Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be thankful for all of the good things in your life. A time to be thankful for family and friends and all of the blessings God has given you. One thing that the holiday isn’t about is stress, and yet it becomes a part of so many feasts. If you feel like you can’t enjoy the holiday, because it causes too much stress you have come to the right place. We will give you an actionable plan and help you create a Thanksgiving checklist to stick to your budget, plan your menu and host any size feast.
Who’s Coming to Dinner?
First things first, you need to determine your guest list. You can send a formal invitation or just call, email or text. It really depends on the amount of effort you want to put in and how fancy/formal your family and friends are. Once you know how many people are coming you can start to plan your menu.
When inviting guests you can politely ask if they would like to bring something, but don’t make a contribution to the meal a requirement. Many guests will offer to bring something, so you should have options for them. Before inviting guests decide which dishes you definitely want to make and make a list of all other dishes that you would like to serve. When someone asks what they should bring you will have a handy list for reference. Don’t say “bring whatever you want” or “surprise me” unless you want three green bean casseroles and zero mashed potatoes.
Make Shopping List
Now that you know how many guests you are having and how many dishes you are preparing you can make your grocery list. Thoroughly check recipes against pantry items and spices. Some holiday dishes require seasonal ingredients. Make sure you already have ground cloves for your pumpkin pie or add them to your list. You don’t want to run to the grocery store at 8pm the day before Thanksgiving. Trust me, it’s not pretty!
Include everything needed for the meal, from disposable baking pans, to decorations, to the bird itself. Your grocery list can be part of your Thanksgiving checklist or you can make a separate shopping list. You can grab our free Thanksgiving checklist below or create your own.
If everything on your list is available at one store lucky you, because you only have to make one trip. You may need to go to more than one store to get all supplies and ingredients or to get the best price on every item. Organize your list by store and use categories or departments within each store. Organization will avoid back tracking or multiple shopping trips.
Tackle your shopping however you want. I tend to buy a little at a time with each weekly grocery trip leading up to Thanksgiving. This way I space things out and it’s easier for me to work it into our food budget. You could buy it all at once during your regular grocery shopping or you could make a special trip just for Thanksgiving items. You just need to keep your list handy, so that however you do your shopping, you can easily keep track of things.
Maybe you are in charge of the whole feast, perhaps by design or by default. Whichever it is you need to make a budget. A single holiday meal, especially for a large group, can take a sizeable chunk out of your monthly food budget, so you need to have a plan.
If you have an Aldi I highly recommend shopping there, if not for the whole feast at least for some of the items. I know that I can buy everything that I need to create an amazing Thanksgiving dinner at Aldi. If you have never shopped there or if you are choosy about the items you purchase there, don’t worry some stuff is the same across the board, especially when it comes to packaged foods. They even sell Butterball turkeys, so never fear, Aldi is here!
If you don’t have an Aldi or it’s not your thing you still have options. Your local grocery stores will all be running sales on Thanksgiving items in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Shop store brands and off brands if you know that they are just as good as the national brands, which usually they are. The Sunday paper will also have coupons for some Thanksgiving items. There is a good chance that your local grocery store will have those items on sale, so you can combine a coupon with a sale.
You can also check the weekly sales adds for your local grocery stores. Then shop the lowest prices for each item, assuming you won’t be driving all over creation to get the best prices. If you are planning to drive 15 minutes to save a nickel, it’s not worth it. Plan your trip strategically and try to limit yourself to no more than 3 stores.
One final option would be to get a Target Red Card and use it to buy everything at Target. You can get the cartwheel app and see if there are discounts or coupons for any of the items on your list and use manufacturers coupons combined with Target coupons. When checking out you use your Red Card and save an additional 5%. If you don’t do credit cards you can get a Target Red debit card (that’s what we have). It links to your bank account and you still get the 5% off.
Once you have all of the food and supplies you need to come up with a game plan. Trying to do everything the day before and on Thanksgiving is a lot. Spacing things out and prepping food ahead of time is key. If you haven’t done so already can grab our free Thanksgiving checklist below. Our Thanksgiving checklist starts three weeks before the big day, but you could do two weeks or just one week, depending on how many people you are cooking for.
There is a line item for each dish, including ingredients that can be prepped ahead of time and a date for when the dish will be cooked. Some items can be prepped and frozen until needed while others can hang out in the fridge. If cooking ahead of time you only need to reheat. Even decorating and table setting can go on the list. Anything that needs to happen to create a stress free delicious meal goes on the Thanksgiving checklist.
Even easily delegated tasks have a space on the schedule. As your guests start to arrive, some of them may come into the kitchen and ask if they can help. Making a list of tasks ahead of time makes it easy to put your guests to work. If someone offers to help, let them. Ahead of time come up with a list of things that don’t need you expert touch. It could be as simple as opening wine or as involved as carving the turkey. Be sure that the task you assign is something that your volunteer can handle. You don’t want the cork broken off inside a bottle of wine or the turkey to look like it was attacked by a chainsaw.thanksgiving-checklist-xlsx
Purge Your Fridge
The week leading up to Thanksgiving try to use up as many things in your fridge as you can. Cook less, so that you aren’t creating leftovers. Sandwiches and salad are good dinner choices since they don’t create much in the way of leftovers.
Throw out expired items and condiments with only a teaspoon left in them. If possible consolidate items. Is it really necessary to have five open bottles of mustard?! The more space you can create for Turkey day items the better. Remember if you live somewhere that is fairly cold on Thanksgiving you can utilize your garage or back deck/patio to keep foods cold. If it’s snowing, only use the garage so you don’t freeze your food.
When cleaning up after the feast you will have room in your fridge for leftovers. Just be sure to designate a left over shelf or area in you fridge. It will be much easier to be organized when guests help you clean up. Of course, you should grab some inexpensive disposable containers at the Dollar Store. That will make it easy guests can take a doggy bag if they choose to.
Enjoy Your Turkey Coma
The planning and prep couldn’t have gone more smoothly and the food was amazing. You weren’t at all stressed, because you were well prepared. Take a quick moment to jot down a few notes about the feast on your Thanksgiving checklist. You can save this year’s Thanksgiving checklist to reference for next year’s feast.
You enjoyed the meal and the company. Catching up with loved ones and laughing at old stories. Now you can put on your sweat pants, plop down on the couch and blissfully drift off into a turkey coma. Well done my friend, well done!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and apply for a Target Red Card we earn a commission at no cost to you.