• Jessica Sherry

THE Plan for Hosting Thanksgiving

So, to summarize my previous long-ass blog, THE HOUSEGUEST CHECKLIST, and go further into bringing home the turkey for a wicked awesome Thanksgiving at your house, here’s what I do to make hosting houseguests and cooking as stress-free as possible.

At least three weeks ahead of guests’ arrival, GO ON A TOUR OF YOUR OWN HOME AND MAKE A LIST.This list should include everything that needs to be cleaned, repaired, or purchased for each space (IDEALLY—it’s okay if you don’t buy a new mattress for the guestroom, but knowing that it’s needed, you might save up for next year). Go here for more detail on how to create this list.

Then, PRIORITIZE THE LIST. Make a schedule, if needed. And BUY YOUR SUPPLIES. Tackle the things you can do now to save time on what you have to do last minute.

CHECK THINGS OFF THE LIST AS YOU COMPLETE THEM. You don’t really have to do this, but it’s so freaking satisfying.

Now that you’ve got one list, might as well get really listy. Here come several more lists… but it’s all for a good cause. Don’t freak out!

Two weeks before arrival, CREATE YOUR MENUS—not just for Thanksgiving, silly billy, but for every meal you’ll share with your guests. Include nibbles, beverages, and midnight snacks, too. They’re coming in hungry.

While you’re at it, might as well get that GROCERY LIST started, too. I break mine down by departments for easier shopping and less backtracking once I’m in grocery-shopping-hell.

THE Grocery List

While creating your Thanksgiving menu and grocery list, MAKE A THIRD LIST with all your planned dishes, when you’ll fix them, and how. I call this my COOKING SCHEDULE. This will prevent nasty traffic jams in your oven AND you tearing your hair out because you forgot to thaw your turkey.

THE Cooking Schedule

On Thanksgiving Day, I usually get my turkey in first, allowing time for my side dishes later. That turkey baby needs to rest before you cut into it anyway, so it can take a nap while your sides are getting warm and bubbly.

It’s tricky, tricky, tricky (cue Run DMC)—getting everything done by a certain time in one kitchen with one oven. So, take advantage of other appliances, too. Your toaster oven says, “Hey, what about me? I can do something.”

Don’t forget me,” says your microwave. And my favs… my slow cookers. I love getting those babies in on the action. I always have at least two side dishes in my crockpots.

The benefit of being OCD about your list-making and scheduling is that you’ll be able to tell your guests exactly when dinner will be ready AND get everything done in time. Because you planned it all out, duh, and you’re awesome at this.

What’s not so awesome… when Aunt Myrtle arrives with an unbaked apple pie that she never told you she was bringing… but, you’ll figure out a way to squeeze her contribution in because you know when the oven will be free. And you’re a badass like that.

So, yes, it’s a lot of lists, but having them helps keep everything straight. I use a single notebook for all of them, and I reuse it year after year, which is super cool because… well, I don’t have to do as much listing in the future. I already have my Cooking schedule and Thanksgiving Menu, etc. When planning for it, I review my old notes to get started and tweak anything that didn’t work so well the year before. So, don’t throw anything away.

One week before arrival, GO GROCERY SHOPPING. You have to give yourself enough time to thaw your turkey, but not enough time for your fresh produce to go bad. You can split the event, if that’s easier or if you want to go to different stores. In that case, get your turkey and non-perishables ASAP and purchase your perishable items the week before.


The week before arrival, CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Refer back to your HOUSEGUEST CHECKLIST and all the cleaning supplies you’ve already bought, and get the work done. Play some music or an audiobook. Don’t do it all in one day. Floors and dusting can be done early in the week. Save toilets until the last minute. Plan it out so you don’t kill yourself. It’ll all get done.

Oh, and get your fam involved in this… you’ve got the list, delegate like a mo fo.

The week of arrival, THAW, BRINE, COOK. Refer to your COOKING SCHEDULE. If you really want to be a useful engine, you can even pre-chop veggies you’ll use Thanksgiving Day.

The day before, tackle LAST MINUTE CLEANING and recheck everything before they arrive. Then, once your house is in pristinely clean order, FOCUS ON FOOD.

By the time Aunt Myrtle arrives, you’ll be so zen thanks to all your prep work that you won’t even mind when she hands you the raw pie and reveals she’s brought her cat with her because Mister Flufferson refused to let her leave home otherwise.

You can’t plan for everything, and that’s okay. It’ll all work out. And on the off chance it doesn’t, there’s always Chinese takeout.

SO SMILE, RELAX, ENJOY YOUR PEEPS. Have a glass of wine and get your gratitude on.

How do you handle hosting holiday events? Got any tips for us? Share below!