Having a Thanksgiving Week Meal Prep Plan is essential to getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table with the least amount of stress. Spending a few minutes jotting down a Thanksgiving Week Meal Prep schedule will make sure you’re not spending the entire day frantically cooking. Instead, enjoy a relaxed pace on Thanksgiving Day so you can enjoy your family and friends.
Thursday is Thanksgiving so hopefully you have your menu finalized for the big day. If not, take heart, there is still a little time to come up with your menu.
Benefits of Thanksgiving Week Prep Plan
A Thanksgiving week prep plan and Thanksgiving Day prep plan is essential to making sure everything is ready for the table at the same time. It helps you pace prep work throughout the week, and also makes Thanksgiving Day less stressful.
Having a plan also makes it easier to suggest what guests can bring. For example, ask guests to bring an appetizer or dessert so you can focus on making Thanksgiving dinner. Or, ask guests to help assemble a grazing platter to pick on before the big feast.
Here is a sample Thanksgiving Day Dinner menu:
Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
I like to make everything from scratch, but there are many shortcuts that will save time. I’ve noted shortcuts below.
- Brined Roasted Turkey (buy pre-brined turkey if short on time – Trader Joe’s carries this)
- Cornbread Stuffing (buy store-made cornbread and pre-chopped vegetables if short on time)
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Green Bean Casserole
- Cranberry Sauce (buy store-made gravy if short on time)
- Turkey Gravy (buy store-made gravy if short on time)
- Pumpkin Pie (buy store-made if short on time or ask guests to bring)
- Apple Pie (buy store-made if short on time or ask guests to bring)
Week of Thanksgiving Meal Prep
Almost everything for Thanksgiving Dinner can be prepared ahead of time. After all, if you were to buy pre-made food from the supermarket, you would have to reheat it anyway. I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner in one day, but I much prefer to have enough time to spread it out over the week. Then, all I have to do is bake the pumpkin pie, reheat the side dishes and cook the turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Example of Thanksgiving Week Meal Prep:
- Start defrosting turkey if you’re using a frozen turkey (rule of thumb is 1 day for every 4 pounds)
- If you’re making your own gravy, make turkey stock. To make turkey stock, roast turkey parts (wings, legs, thighs), with onions, carrots, and celery for 50 minutes to 1 hour until nicely browned. Transfer to a big pot, and add water to cover. Toss in some fresh (or dried) thyme, sage and parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3-4 hours. You can also make this in a slow cooker (high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours). Strain and store in refrigerator.
- Make cornbread for stuffing
- Make cranberry sauce and freeze
- Make cornbread stuffing and freeze in Ziploc bags
- Make sweet potato casserole (except for topping) and store in refrigerator
- Make gravy and store in refrigerator
- Defrost cranberry sauce and cornbread stuffing in refrigerator
- Make mashed potatoes and store in refrigerator
- Make green bean casserole (except for topping) and store in refrigerator
- Bake apple pie
- Brine turkey (8-24 hours max)
Day of Thanksgiving Meal Prep
Adjust timing depending on what time you plan on serving dinner. We traditionally eat at 4PM.
- 9AM – Make pumpkin pie
- 12PM – Start roasting turkey (based on a 12 pound turkey)
- 2PM – Remove side dishes from refrigerator 1 hour before warming up to reduce time needed to reheat; make toppings for sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole
- 3PM – Remove turkey from oven (should be done based on a 12 pound turkey); cover with foil to keep warm. Put side dishes in 400 degree oven (covered with foil) to reheat (to reheat mashed potatoes, pour a little extra milk/a few pats of butter on top of mashed potatoes and cover with foil); remove cranberry sauce from refrigerator
- 3:30PM – Reheat gravy
- 4PM – Eat!
- 6PM – Layer all the leftover in a casserole dish and make Layered Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole. Put turkey carcass in a big pot with carrots, onion, and celery; cover with water and make turkey stock. Strain and make turkey congee for breakfast the next day.
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