Hosting any holiday can be stressful! We’ve hosted hundreds of gatherings over the years and have compiled our tried and true Thanksgiving game plan to help minimize stress and maximize success!

If you prefer video, watch the full episode 24 YouTube video version.

5 pic collage of carved turkey and Thanksgiving sides.

Benjamin Franklin once said “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to hosting a holiday.

Having a great Thanksgiving game plan is the key to minimizing stress leading up to and on Thanksgiving day!

Note: This plan applies to food only! We can’t do anything to mitigate the stress from combative family members! Haha

Our Thanksgiving Game Plan

On the day this episode airs, Thanksgiving will be 10 days away which is plenty of time to get your plan together!

Consider following this timeline to help make decisions, delegate responsibilities, and tackle pain points.

Platter with carved turkey, gravy boat, and bowl of mashed potatoes.

7-10 days before

  • Decide on your menu.
  • Touch base with your guests.
    • Don’t be afraid to assign specific things and set rules. For example, it’s perfectly fine to request a specific dessert or appetizer.
    • If you have limited space in your refrigerator or kitchen, ask your guests to be mindful of that. Ask that they bring food that doesn’t require any prep (other than reheating) or refrigeration.
  • Shop for non-perishables, napkins, coffee, etc.
  • Make lasagna and freeze (or other dishes that freeze well).
Italian-American Lasagna featured image.

Saturday before

  • Depending on its size, thaw the turkey, if using frozen.
    • The USDA recommends thawing turkey in the refrigerator allowing 1 day for every 4-5 pounds. Once thawed, the raw turkey will be safe for another 2 days in the refrigerator.

Sunday – Monday

  • Go shopping.
    • Shop for groceries, beer, wine, and allow yourself time. This time of year many ingredients sell out quickly so account for the fact you may need to shop at more than 1 grocery store.


Collage of 6 Thanksgiving side dishes.


Closeup shot of baking dish with garlic butter dinner rolls.

Thanksgiving Thursday!

  • In the morning.
  • As guests arrive.
    • Add the club soda to the sangria.
    • Put out appetizers.
  • Before dinner.
    • Finish the mashed potatoes.
    • Make the giblet gravy or easy turkey gravy.
    • Carve the turkey.
    • Bake dinner rolls.
    • Heat up food in oven or over sternos.
  • After dinner and dessert.
    • If they offer, let your guests help with cleanup.
    • Prep coffee, tea, and put out desserts, after-dinner drinks, etc. To make things even easier on you, consider buying (or delegating to a guest) a box of coffee from a local coffee shop. Dunkin Donuts’ Box o’Joe has come in handy for us on many occasions!


If you enjoyed the Thanksgiving Game Plan: Taking the Stress Out of Thanksgiving episode, leave us a comment below and let us know!  

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Thanks for listening!

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