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oven roasted whole turkey on a white platter with autumn leaves

Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family and eating great food. But if you don’t prepare, you risk last-minute stress. As you look forward to the holiday, prepare ahead of time and prioritize the most important to-dos. I’ve included a free printable checklist below that includes everything you need to do to get ready for the perfect Thanksgiving.

3 Weeks Until Thanksgiving

As soon as you’ve finished the leftover Halloween candy, it’s time to tackle the first Thanksgiving to-dos.

  • Deep clean your kitchen, especially the oven, fridge, and freezer.
  • Clean the common areas of your home: the porch, living room and dining room.
  • Tackle the guest areas next: guest rooms and guest bathrooms.
  • Declutter and organize your entryway and coat closet.
  • If needed, schedule a carpet cleaning and wash your home’s windows.
  • If you have a fireplace, ensure it’s clean and order firewood.
  • Polish silver and store it in a tarnish-resistant cloth or box.
  • Create a guest list. When family and friends RSVP, ask about dietary restrictions and food allergies.
  • Plan the big Turkey Day menu. If you want to use a new recipe, test it ahead of time.
  • Create a grocery shopping list. For easy shopping, organize and order the list into the sections of your local grocery store: product, dairy, meat, bread, etc.
  • If your guests plan on bringing items, make a list of what each person will contribute.
  • Purchase extra containers for leftovers. Foil casserole dishes allow guests to take home leftovers without having to worry about returning your dishes.
  • If you plan to order a turkey or ham, call ahead and schedule your order now.
  • Make sure your shopping list includes SD cards for digital cameras and extra batteries.
  • Plan your beverage menu. Inquire at local stores about bulk discounts for wine, beer, and liquor. Provide soda, tea, and water for guests who don’t drink alcohol.
  • Assign tasks to family members. Involve friends and family in planning and preparing for your Thanksgiving meal as much as possible to divide responsibility and reduce stress.

2 Weeks Until Turkey Day

  • Shop for the non-perishable items on your grocery list.
  • Gather serving dishes and assign each to a menu item with a Post-It note.
  • Schedule an appointment with your hair stylist for a wash and blow-out the day before Thanksgiving.
  • Create a music playlist to listen to during your Thanksgiving meal. Or create a station on Pandora or Spotify.
  • Inventory your tableware and glassware to ensure you have enough for each of your guests. Mix and match styles to create a unique, charming tablescape or rent additional pieces from a party supply store.
  • If you need to order or rent additional chairs, folding tables, serving dishes, warmers or linens, call the party supply store and reserve your rental now.
  • Wash and press your table linens and napkins. If you’re short on time, take them to your local dry cleaner.
  • Plan your Thanksgiving décor. Check Pinterest for creative ideas. Schedule time to make decorations and place cards.
  • Write a short toast or blessing to share with guests as you sit down to eat.

1 Week To Go Before Thanksgiving

  • Decide on an outfit. Balance function with fashion. Select comfortable shoes and be sure you have an apron to wear in the kitchen!
  • Calculate when you need to start thawing the turkey.
  • Confirm when guests plan to arrive. Double-check who needs refrigerator space, oven time, or serving platters.
  • Plan seating arrangements.
  • Clear space in your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Wipe down appliances, wash potholders and dish towels, clean trivets, and glasses.
  • Clean your coffee maker by running vinegar through it and then rinsing it twice with fresh water.
  • Set the table or gather everything you’ll need and place it near the table to make setting it the night before Thanksgiving as simple as possible.
  • Prepare the brine for your turkey.
  • Make or buy extra ice and store in the freezer.
  • Order fresh flowers or gather seasonal greenery from your own garden.
  • Schedule airport pick-ups and determine sleeping arrangements for overnight guests.
  • Make final preparations for all the guest rooms. If an overnight guest is bringing a baby or small child, ask a friend or neighbor to borrow a high chair, portable playpen, and other helpful items.
  • Manage yard work and decorate the exterior of your home. Rake leaves, clear unnecessary clutter and hang a harvest wreath on your door.
  • Make a schedule for baking and food prep work in the week ahead. Review recipe ingredients and grocery lists to ensure you’ll have everything you need.
  • Write an hour-by-hour Thanksgiving day plan. Include when to put the turkey in the oven, heat the rolls and light the candles.

2 Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Chill the wine and champagne.
  • Finish shopping for food and pick up all your orders from butchers, bakeries, and specialty food shops.
  • Fill the salt and pepper shakers.
  • If you’re bringing your turkey, put the bird in the brine and keep chilled in the refrigerator.
  • Prep ingredients for recipes.
  • Prepare all the soups and desserts. Store in airtight containers.
  • Tidy your home with some final light housekeeping. Focus on the guest bathroom, kitchen, living room, and dining room. Dust and vacuum.

1 More Day To Go

  • Make all the side dishes, including the stuffing, that can be prepared ahead of time. For mashed potatoes, prep the potatoes and place in cold water in the fridge.
  • Go to your hair appointment. You’ll wake up the next morning with photo-ready hair.
  • Disinfect the kitchen sink and countertops; run the disposal.
  • Arrange flowers in vases. For an extra special touch, include a small bouquet in the guest bathroom.
  • Hang fresh towels and put full rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms.
  • Spot clean the common areas of your home. Disinfect remote controls, phones, door handles, and light switches. Empty trash bins.
  • Charge your digital camera and assign one member of your family to be the photographer.
  • Create a serving area for beer, wine, mixed drinks, desserts and coffee. Include corkscrews, cut lemons and limes, an ice bucket, glasses, coffee cups, dessert plates, forks, sugar and creamer.
  • Go to bed early and get some rest.

Thanksgiving Day!

  • Turn off your computer and unplug from email, texting, and social media.
  • If guests offer to help, put them to work! Guests can help pour drinks, answer the door, stow coats, refill ice, take photos or keep an eye on the kids.
  • Prepare and roast the turkey — or fry, smoke, or barbecue!
  • Roast vegetables and heat the stuffing.
  • Put condiments in dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready.
  • Prepare gravy and any other last minute items.
  • Put ice and a pitcher of water on the table.
  • Enjoy your delicious food and the company of family and friends!


  • Let everyone who wants to pitch in help with cleanup.
  • Clear the table, wash platters and return dishes to guests.
  • Pack leftovers and store in the refrigerator.
  • Hand-wash silver, china, crystal, knives and oversized serving pieces.
  • Soak pots, empty kitchen trash and recycling bin.

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