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Betty’s Thanksgiving Planner

Tackling your first Turkey Day but don’t know where to start? Betty breaks it down for you in this step-by-step timeline that takes you from planning the menu to dishing up dinner for your guests.

We’ve already shown you the must-have menu for hosting the perfect first Thanksgiving—now we’re walking you through every step of the process with this comprehensive timeline. When you break it down, there’s plenty you can do ahead of time and plenty of time to do it all. 

2 Months Before: 

  • Let your family and friends know that you’re taking on Turkey Day this year. If guests offer to bring an appetizer or something small, graciously accept. If not—never fear. You have plenty of time to make every last bit of the menu yourself.
1 Month Before:
  • Plan your menu and read each recipe carefully. Make sure you have all of the tools you’ll need to pull off dinner like a pro! Our Tools for Turkey Day guide walks you through the basics you’ll want to buy if they’re not already in your kitchen. (Think baster, meat thermometer, etc.)
  • Now is also a good time to buy any non-perishables you’ll need. Consider what dried spices you’ll want to use, and make sure you have enough sugar, flour, olive oil and shortening—all the essentials you’ll need that won’t spoil.
3 Weeks Before:
  • Shore up the final number of guests attending to make sure you purchase enough of everything and have the proper amount of flatware, glasses, place settings and napkins.
  • Choose what wines you and your guests will want to drink with the meal. As a general rule, dry white wines pair nicely with most Thanksgiving menus. 
  • Purchase nonalcoholic alternatives such as sparkling ciders or chai tea. 
  • Pick out some thoughtful centerpieces, considering the color scheme of what you already have. Or, if you’re feeling crafty, make your own! 
2 Weeks Before:
  • If you plan on roasting a fresh turkey, order it now from the butcher or your local grocery store.
1 Week Before:
  • Buy your potatoes and cranberries.
  • If you plan on making a green bean casserole, you can make it now and store it in the fridge until the big day.
3 Days Before:
  • If you’re using a frozen turkey, pick it up today and keep it in your fridge until the big day so it thaws completely. 
  • You can also pick up your fresh turkey on this day. (Also keep this in the fridge until it’s ready to be roasted.)
  • Purchase all fresh veggies and dairy products you’ll be using. 
2 Days Before:
  • Make your pumpkin pie and refrigerate.
  • Pick out a playlist and consider other small details that will make your guests feel at home.
1 Day Before:
  • Make the cranberry sauce and refrigerate.
  • Set the table with the dishes and flatware you’ve chosen and arrange your centerpieces. Designing your table can be fun—you don’t want to feel rushed to get everything just right the day-of. 
6 Hours Before:
  • It’s turkey time! Prepare your bird and put it in the oven. Because turkeys come in differing sizes, it’s important to roast it according to weight. 
4 Hours Before:
  • Prepare the stuffing and let cook in slow cooker.
2 Hours Before:
  • Chill the wine.
  • Use this time to get ready and dressed for dinner.
1 Hour Before:
45 Minutes Before:
  • Set the cranberry sauce on the table
30 Minutes Before:
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and place it on carving board or platter. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and let stand for 20 minutes; this will ensure your turkey is moist and perfect before you begin carving.
20 Minutes Before:
  • Make the gravy with the fat and juices from your roasted turkey.
10 Minutes Before:
  • Carve the turkey and arrange meat on platter.
  • Fill the water glasses.
  • Pour the wine.
  • Turn on coffee pot if you plan on having after-dinner coffee with your pie.
  • Place food on table, give yourself a pat on the back, and enjoy!