Operation: Turkey Day. How to Schedule and Plan Your Perfect (Stress Free) Thanksgiving Meal

(This is a re-vamped version of a post from last year. I wanted to share it with you guys so you have it when you’re ready to start planning your Thanksgiving meal. As simple as it may seem, it has helped me out with my meal planning more than you would imagine. I will be posting many more Thanksgiving recipes over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!)

How to Plan and Schedule an Easy Thanksgiving Dinner

I bet that if you’ve ever cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal by yourself, you know that it can be extremely stressful, and turn the holiday from good to bad in a split second. Even if you’ve never cooked your own meal, I’m sure you’ve witnessed your hosts running around in a panic to get it all done on time. Now, I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal by myself two years ago. I’ll be honest, I was terrified. All of the horror stories I had heard; raw turkeys, burnt turkeys, no room in the oven, how will I cook everything on time? So, I came up with this little (not so) secret weapon that helped me along the way, and made it a truly easy and fun cooking experience (which is what it should be!)

 I made out this “Operation: Turkey Day” schedule, and popped it on the fridge. It had every tiny little step that needed to be done so I could keep track. I would cross the thing off the list when I was done (and if helpers came in, they knew what they could do!), and by NOON, I was just hanging out, having fun, and as cool as a cucumber. I want YOU all to feel that way too. Enjoy Thanksgiving! It’s a time to be with family and friends, to be thankful for all that we have. How can you really sit down and appreciate what the day’s about when you can hardly catch a breath?!

How to Plan and Organize an Easy Stress Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Here’s how I made my list: First and foremost, collect all of the dishes (recipes) you will be making. Start by looking at their oven temperature, and time in the oven. Mark that down on a piece of paper. Now, figure out your ETD (estimated time for dinner). (Mine was 3:00). So, look at all those dishes and decide when they need to go in the oven to be done by your time. Simple enough, right? Well, here’s where the trouble comes in: Oven space. If you have a regular oven, and just one of them like I did, fitting the other stuff in with the turkey can be a pain.

What I found out is that I didn’t have room for all 3 casseroles AND the turkey. So, I had to figure out how to schedule it out. Not a problem! Stuffing is my favorite dish. BUT, does it really matter if its piping hot? Not really. Warm, of course, but that is something you can reheat to a good temperature in 15 minutes. If you want to get really ‘fancy’, you could get sternos to place under your cooked items to keep warm! This is also a good idea if you have guests bringing dishes. Set up a space with racks to line them up with the heaters, so you don’t have to worry about fitting them in the oven.

So, I put the stuffing in with the turkey. The turkey has to rest 30 minutes, so while that rests, in go the other casseroles! If you are REALLY pressed for space and cooking a lot more than I did, reach out to a friend or family member and ask them to bring a dish. I think that most people understand the stress, and would be glad to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help!

If you want to be even MORE prepared, and you have  the fridge space, you can assemble your casseroles the day before, and keep them in the fridge until they’re ready to go in the oven. If you don’t have that much space, you could at least chop up all of your vegetables, and put them in tightly sealed ziplock bags, and save those steps. I also always make pie the day before. Whatever you can do to make your day go smoothly!

Here are my go to Thanksgiving recipes (MORE RECIPES COMING):

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Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits I ApinchAdash

Pie Crust

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I hope you all have a wonderful, happy, and stress-free Thanksgiving!! XOXO

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