I don’t know about you (well I guess I do if you decided to read this post) but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! And planning what to eat is one of my favorite parts of it. I thought I would share my Thanksgiving Dinner Meal Plan with you! Ready? Snag my Turkey Day printable to help you plan. Oh, and I highly recommend a pair of leggings for the day because nobody has time for uncomfortable pants getting in the way!
Thanksgiving Dinner Meal Plan
- Buy wine
- Buy way too big of a turkey
- Plan out the timeline of when to make everything
- Nothing goes as planned so drink the wine
- Magically it all comes together, and it is time to EAT!
Oh, wait, you wanted a real dinner plan with some side dish options? Then let’s do that!
The first part of any meal prep game plan is to figure out how many people you are entertaining for the meal. We typically average around three-four adults and a small child. And I love to make way too much because leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving!
Let’s talk turkey! From a quick Google search, I found that the sweet spot is to assume 1lb of bird per person. Hmmm… I am not going to buy a 4lbs turkey. :/ Good thing I like to make too much food! Personally, I aim for 2lbs of turkey per person, so I’ll be shopping for an 8-10 pound bird. Having dinner with six adults? 12 pounds of bird. 12 peeps coming over? 18-20 pounds of bird, start scaling back after about eight guests to 1.5lbs per person since they won’t all be there for leftovers.
Man cannot live on bird alone…
Savory side dishes
Let’s talk side dishes! We all have at least one family tradition-type side dish, you know the one that only your Gaga, Nana, Aunt Sally makes the BEST so and so. Or it is just plain strange. Strange best describes one of our traditional side dishes and we only make it occasionally since only two people in the family like it. Ours is asparagus casserole. Want to try it? Drop me a line and I’ll send you the recipe!
Another, more traditional side, is stuffing or dressing. I am not going to fight the battle of what to call, what to stuff it in or not, or get into a regional squabbling match about it – – I am just going to tell you what I make for dinner! Our version is full of butter, mushrooms, and herbs. The recipe is a loose guideline, sometimes you just have to wing it (turkey wing pun intended). Too dry, add more broth. Too wet? Add more bread crumbs. Your wine glass is empty? Pour more!
And to continue the carb-overload, rolls! You must have rolls and ample amounts of real butter. Let’s go the lazy route here and just pick some up from the store. Be sure to add them to the shopping list.
Though my Nana is no longer with us two of her recipes are every year, 7 Up Salad and our Apple Macaroon. 7 Up Salad is a fun and retro side dish and the Apple Macaroon is great either as a side or dessert. I’ll add those recipes to my next newsletter! Be sure to subscribe.
Cranberry sauce is a must-have for me and store-bought is not an option. I use this basic recipe and mix it up each year. You can add citrus, raspberries, pomegranate, or whatever your heart desires.
Traditionally, a couple of vegetables make it onto the table each year. Personally, we keep it simple for these items. Good ol’ canned corn or green beans. If asparagus casserole isn’t on the menu for that year the standard green bean casserole is substituted. And why mess with tradition? The one that Dorcas Reilly created using Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup works just fine!
A few days before Turkey Day
Go shopping with your list! If you live in a town with a nice and well-stocked grocery store hold off on buying the mushrooms and herbs until the day before but buy everything else so you are ready to roll. Review the day-of-Turkey Day timeline and when you plan to have the meal on the table. Buy wine or non-alcoholic beverages, too, during the grocery run.
Day Before Turkey Day!
Okay, so you printed out the handy shopping and prep list, bought ALL the things, and now it is time to strategize. I strongly recommend making the 7 Up Salad, cranberry sauce, and possibly the Apple Macaroon the day before. The first two dishes set-up better with at least 24 hours before serving, the last item is a debate annually in our house. Heck, make two Apple Macaroons the first year, one the day before and one the day of, and figure out which way you like it best!
Oh, and don’t forget to run to the store to snag the mushrooms and fresh herbs for the stuffing and the bird!
I recommend starting the day with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary, it’ll help you loosen up to face the challenges of the day. Review your timeline from the printout and let’s tackle this amazing meal! The key to a smooth day and the meal on the table on-time is to just remain calm. You got this! And to pump you up, check out 7 Songs to Get You Moving to get the party started.
Ready to cook a bird? Here is what you need: defrosted turkey (Psst… I would follow the guidelines here), butter, more poultry herb mix (fresh or dry), and either just a large roasting pan or a turkey cooking bad and roasting pan.
- Give that bird a deep-tissue massage with the butter, both on the skin and under it.
- Dry herbs? sprinkle it all over the place and inside the cavity. Fresh herbs? just toss them right into the cavity.
- Going the pan route? I think Butterball has some sound advice. Going the cooking bag route? Follow the directions on the package.
Side dish prep
After the bird is in the oven, plan to start the stuffing/dressing so that it is ready to go into the oven when the bird has about an hour left. This way both have time to cook and rest before serving. The casserole of your choice can be popped into the oven after you take the bird out.
Sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio pairs nicely with Thanksgiving dinner. A cranberry cocktail made of cranberry juice and soda water is a refreshing and fun option for the under-21 or non-drinkers. Or mix it with champagne if you are so inclined (and over 21)! An amazing option that I stumbled upon from my friend Jamie Makin is the Cranberry Collins, perfect to compliment all the herbs in the stuffing and bird.