Thanksgiving Timeline for Holiday Cooks

12 Nov

Once we hit November time makes a quantum leap.  Like so many of you, I look at the calendar and don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t know about you, but 2020 is filled with so many twists and turns, the holiday season is welcome even though the celebrations will be different. They may be smaller, with limited menus or virtual—bringing the entire bunch together around the computer screen. One thing that is consistent is thankfulness, let’s be thankful for all kinds of good as we wrap up a most memorable year!

Boneless Breast Roast

If you’re the host or kitchen quarterback for the holiday meal team, check the number of folks you’re planning the meal for.  You want to know how many to expect, are there any special diets, and who doesn’t eat what.  Answering these key questions will help you wing it and minimize stress.  Starting with a list goes a long way toward staying on task; here’s the list I start with as a holiday help to create a winning game plan.

Thanksgiving -To- Do List

Eight to 14 Days Ahead

  • Decide on number of people you’re inviting. Check recommended group size gathering from your local state/city public health department.
  • Write out the menu and grocery list.
  • Order turkey to make sure you get the turkey you want, i.e. fresh, frozen, boneless turkey roast, or organic, and the specific size.  If you’re big on leftovers, plan on 1-1/2 lbs. to 2 lbs. for each adult.
  • Watch for specials and shop for non-perishables.
  • If your menu includes items that freeze well, cook them in advance and freeze them.  Greens, cornbread, rolls, pound cake, etc.

Five to Seven Days Before

  • Complete grocery shopping.
  • Pick up the turkey. If frozen allow (1) day for every 4 lbs. for the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Get out the dishes, serving bowls, and flatware, to make sure they’re ready to use.

Monday Before

  • Chop onion, celery, etc. for stuffing.
  • Remove cornbread from freezer to thaw.
  • Toast or cube bread for dressing.

Tuesday Before

  • Prepare gelatin salad if on the menu
  • Prepare desserts.

Wednesday Before

  • Remove any frozen foods from freezer; allow to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Prep or cook any vegetable just until almost tender.
  • Combine dressing ingredients and refrigerate.
  • If you’d like, prep the turkey according to package directions to cook on Thursday morning. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Set table.


  • Prepare the turkey to cook according to the recipe you’re using.  Plan for the turkey to be done 30 (45 minutes if slicing it in advance) minutes before dinner.
  • Place dressing in turkey or casserole dish to bake.

Two Hours To Serve

  • Unmold congealed salad; garnish and refrigerate.
  • Bake or reheat any pre-cooked dishes.
  • Prepare gravy.
  • Place turkey on serving platter and garnish as desired.
  • Heat rolls or cornbread.
  • Put food in serving dishes.

Break bread, give thanks and enjoy this special time with friends and family.

The next blog posts will cover more info on holiday dishes.   If you have questions, just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Editorial note: I am a former food editor of Southern Living and Ebony and  magazines and editor of Special Fork. I‘m also a spokesperson for the toll-free Butterball Turkey Talk-Line®,  1-800-Butterball.

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