Thanksgiving Meal Prep Planning

For me, an enjoyable, stress-free Thanksgiving is all in the advance planning. Best plan: pot-luck meal where you have limited cooking responsibility! But it is still possible to have a low-stress day and prepare the entire meal yourself. With one oven. Here is our menu this year, and the plan for getting it done with the least amount of Thanksgiving Day chaos.

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

Herb Brined Roast Turkey



Cranberry Sauce

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Garlic Stuffing

Green Beans with Bacon and Almonds

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms

Pumpkin Pie

Cherry Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Thanksgiving Gameplan:

  • Monday (or earlier):
    • Make rolls; parbake and freeze
    • Cube bread for stuffing, set out on trays to dry; roast garlic for stuffing and potatoes, refrigerate (see Roasted Garlic Stuffing for full recipe)
    • Eat all of the leftovers in the fridge so you have room for all of your advance preparations and Thanksgiving leftovers! Keep eating leftovers Tuesday and Wednesday until your fridge is empty; no more leftovers? Order pizza.
  • Tuesday:
    • Prepare brine (see Turkey Timetable below)
    • Prepare Make-Ahead Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes; refrigerate
    • Make cranberry sauce; refrigerate
  • Wednesday:
    • Add turkey to brine (see Turkey Timetable)
    • Chop vegetables for stuffing; place in Ziploc bags; refrigerate
    • Prepare veges for Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Mushrooms (this is a new recipe I’m trying this year from Kalyn’s Kitchen. It sounds great, but does require a lot of oven space and time, so I am going to try to roast it for half the time on Wednesday, refrigerate, and then finish on Thursday)
    • Cook bacon and toast almonds for the Green Beans with Bacon
    • Make pies
  • Thursday:
    • Prepare stuffing. Cook for 30 minutes in oven. Transfer to crock pot. Keep warm on lowest heat. **Do this before putting the turkey in the oven
    • Prepare and roast turkey (see Turkey Timetable)
    • Remove mashed potatoes from fridge; place in covered casserole dish; let potatoes come to room temperature (I am going to reheat the potatoes in the oven; you could also reheat them in a crock pot on low for several hours)
    • Remove sweet potatoes from fridge and place on baking sheet;cover and let come to room temperature.
    • Remove rolls from freezer. Place on a baking sheet and cover with foil or plastic wrap.
    • Sit and enjoy family for the next hour or two while the turkey cooks!
    • When turkey is done: remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
    • As soon as turkey comes out of oven: mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes go in the oven
    • Make gravy; keep warm on low heat
    • Steam green beans; stir in bacon and almonds (see Bacon Beans for full recipe)
    • While you are preparing beans, have someone else begin to carve the turkey, and kids begin to put food on the table
    • Remove potatoes and sweet potatoes from the oven. Bake rolls for 5-7 minutes, until hot and golden brown.
    • Relax and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40°F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 ½ hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 ½ to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.


Filed under Main Dishes, Tips and Tutorials, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Thanksgiving Meal Prep Planning

  1. Looks like you have it covered!! I love planning the meals for the holidays and I make many, many “schedules” like yours. It is the ONLY way to go.


  2. Pingback: It’s Almost Thanksgiving! « Cooking Whims

  3. Sarah

    Another successful year. Thanks Kelly!


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