This is a handy menu planner to help you organize your Thanksgiving Day feast, divided by type of dish. Also included are a checklist of things to do 3 weeks ahead of the big day.
Downloadable Printables are included for your convenience.
I've cooked oodles of Thanksgiving dinners through the years, and have loads of memories from them - both good and bad. I'm an optimist, which is usually a good thing. But I over-estimate what I can do on Thanksgiving Day without half killing myself and swearing never to do it again.
So I became a queen, of sorts, for planning and spreading out the work so that I could wake up on Thanksgiving morning excited about the day.
First, let's review the schedule for our Vegetarian Thanksgiving email series. I've added links to the first two newsletters sent out so far, for those of you who missed them! ⬇️
📧 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Email Series
Here's a quick look at the email series schedule that we're working through together, so you won't feel like your life is being held together only by a slender paperclip this year.
Week 1 (October 17): Guest list and handling reluctant carnivores.
Week 2 (October 24): Meal brainstorming and things to consider.
Week 3 (October 31): Finalize menu and create a 3-week plan (with Printable Planning Sheet).
Week 4 (November 7): Activities 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.
Week 5 (November 14): Things to do 1 week before Thanksgiving.
Week 6 (November 21): Checklists for the final days leading up to the big feast.
Last week, we covered how many dishes to plan on, based on how many people are coming to share Thanksgiving with you. And I shared a list of things to consider when planning the menu. Check out the printables I created for that week, if you missed them.
This week, we nail down the final menu and begin to plan for it.
This Week's Goals
- Finalize the main dishes and sides dishes you plan to serve.
- Decide whether or not you will make everything, or if guests will bring dishes to share. Mark down on the menu who's bringing what.
- If it's a pot luck, do you want everything to be vegetarian? If so, provide some guidelines you'd like them to follow.
- Begin to think about appetizers, dessert, and a festive cocktail to serve when guests arrive.
- Create a schedule for what needs to be done, and when to make Thanksgiving Day super easy.
Thanksgiving Menu Planner
I'm a visual girl, so I like to sketch the total menu out on a piece of paper. Click the following link to download a Menu Planner you can use. See below for how it's laid out.
MENU PLANNER PRINTABLE : just click on this link and print !
Ways to Use the Planner
This Menu Planner can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the size of your dinner. The goal is to lay out the dinner and begin to identify how you can spread out the work.
- List the dishes by type of, well, dish;
- Highlight dishes that can be made ahead with a marker; or
- Make a separate column for what can be made ahead, partly made ahead, assembled ahead, and who's bringing what.
Bottom line: how you want to use the Menu Planner is completely up to you. Just remember that the goal is to make Thanksgiving Day as relaxing as possible for you.
See the sample Menu Planner below.
Cocktail, Appetizer and Dessert Notes
Select recipes that you can make ahead of time, and serve at room temperature. Or, in the case of cocktails, keep them chilled in the refrigerator or freezer.
There are plenty of easy pre-prepared appetizers and desserts available in many markets. Think cheese and crackers, marinated olives, and pickled cauliflower for appetizers. And pies for dessert.
If you have guests who want to bring something, and they're not super comfortable in the kitchen, these are great things to ask them to bring since it gives them the option of picking everything up at their market.
Bottom line: Keep it simple. The main meal is the main event.
Countdown: 3-Weeks Ahead
Now that you have a menu plan, it's time to sketch out generally what needs to be done 3 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. I've put together a checklist for things to do this week, and a shopping list for essentials that will last at least 3 weeks.
As a note, I divide my shopping into 3 different trips when I'm planning a larger Thanksgiving than average.
- The first trip is for things that will last in the pantry or refrigerator at least until Thanksgiving.
- The second trip is for vegetables that will last at least 2 weeks, such as squash, onions, potatoes and dairy (depending on the expiration date).
- The third trip is for things that are more perishable, such as greens and herbs.
This spreads the shopping over a longer period, making it easier to budget for the meal. And I don't have to spend a lot of time in the market a couple days before Thanksgiving when the lines are the longest, and the produce is picked over.
The link below takes you to a printable you can download and print to use in your planning.
3-WEEKS AHEAD CHECKLIST PRINTABLE : just click on this link and print !
I hope this is helpful for you in your own planning. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Next week, we'll continue the countdown, and tackle what to do two weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. (Can you even believe we're getting that close???)
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