Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so that means it is time to kick it into Thanksgiving meal planning gear. FYI, this could also be used for a Christmas meal planning.
Who’s excited for a table full of food? YES!!
Who’s excited to cook it? Ummmm…
We love to eat these big ole meals but it can be super overwhelming putting one together. Especially if you are new and not real sure where to start or even what to fix or if you have to cook all the food yourself.
The absolute simplest way to do this is if your Thanksgiving can be a potluck so each guest brings a dish or two but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes it is up to us to get’er done.
Here is where we will put together a simple Thanksgiving meal plan so if you are looking for a super elaborate plan that you start weeks in advance then this is not for you. This is just for planning what will happen the day of Thanksgiving (maybe a few things the night before).
Let’s get started first with me giving you some steps on how to create your own Thanksgiving meal plan.
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Steps You Need for Thanksgiving Meal Planning
My hope is that I can help you get through this as painless as possible. Thanksgiving can be so draining but it doesn’t have to be as long as you have everything planned out before hand.
This includes your Thanksgiving menu, the shopping list, and the timeline for what needs to be done the night before and Thanksgiving day.
Step 1: Choose your main dish for your menu
Do you want to go the traditional route and have turkey? Maybe you prefer ham?
Or, you decide to go completely to left field and do shrimp…
One thing to remember is that just because it is “Thanksgiving” does not mean that turkey is the only option. Now, my family thinks if turkey ain’t involved then it’s the end of humanity as we know it but yours may be different.
Actually, for my menu I chose to do ham and not turkey at all. Remember what I said about how my family feels? Wellll, my in-laws brought the turkey. So, all was good.
Step 2: Figure out what sides you want on your menu
Head to Google or Bing or Yahoo, whatever search you use, and type in Thanksgiving side ideas. You will get tons of ideas.
They will overwhelm the ever-loving tarnation out of you. I would recommend you add one little ole word to your search. “Easy”.
Type in “Easy Thanksgiving Meal Ideas” and choose what you want. Write out your list of sides and the time it takes to prepare.
If you found recipes you want to follow then create a folder to save them as a favorite in your internet brower’s bookmark bar or go ahead and print them. You will use this later to write out your shopping list and cooking timeline.
Now remember, some of these sides can be as simple as coming straight from a can just like mine were. My can sides were corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and then I had packaged brown gravy that I just had to add water. It doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming.
If you would like to see an example Thanksgiving Meal Plan then click here for it.
Step 3: Write out your ingredients shopping list
Gather all your recipes you’ve chosen and write out your shopping list.
This first list will be a draft list. On this draft list just list the ingredients from the first recipe and the amount you need next to it. Continue this with each recipe and if you have an ingredient already on your list then just add the amount next to the amount already listed.
Once you have all your ingredients listed now total up your amounts for each one. Don’t re-write your list just yet.
Step 4: Think about other things besides food
You have your main dish and your side dishes but what else do you need?
Let’s think about what else you need to add to your shopping list. I will give you some ideas here. I’m sure there will be other things you can think of that you will add to your own list.
Read back over your recipes one more time to see if there are other items like aluminum foil or certain pans you want to make sure you have on hand.
Now, let’s move away from recipes and focus on other areas.
So, do a little brainstorming session here. Or maybe you prefer it to be daydreaming…
OK, we will go with daydreaming. Daydream about your perfect Thanksgiving day. How does it look?
As you daydream about your perfect day think about what you will need on hand so nothing gets in the way of it being perfect.
When your bunch arrives what will they be doing until it is time to eat?
- Will they sit around and chat?
- Will they play games? (need anything for games)
- Will they admire your awesome table décor you secretly want to show off but be subtle about it?
- Will they need to go to the bathroom? Ummm, probably at some time… (don’t forget the toilet paper, hand soap, and clean hand towel)
Time for food!! What do they need besides the food?
- Do you believe in as little cleanup as possible afterward? We do! So throw away plates and utensils are on the list!
- Disposable plates
- Plastic utensils
- Serving ware (if you don’t have enough)
- They gotta clean their mouths so don’t forget the napkins or paper towels although some of us just use our sleeve…
- You don’t want to perform the heimlich maneuver so some form of liquid is a must
- Where will they dispose their leftover food?
- Have outside animals you feed? Setup a slop bucket (don’t ewww me).
- Prefer to pass on the slop bucket? Then make sure you have trash bags or your trash can just may become one.
What will they do after they get done eating? Ummm take a nap!
Alright, got all that written down on your list?
Step 5: Re-write your shopping list
Buying all that stuff to plan your perfect Thanksgiving day can be expensive and really hard on the ole budget to get it all at once.
KEEP IT ALL IN ONE PLACE
All across Busy Cook’s Plan there are printables and worksheets that are provided to help you live with less craziness when you plan your meals and teaches you how to save money for those things you desire. You can now get those tools in one convenient toolbox.
There are a couple options:
- You could save for it ahead of time and then do all your shopping in one trip. I have a Money Goal worksheet you can use to help you with this. Pssst, want to get this worksheet as a fillable Google Sheet for free so the calculations are done for you? Lean in and I will tell you how. If you haven’t already just request access to the Meals & Money Toolbox (this toolbox has all the free worksheets and tools across the blog all in one place, including the Money Goal worksheet). After you enter your email info you will be directed to a page that gives you the option to upgrade to a fillable version of that Toolbox. On this page, as a Sample and Thank You for being there, I give away this version of the Money Goal worksheet for free. You just have to click the link to go straight to it. If you already have access to the Meals & Money Toolbox then just go inside the Toolbox and click one of the links to go to the Upgrade page. Again, you don’t have to upgrade or pay a single penny. It is right there for free for you. You’re welcome.
- You can break up your list to do a little bit of the shopping at a time. If you do this then you will want to designate a place in your home to put all the items so you don’t end up using them before Thanksgiving. Of course, when you use this method you are only buying things ahead of time that won’t ruin.
Now, rewrite your list based on which option you chose above. There is a Shopping List printable you can use inside the Meals & Money Toolbox.
If you chose option one then you can write one list. If you chose option two then you will want to write out more than one shopping list or either break your shopping days up on a single list.
Step 6: Write out your Thanksgiving meal planning timeline
There is nothing more overwhelming than getting to that day and not knowing what to fix first or in what order so that everything gets done in the right amount of time and on time to eat.
Let’s not forget about the fact that you probably just have one stove so you need to plan out your oven and stovetop time. I mean how will you cook something in the oven at 275 degrees at the same time you need something else in there at 400 degrees? See what I mean?
First, let’s think about some foods you can make the night before that do good in the fridge. You know, stuff like deviled eggs, pies or cheese ball. Write these down on a fresh sheet of paper labeled under “Night Before”. Mark them off your list of foods to prepare.
Now, let’s think about what else can be done the night before to make the big day less stressful.
One thing that could be a great deal of stress off your plate is to tidy up the house the night before so you wake up to a nice, clean place to start in the morning. So, clean up the dishes you dirtied by fixing those foods you can prepare the night before. Be sure the sink is empty and ready to start your next day.
I’m not sure your situation but if there are other chores that would stress you out on the big day then get them done before you go to bed.
Also go ahead and make sure the toilet paper is stocked, and hand soap and hand towel are on the sink.
You can also do a few things in the kitchen…
These things would be stuff like decorating the table, setting out the plates and utensils, napkins, and cups.
Got all that stuff written down? You got to write it all down so that all you have to do is mark off a list and not think about any of it.
Alright, now let’s tackle the big day…
Side note: if at any time you would like to see an example of a planning timeline you can right here.
Grab all your recipes for everything you will be fixing.
On your list of what you plan to fix write down these things:
- Method of cooking: stovetop, oven, slow cooker, instant pot, etc
- Total time to complete recipe (if the recipe does not list the total time then guesstimate it by reading the instructions)
- Of the total time, how much is Prep time
- Of the total time, how much is Cook time
- Does the dish need to be served hot
Now, sort each cooking method from longest total time to shortest total time, if it needs to be served as hot then note this. This is so you can visually see what you should start first. The longest to cook items should be started first so all your food will be either room temperature or hot when served. Now, if a long total time item must be hot when served then this would move it further down the list to start.
Keep in mind that some things could be as simple as opening a can and heating it. These will only take a couple minutes and should be done very last so they can be hot. For instance, in my Thanksgiving meal plan I had green beans, corn, and cranberry sauce, all from the can so they were added to my timeline during the last 30 minutes. Another item I had was brown gravy for the mashed potatoes. I wanted this to be served fairly hot and it takes less than 5 minutes to complete so it was added in the last 15 minutes of my timeline.
Now you need the Holiday Meal Planner Template inside Meals & Money Toolbox. Don’t have a printer then just grab you a sheet of paper and copy down the template.
We really don’t know how long it is going to take you to complete your meal so we will map it out and then you can fill in the hours up to your finish time.
Finally, fill in the times taking in consideration how long it will take you to prep a dish before cooking it with this kind of information:
- Food in oven/slow cooker at temp and time it will take
- Food prep need done
- Complete food prep need done, such as cutting the meat
- Complete for long cooking foods
Don’t forget, I have an example here for you to go by.
Once the timeline is complete with all your dishes then you can fill in the hours to see when you will need to start cooking.
There you have it! Your entire day is planned and ready to go.
I hope this will help you to have a stress-free holiday. If you have any tips I would love to hear them in the comments.
IT’S UP TO YOU NOW
If you are ready to change the path of your future and starting working toward your money goals and desires. Do you want to pay off debt? Do you want to make new memories with your family? Do you simply want a spending cushion? Whatever it is, it is possible. All the tools are available in the Toolbox.
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