Thanksgiving Countdown: Pull Together a Prep Schedule

Entertain, Holidays, Learn, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Countdown, Tips & Techniques



The key to stress-free entertaining is to plan ahead—especially when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal. Our timeline will help you stay on track. You can do plenty of the prep work in advance, so you’ll have time to enjoy the company of your family and friends on the day of the feast. Don’t worry: You’ve got this!




  • Confirm your guest list to establish a headcount; find out if any guests have dietary needs.
  • Order a turkey fresh or buy a frozen turkey and put it in the freezer. Factor in a pound per person.
  • Order wine and liquor, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Make your shopping and to-do lists.
  • Plan your table setting, serving dishes and decorations.
  • Ensure you have enough tables, chairs, glasses, plates and flatware.
  • Finalize your menu; assign out any cooking projects if desired.
  • Read through all your recipes to determine the food and cooking equipment you will need.
  • Shop for non-perishable foods such as flour, sugar, canned pumpkin, rice and packaged stuffing, plus any cooks’ tools, cooking equipment and tableware you need.



  • Clear space in your fridge and freezer.
  • Make and freeze soup and stock.
  • Wash and iron linens.
  • Polish silver and flatware.
  • Take stock of Thanksgiving-specific cooking equipment (roaster, carving knife, platters, etc.)
  • Stock up on vegetables that store well, like onions, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and squash.


  • Prepare the turkey brine (but don’t add the turkey just yet!). Cover and refrigerate.
  • Defrost your turkey if it’s frozen. Trust us: you don’t want to cut this one close!


  • Clean the house.


  • Make baked desserts, rolls and breads for stuffing. With the exception of apple or pecan, all pies can be made two days ahead, too. (For apple and pecan pies, make the pastry ahead.)
  • Make cranberry sauce.
  • Assemble stuffing or casseroles and store them uncooked in the refrigerator.


  • Style your table: arrange the tablescape, place settings and glassware.
  • Pick up a fresh turkey if you haven’t already.
  • Complete your food shopping; Shop for salad greens and perishable vegetables.
  • If you are going to brine the turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.
  • Refrigerate wines that need chilling.
  • Chop vegetables for side dishes; refrigerate in covered bowls or sealable plastic bags.
  • Make sides on the stovetop today. For example, boil potatoes and mash them; they can be reheated just before serving.
  • Bake filled pies that don’t keep as well, like apple and pecan pies.
  • Calculate your cooking time (and order) for the next day.


  • Roast your turkey. If you plan to stuff the bird, do not stuff it until just before you put it in the oven.
  • Warm sides in the oven and stovetop, such as mashed potatoes, rolls, soups and casseroles.
  • Just before the turkey’s done, begin assembling salads.
  • While the turkey is resting, make the gravy and cook or reheat the side dishes.

Share your Thanksgiving preparations with us on social media by tagging your photos with #WSThanksgiving.


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