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Thanksgiving In 4 – A Quick Guide to Getting Thanksgiving Dinner Ready in 4 Days

thanksgiving meal planner free printable

It’s Turkey Time!  If you haven’t yet started prepping for Thanksgiving now is the time my friend.  Here’s a step by step guide to help you get it all done bit by bit over the next four days.


1) Plan the menu

Sounds obvious but what are you having?  Do you have everything you need yet?

2) Shop

Head to the store with your Thanksgiving Day list.  Be sure to eat before you head out, take a snack for the kids and if this is a mid-grocery shopping run, stick to the list as close as you can. You don’t want to ruin your grocery budget by picking up too many impulse buys.  Don’t forget the toilet paper!

3) Start thawing the turkey

If you’re turkey is frozen, pop it in the refrigerator today. If you’re planning on brining the bird, you want it to be thawed about 12 hours before cook time so it can brine right before prep. I used this brining method last year. As a last resort you can thaw the turkey in cool water but you need to change the water often.


1) Start Baking

Breads and pies will last 2-4 days fresh or you can pop them in the freezer and thaw them Thanksgiving morning.  Cookies will last (unless you eat them all) so if they are on the list don’t hesitate to start them on today.

2) Find your roaster

Do you know where your big roaster is?  Better find it so you’re not waking the entire house at 4am Thanksgiving morning.

3) Get out your serve-ware

Start gathering, or at least write down what you’ll need to serve with on Thursday.  Once I had to search boxes in the attic to find my electric carving knife.  This did not make for a low-stress Thanksgiving morning.

  • Platter
  • Carving Knife
  • Table Linens
  • Special Serving Items
  • Bread Basket

4) Check today’s Christmas to do list.


Wednesday is my biggest day of preparation.  Even when I worked full time I still did the majority of my work Wednesday early morning or at night.

1) Peel and soak potatoes

If you’re making mashed potatoes get them peeled (if you choose) and allow them to soak overnight in lightly salted water.

2) Prep ingredients for stuffing

You shouldn’t stuff your turkey the night before but you can prepare the ingredients:

  • cut/cube your bread
  • chop and saute onions and celery  (pop them in the refrigerator when you’re done)
  • mix bread and seasoning (This gives the bread a chance to absorb the aroma of your herbs)

3) Prep side dishes

What are your sides? What can you prepare now either by getting the ingredients ready or making the entire thing ahead? If refrigerator space allows, make your sweet potato casserole or green bean casserole(except the onions) today and refrigerate it until tomorrow.

4) Decide on the oven schedule

Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have this oven. We have to mentally prepare the schedule for baking. What can you bake before the turkey? What time does your turkey need to be in the oven so that it s ready about 20-30 minutes prior to meal time? What can you bake/warm up after the turkey is out?

5) Set the table

If it is practical in your home, set the table today so it’s all done.  We do this and then eat at the bar or even in the living room for breakfast. It’s a treat for our little guy to eat in the living room every once and a while so it makes the day extra special for him.

7) Check your 30 Days to Christmas list.

8) Do a Quick Clean

You’re house doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want it presentable. Wednesday afternoon or before bedtime enlist the family to do a quick-clean. Put away unused toys, get the shoes in the closet and the jackets hung up. Find a basket for the mail laying on the counter and run the sweeper. Be sure bathrooms are clean and presentable for guest. Keep in mind, if you have kids the house will not stay pristine. Another quick clean will be needed Thursday too.


Today’s the day! Strap on your apron, turn on the parade or some music and let’s get to work!

1) Take a moment

It’s easy to get caught up in the day, either with stress or enthusiasm, so be sure to take a moment this morning to praise God for all you have to be thankful for.  Ask Him to guide your day and be with those traveling in your family.

2) Turkey

Prepare your turkey.  I like to cut the skin away from my turkey at the opening and stuff a mixture of butter, olive oil and herbs between the skin and the meat. Then I stuff it and pop it i the oven.

3) Set the table

If you didn’t do this the night before you can get your table prepared after breakfast.

4)Prepare remaining side dishes

What’s left to prepare? What time does it need to be in the oven?

5) Thaw pies and breads if necessary

If you froze your breads, pies or cookies be sure to get them out early so they can thaw.

6) Final Quick Clean

Gather the troops for a final quick clean before guests arrive.  Remember, Martha Stewart isn’t the goal, we just don’t want Grandma tripping over matchbox cars.


Grab this free Thanksgiving Printable Planner.

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  1. I love #6 on Thursday! Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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