving checklist to help check your pantry and organize your food shopping trips. Then check out our simple Thanksgiving timeline, which will guide your shopping and prep so that everything gets done right and at the right time.

Thanksgiving Dinner Printable Checklist

Figured out all your shopping needs? Organize your shopping list by dish using our printable Thanksgiving dinner checklist. This list offers spaces for all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and room to add your family favorites. Use it as an alternative shopping list or as a checklist for step to be completed.

Simple Thanksgiving timeline

1. Planning day

When to do it: At least two weeks before Thanksgiving

What to do:

  • Plan the size of your turkey based on your guest list. Allow for 1.5 pounds per person. If feeding a group of 15 or more, consider serving two smaller turkeys, instead of one large turkey.
  • Make a list of necessary baking supplies and canned goods you can buy early and keep in the pantry.
  • Make a list of frozen foods you can buy early and keep in the freezer.
  • Make a list of dishes you can make ahead and keep in the freezer (think: pie crusts). Buy ingredients for those, too.
  • Review your cooking and baking supplies to make sure they’re in good shape, and ingredients are fresh. First time host? Read our First Thanksgiving kitchen and table checklist for what you’ll need.

2. Shopping trip #1: stock up

When to do it: At least one week before Thanksgiving

What to do:

  • Buy your nonperishable foods and frozen foods for the meal. These are items you can store in your pantry or have room for in your freezer.
  • Buy frozen turkey (if buying thawed turkey you can wait until the “fresh” trip, below).

3. Defrost frozen turkey day

When to do it: It varies, but usually starts the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and no later than Monday morning.

What to do:

  • Move your turkey(s) from the freezer to the fridge to thaw.
  • Allow 24 hours in the fridge for every four pounds of turkey. For a popular size 15-pound turkey that would mean nearly four days of thawing. So, to have a thawed bird on Thursday morning you should start the thaw on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
  • Add additional time to allow for brining, if you plan to do that.
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4. Shopping trip #2: Fresh items

When to do it: The week of Thanksgiving

What to do:

  • Buy your fresh ingredients such as green veggies, fruit, bread, meat and cheeses.
  • Buy anything you forgot to get on your prep trip or what you might have used up in the meantime.

5. Prep day

When to do it: The day before Thanksgiving

What to do:

  • Defrost pie crusts and assemble pies. Bake the homemade pies and desserts. (Pies really are better the day after you make them.)
  • Chop veggies, store and refrigerate in baggies. Grate cheese. Any kind of prep you can do ahead saves time.
  • Prepare any sides (such as casseroles) that will keep in the freezer or fridge and can be cooked or reheated on Thanksgiving.
  • Set the table in the evening.

6. Thanksgiving!

When to do it: Thanksgiving Day

What to do:

  • Let the turkey come to room temperature and then cook it.
  • Chill white wine.
  • Cook turkey until the temperature at the thickest part (generally the thigh) reads 165 degrees.
  • Prepare fresh sides.
  • Make sure to let the turkey rest for 30 minutes prior to carving.
  • Warm rolls and pre-made sides like casseroles.
  • Whip cream for pies.
  • Give thanks.
  • Eat your delicious Thanksgiving meal.
  • Serve dessert and coffee.
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