A successful Thanksgiving cannot be created in one day. Absolutely no way, no how. Anyone who tries to complete Thanksgiving from start to finish only on Thursday, it is bound to be a disaster somewhere.

The key to a relaxing, beautiful, and delicious family meal on Thanksgiving is to plan ahead. There are eight key areas to tackled before turkey day. Check these off your list in the weeks coming up to Thanksgiving and you’re guaranteed a much better outcome than you might expect.


This is usually the most obvious make-ahead suggestion. Most items can be made at least a day or two ahead of time. Rolls can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen until a few days before. Side dishes stay fresh refrigerated for 2-3 days. For items that can’t be made ahead of time, consider prepping, chopping, slicing, or doing any additional prep work that can make your cooking the day of go smoothly.

Thanksgiving Wisdom


Especially if you are having guests, don’t wait until Wednesday or Thursday to clean the house. Clean the guest room, prep the linens weeks ahead of time. It’s much easier to keep a space clean than it is to clean it two hours before guests arrive. 


You don’t have to do everything yourself, and you shouldn’t. As the host, delegate as much as you can to whoever is willing to help. Don’t let your controlling side take hold, you don’t have to do it all. Sure, they might make carrots differently, but they will be delicious and it’s one less thing for you to do. If you can’t bear to delegate the food, then delegate the dishes, linens, or other parts of the event.


    Serving Dishes

One of my best tips for a make ahead Thanksgiving is to prep your serving dishes. Pull out all your best materials and decide what dish will go in what. Put a small post-it note in each dish that specifies what that dish is going to be used for. This may seem over-the-top, but you’ll thank me later.


Stores start to carry Thanksgiving items well before Halloween, so don’t procrastinate. You can start creating centerpieces way early, and store them in a closet or garage until the big day.thanksgiving-4


Tables, chairs, napkins, and cloths can be arranged and used well ahead of time as well. Make the preparations for rentals if necessary, or at the very least have all linens cleaned, ironed, and ready to go.

    Table Settings

As soon as you know who will be attending, you can create placecards, napkin holders, and finish all those details that really help the event come together. You can create these weeks ahead of time before the stress sets in.thanksgiving-3

    Make a Timeline

There will always be a few things that must be done the day of. Warming up the side dishes, making the fresh food items, and of course, the turkey. Create a timeline by working backwards from your dinnertime and write down exactly when each item needs to be in the oven, and at what temperature. Plan out every last minute item so you have a plan instead of panic.