This FREE Thanksgiving Countdown Planner gives you a week-by-week and day-to-day task list and menu ideas to get ORGANIZED for stress free Thanksgiving planning! Also, it includes leftover ham recipes, a great turkey brine recipe and other useful tools and tips.
Thanksgiving is a holiday to give thanks for our blessings but, if you are HOSTING Thanksgiving, you’ll be thankful when you’re prepared and organized. It has worksheets and everything you need to plan now. The free, checklist version is below without the worksheets and colorful graphics.
With so much to do, you need a good plan to make all of those yummy Thanksgiving recipes in to honor Mr. dressed up turkey!
Don’t forget to get your fat pants out. You’re going to need them.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means, if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a very small commission but, the price you pay is the same.
Less Stress Thanksgiving Planner
Stress free Thanksgiving planning is attainable with this week-by-week, day-by-day Thanksgiving countdown planner.
Do you really want to be running around like a turkey with its head cut off (sorry for the gory vision, pun intended) on Thanksgiving? You could have done some of the tasks weeks ago!
Wouldn’t you rather be sipping wine while sitting by the fireplace waiting for your guests to arrive instead?
Thanksgiving by origin was a potluck meal. Both the pilgrims and Indians offered part of the meal. With that said, when/if your guests offer to bring food or beverages, not only is this is a kind gesture (and a Thanksgiving tradition,) it will alleviate host stress.
You won’t have to do ALL of the work! Keep that in mind when you plan this special holiday.
The first Thanksgiving took place in the Autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. I’m sure the people who hosted were stressed too.
Read more about the First Thanksgiving.
Remember, this holiday is about giving thanks.
If your turkey burns or your glass baking dish shatters on the stove with yummy twice-baked potatoes in it (yes, this happened to me but not on Thanksgiving,) it will not take away from your blessings and spending time with family and friends.
Don’t sweat it because you’ll l laugh about it one day.
Stress Free Thanksgiving Planning
Planning early and completing tasks as early alleviates stress and anxiety. You don’t need to think about borrowing or renting tables and washing linens the day before Thanksgiving when you need to cook.
Allowing plenty of time to complete tasks helps you keep control of hosting. I’m all about stress free Thanksgiving planning and that only happens by planning ahead.
You’ll find the Thanksgiving Planner free printable below. Print it and put it on your fridge today!
Also, there’s a sample Thanksgiving Dinner Menu toward the bottom.
See my guide on how much turkey and ham to buy.
The All Mighty Turkey
It’s best to thaw your frozen turkey in a refrigerator. Here’s a frozen turkey thawing guide:
- 4 lbs. – up to 24 hours
- 8 lbs.- up to 48 hours
- 12 lbs. up to 72 hours
- 24 lbs. up to 6 days
Forgot to Thaw the Turkey?
Did you forget to thaw the turkey? Oops. It happens. Put the frozen turkey in a large container filled with enough lukewarm water to almost cover the turkey. Change the water every two hours. It will take several hours to thaw depending on turkey size. Then, store it in refrigerator until ready to season.
NOTE: This is not the recommended turkey thawing on the package but, this will work in a pinch because any bacteria that accumulates will cook off in the oven unless the turkey has salmonella, which you can’t control.
If you’ve never brined a turkey, give it a try. It’s not different than marinating a steak except you may have to cook the brine first and let it cool as with my Apple Cider Vinegar Cranberry Brown Sugar Turkey Brine + VIDEO. However, my Citrus Turkey Brine with Apple Cider Vinegar + VIDEO which makes enough for a 20 lb. whole turkey!
This brine recipe gives the turkey a remarkable flavor! Let it brine for 8-12 hours. If you’re unsure if your turkey thawed, brining it will finish the job.
Use a turkey brine bag. It’s thicker than a roaster bag. Put the turkey and brine in the brine bag and then put it in a roaster pan (just in case the bag leaks) to brine in your refrigerator, a cooler with ice or outside, if it is cold enough.
Read the turkey package. Some turkeys have added salt. Therefore, you may want to adjust the salt in the brine recipe.
Prepping the Turkey
If you don’t want to brine the turkey, inject the turkey with seasonings instead. Use a meat thermometer to check when the turkey is done roasting. It is recommended to let the turkey rest covered once removed from the oven so the juices become more savory.
The resting time can be from 30 to 90 min. It will still be hot to serve. During the turkey resting time, you can bake your side dishes or reheat them if you only have one oven.
Basting the Turkey
I only baste the covered, brined turkey hourly because the more you baste it, the more heat will come out of the oven and it will take much longer to roast. If you plan to baste every 15 minutes, plan to roast it at least one hour longer.
Oven temps vary so, keep that in mind when cooking according to package directions and add some extra time.
Need More Oven Space?
Use other appliances such as the ones mentioned below. You’ll be happy when you can make your turkey or extra white meat elsewhere so you can save your oven space for side dishes.
Countertop Roaster Oven
If you don’t have enough oven space, this affordable 22 qt. Stainless Steel Oster Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid is perfect for small kitchens with one oven! It could be a lifesaver! Make side dishes or even a whole turkey or turkey breast in your slow cooker.
Use an Air Fryer. I LOVE my Air Fryer Oven. It has five racks I can use to make (mostly healthy) Thanksgiving sides like-
- Parmesan Green Beans
- baked potatoes
- Garlic Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
- Butternut Squash
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
- Garlic Rosemary Carrots
I can even make extra white meat in my air Fryer.
Thinking of Doing Fried Turkey this Year?
Make sure you research the cooking method first. You don’t want to torch your back yard on Thanksgiving and have the fire department showing up with axes and hoses. Butterball makes an electric stainless steel turkey fryer I’ve seen for under $100 on sale at Amazon.
Need More White Meat?
Make Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and save oven space for your multitude of sides. Ask someone to bring extra white meat and use an insulated slow cooker carrier to keep it warm and avoid spills in their car on the way over. This year, I bought one for myself!
Get Yourself a Multi-Function Cooker
If you’ve been putting off buying an Instant Pot, NOW is the time! It too can save you oven space and counter space by offering multi functions. I love making rice in 10 minutes in mine and don’t buy instant rice anymore. I’ve made ricotta cheese and steel cut oats in 10 minutes! I’ve made a whole chicken it it in half the time it’d take in the oven.
Some Instant pots have as many as 10 functions! Use it as a slow cooker for ham or turkey breast or make a rice side dish with the rice cooker function. Plus, there’s a saute function for onions, celery and carrots which is great when you run out of stove burners.
Pull out your Instant Pot if your brother-in-law decides to show up at the last minute with his four hungry kids and nutty wife. Therefore, you can do an extra turkey breast in the pressure cooker if you need it quickly or you set it up as a slow cooker for side dishes like, macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes.
Because it’s multi-functional, it can be almost whatever you need it to be followed by a very convenient weeknight meal maker!
Using a Thanksgiving countdown planner helps promote stress-free planning. Print it (get free printable below or buy this pretty 13-page binder (digital download) and hang it on your refrigerator.
Check off each task as it’s completed and you’ll find yourself ahead of the game.
BOURBON Chocolate Pecan Pie
The Less Stress Thanksgiving Planner
3-4 weeks before
- If your carpets need cleaning, now is the time to make the appointment. Check Groupon first.
- If you need furniture (extra tables and chairs) start shopping, rental or borrowing process.
- Think about how many people you’ll be hosting, if you will have a sit down dinner or buffet, what food your guests like and make a budget.
- Invite guests, keep track of RSVPs and what guests are bringing with Evite, Facebook Event, or Sign Up Genius which, is especially helpful if you are hosting a large crowd.
- Find out how many kids are coming so you can be prepared with juice, toys, activities, and a kids’ table.
- Plan your menu around what your guests have offered to bring, if you know. Keep in mind how much oven space you have and that it may be helpful if someone brings a side dish made in their own oven.
- Ponder a delicious menu that is all encompassing- one or two meats, three or four sides (two starches and two non-starch vegetables) gravy, cranberry sauce, appetizers, dinner rolls, dessert variety, beverages, condiments, etc.
- Decide what beverages you’ll serve- alcoholic , non-alcoholic- soda, coffee, tea, creamer and kids’ drinks.
- If you will be hosting out-of-town guests, make a list of breakfast and lunch items to serve on Thanksgiving Day and add it to your grocery list.
- Write out a first draft menu including beverages.
- Order turkey or ham if you’re not buying it from the grocery store.
- Decide what tableware you’ll use-table cloths, napkins, centerpieces.
- Make a grocery list categorized by grocery section i.e. dairy, produce, meat, bakery, etc.
- Make a list of supplies for other retail stores i.e. Target, Costco Inc., Party City
2-3 weeks before
- Confirm RSVPs and contact people who have not.
- Decide if you will brine or fry the turkey. If so, find a brine recipe or turkey frying method, note the brining time and add the ingredients you need to your shopping lists.
- Peruse your chosen recipes, check your pantry and add the ingredients you need to your grocery list.
- Finalize menu and store lists.
- Wash tablecloths, your good dishes, serving platters and utensils, wine glasses, coolers, if needed.
- If you are having a buffet-style dinner, think about where and how you’ll set up the food.
1 week before
- Any planning items that have not been done prior to now, do it!
- Buy non-perishable recipe ingredients, groceries, items and beverages.
- In the morning, place the frozen turkey in refrigerator to begin thawing.
- Buy all ingredients (perishable and remaining non-perishable) for your menu, including all beverages.
- Make fresh cranberry relish if you choose not to use canned.
- Clean your house and set up bedrooms (clean sheets, make room in closets, activities for kids) for out of town guests.
- Think about any ingredients you forgot and buy what you still need.
- Make the desserts.
- Clean your powder room, vacuum and dust any rooms where most of your guests will be congregating.
- If you forgot to thaw the turkey, put it in a water bath and change water hourly, put in refrigerator overnight in water bath
- If there is anything else you can do on Tuesday that will alleviate the work for you on Wednesday or Thursday, do it. Don’t procrastinate.
- If you’re brining the turkey, make the turkey brine in the morning and begin brining. Make or prepare appetizers, cover, and store them in a second refrigerator, if you have one.
- Wash and cut up vegetables you’ll be using for stuffing and side dishes; prepare make ahead side dishes.
- Remove extraneous small appliances and kitchen items from your counter tops to make extra space.
- Set up tables and chairs.
- Ask a family member to decorate and help set up.
- Have someone bring ice if you need it.
- Chill white wine and/or beer.
- Set the table(s) with table cloths, silverware, napkins, centerpieces, and light the candles.
- Make the stuffing and stuff the turkey, if applicable.
- Make the potatoes. You can peel them, put them in salted water and cook them hours later.
- Set up the buffet, if applicable.
- Place turkey in oven according to package or recipe directions.
- Make the turkey gravy from pan drippings if you are making your own gravy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help setting up, cooking, cleaning up afterward. Your closest family members will not mind helping a gracious host. Smile and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
For the FREE printable version, click this link The-Less-Stress-Thanksgiving-Dinner-Planner-
Or buy my Thanksgiving Planner Binder that includes 3-page week-by-week, day-by-day planner. It has: grocery list, menu & budget worksheets, to do list worksheets, cooking times & tips, an easy & flavorful turkey brine recipe and more.
Sample Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Veggie tray, chips and dips, Puff Pasty Pesto Chicken Bites, Shrimp cocktail
dinner rolls & butter
Lemon Ginger Cranberry Relish (featured on Good Housekeeping 2017-2023!)
Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Soft Drinks, Water
Tropical Fruit Salad with Vanilla Greek Yogurt or fresh fruit
Check out ALL of our Thanksgiving recipes!
This Stress Free Thanksgiving Planning helps you plan ahead and alleviate anxiety! Don’t be stressed and short-tempered in a corner guzzling wine so you don’t chop someone’s head off. Your husband will thank you too.
If you really want to impress your guests, print out the menu on pretty and fitting stationary, frame it and place it on your buffet table to get them excited about the upcoming meal while the aroma of turkey cooking in the oven is circulating in the house.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
Got Turkey Leftovers?
Got Ham Leftovers?