Planning Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few tips for planning your Thanksgiving dinner – along with tons of delicious recipes!
When the weather is getting cooler and you need to turn on the heater in your home, fall season is in the air! Which also means the holiday season is about to warm the hearts of people everywhere. It also means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the whole family will be gathered together to eat traditional Thanksgiving food that everyone knows and loves.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with hosting Thanksgiving, or if you don’t even know where to start, this Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Guide will give you some good advice as well as delicious recipes to make sure that you have the best Thanksgiving dinner.
The first part of this guide includes tips and tricks to help minimize holiday stress. A list of meal ideas with links to recipes will follow afterwards.
Table of contents
Tips and Tricks for a Low-Stress Thanksgiving
Let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure in hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Worrying about the house being clean, messy kitchens, unhappy guests, crazy kids running around and a myriad of other things can get you on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Taking everything in little by little each day leading up to Thanksgiving and allowing others to help you can make your holiday much more enjoyable as it should be.
How can you feel less stress this Thanksgiving?
Start preparing early
If you know you will be hosting this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations, you need to prepare as early as you can. Find out how many people will be there and determine what you need to take care of them. Do you have enough room in your house? Will you need to find some extra tables or chairs? Taking care of these issues a few weeks before the event will save you a bunch of time and worrying in the long run.
Figure out who will be going
Having a guest list a couple weeks before Thanksgiving will give you a head start on meal prep. You can determine how much food you will need to prepare, how many children will be there (because we know they don’t like everything the adults eat) and what kind of dishes you should prepare. If some of your guests have special dietary needs like allergies, you can plan for that instead of panicking the day of.
Don’t be afraid to ASK FOR HELP
Be honest to yourself. You don’t want to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to Thanksgiving. Delegation is key to a low stress Thanksgiving. When you have your guest list figured out, determine who can help cook some dishes and ask them to help. If they are comfortable doing so, they will do it. Ask your immediate family members to help tidy up the house so that you can focus on cooking. Thanksgiving is a community holiday; people are ready and willing to help you, you just need to ask.
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Plan out a menu and make a shopping list
Planning out a menu a few weeks before the event is a Thanksgiving dinner must-have. Are you unsure about what kind of dishes to have? The end of this post have a wide variety of recipes that you can use, including main dishes, side dishes and desserts. Once you have your menu planned out, write down a shopping list so that you can be ready for the big day.
Shop early to reduce last-minute shopping
This is a big one. Separate your shopping list into non-perishables (or items that won’t expire before Thanksgiving) and fresh items (or last-minute perishables). Shop for the non-perishables about a week before Thanksgiving, then when it gets closer, shop for the fresh items.
You will end up doing most of your shopping before the hoards of people invade all of the Thanksgiving ingredients and your panic levels skyrocket. Instead, you’ll have a small list of groceries and if you happen to forget anything, you can quickly grab what you need and leave without worrying about a long list. This tip will save you tons of stress and worry.
Take it one step at a time
Since Thanksgiving is such a big holiday, your mind will tend to be 20 places at once, causing a huge amount of stress on you. Slow down, take a breath, and tackle each task one at a time. Prioritize your tasks and leave time for some breaks. If you start to panic, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Before you know it, your tasks will be completed.
Consider Buying Parts of the Meal
There is no rule that says EVERY part of Thanksgiving dinner has to be homemade – in fact, there’s no rule that says any of it does.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post – you probably are wanting to make some of it yourself (and we have lots of great recipes!). However, there are many things that you can buy to make it easier.
Hate making rolls? Buy them from the local bakery or at the store. Can’t seem to get the turkey or ham right? Head to Boston Market or Honey Baked Ham!
And let me tell you – I love Marie Callander frozen pies! If you are feeling overwhelmed, look at the meal you have planned and decide what things you’d be okay buying.
Rastelli’s has some really awesome side dishes that you can order for Thanksgiving!
Don’t forget to ENJOY the holiday with your loved ones
All too often, the commotion of preparation and execution cause us to forget the real reason that we gather together; to enjoy each other’s company and to feel gratitude and love. The host needs to remember that. At the end of the day, the most memorable part of the holiday will be the time that is spent with your loved ones. Step out of the kitchen and enjoy the people that came to Thanksgiving. Remember the reason for the celebration.
These tips will help you enjoy Thanksgiving with your loved ones more without the stress that naturally comes from hosting parties. Try them the next time you host Thanksgiving at your home.
How Much Per Person?
One of the hardest parts of planning Thanksgiving dinner is knowing how much food to plan for!
For the main dish (whether it be turkey or ham), general advice is about 1.5 pounds per person. However, that’s assuming all your guests are adults! In my experience, children don’t eat nearly that much, so I usually try and assume about 1 lb per person if you have a good mixture of adults and children, and it usually evens out.
And who doesn’t love leftovers?!
For a turkey, it’s generally recommended to have:
- 6-7 lbs for five people
- 10-14 lbs for 10 people
- 24-28 lbs for 20 people
When it comes to sides, it gets a little tricky. I see some resources that say if you have five people, you only need one side dish. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to any Thanksgiving dinner where there is just one side dish!
I would recommend having about 1 cup per side per adult, and 1/2 cup for children. Plan on two rolls per person – some will eat none, others will eat four. Gravy is generally about 1/2 cup per person.
When it comes to desserts, plan on two slices of whatever you are serving for each person.
Thanksgiving Dinner Dish Ideas
The pride of the dinner table on Thanksgiving is definitely the turkey! Besides turkey, there are some key staples like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and don’t forget the gravy!
- The BEST Cornish Hen Recipe
- Easy Instant Pot Cornish Game Hen Recipe
- Easy Cornish Hens in a Slow Cooker
- Smoked Cornish Game Hens
You can’t forget the side dishes! Some of my favorite Thanksgiving foods are side dishes. They bring so much flavor and fun to any meal.
Obviously, this is our specialty 🙂
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Copycat Longhorn Steakhouse Mashed Potatoes
- Easy Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes Recipe
- Easy Instant Pot Mashed Cauliflower Recipe
- Savory Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes Recipe
- Easy Instant Pot Funeral Potatoes
- Easy and Cheesy Funeral Potatoes Recipe
- Easy and Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes Recipe
- Yummy Potatoes (aka, Funeral Potatoes)
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Easy Crock Pot Cheesy Potatoes Recipe
- Addictive Instant Pot Stuffing Recipe
- Cranberry, Sausage, and Mushroom Stuffing
- 15 Unique Stuffing Recipes
- Homemade Sourdough Rolls Recipe – Super Fluffy!
- The Best Copycat Longhorn Steakhouse Bread Recipe
- The AMAZING Legendary Lion House Rolls Recipe
- The BEST Quick Dinner Rolls Recipe – Ready in less than an hour
- 30+ of the Best Roll Recipes
- Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls (Dairy/Lactose Free Options)
- How to Make Frozen Rolls Taste Homemade
- Easy Instant Pot Cornbread – Totally Fool Proof!
- Jalapeno Cornbread Recipe with Muffin Adaptation
- Easy Sweet Cornbread Recipe
- Easy One Skillet Cornbread Casserole
- One Dish Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Recipe (Gluten Free Options)
- Perfect Gluten Free Corn Bread Recipe
Fruit and Vegetable Dishes (casseroles and more)
- Classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe
- Creamy Instant Pot Green Bean Casserole with Bacon
- Classic Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
- Easy Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole
- Instant Pot Sweet Potato Casserole
- Easy Creamed Corn Recipe
- Creamy Instant Pot Creamed Corn – Just Six Ingredients!
- How to Make the Perfect Fruit Salad (And What Fruits to Choose)
- EASY Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce
- Easy Skillet Creamed Corn
- Longhorn Steakhouse Creamed Spinach Recipe
- Instant Pot Green Beans Almondine
- Easy Instant Pot Collard Greens with Bacon
- Easy Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan and Garlic
- Easy Instant Pot Mashed Cauliflower Recipe
- 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Maple Carrots
Macaroni & Cheese
- Easy Baked White Macaroni and Cheese
- Easy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese – 20 Minutes!
- Copycat Costco Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Copycat Longhorn Steakhouse Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Easy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe – No Boil!
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without desserts!
Pies and Cobblers
- Chocolate Triple Berry Pie Recipe
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
- Slab Apple Pie Recipe
- Easy Cherry Chocolate Pie Recipe
- Caramel Apple Pecan Pie
- Chai Peach Cobbler
- Easy Peach Crisp Recipe
- Layered Berry Crumble
- Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie
- The BEST Thanksgiving Jello Salad with Cranberries
- Easy Strawberry Jello Salad
- Easy Watergate Jello Salad
- Simple Lime Jello Salad Recipe
- Simple Layered Blueberry Jello Salad
- Easy Triple Berry Jello Salad
- Creamy Orange Jello Salad with Mandarin Oranges
- The BEST Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad
Bread and Bread Pudding
- Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe
- Gluten Free Poppyseed Bread Recipe
- Cake Mix Pumpkin Bread
- Easy Sourdough Zucchini Bread Recipe
- Keto Pumpkin Bread with Pecans–Simple Ingredients
- Spiced Pumpkin Bread Pudding
- Strawberry Shortcake Bread Pudding (Dairy Free Options)
- Eggnog Monkey Bread Recipe
- Easy S’more Bread Pudding
Other Tasty Desserts
- White Chocolate Cherry Tart
- Amazing Pumpkin Trifle – The Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need!
- Pumpkin Poke Cake
- Swirled Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bars with Chocolate Chips
- Soft Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cookies
- Caramel Apple Cookie Pizza
- Apple Pie Cookies
- Triple Berry Trifle
- Marbled Pumpkin Spice Brownies
We hope that this guide will make your Thanksgiving dinner easier than ever to plan!