7 Day Plan for a Stress Free Thanksgiving Menu

Just in case you are looking for a little help with your Thanksgiving preparations, 
I've compiled a menu suggestion using many recipes from this blog 
and then....

I created a 7 day plan to help you get it done without a lot of stress.  
Be sure to check out the helpful printable forms linked at the end of this post!

Also at the end of the post, a 'fill in the blank' form
to help you organize a more personalized dinner menu 
7 days in advance!

Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions

{from your family recipe files...}
Turkey...however you like to prepare it!
Your Family's Favorite Cornbread Dressing

{recipes linked here from the blog...}
Instantly Delicious Mashed Potatoes
Quick and Easy Brown Gravy

Tips from Tami ~
Pull it all together in 7 simple days 
and avoid the traditional last minute stress!
{I've lined out steps you can take over 7 days.  Each day is just a little work, so you are not stressed out over seven days...and the day of the dinner is pleasant for you and your guests!}

  • First, pull together your recipes and put them in a file folder to keep them in one place. If you don't have the required pre-made seasoning or baking blends on hand (from my eCookbooks), be sure to pull those recipes as well. 
  • Make a grocery list from those recipes. Now shop your pantry first and cross off any ingredients you already have on hand so you don't spend more than you need! 
  • Next, go to the store and get it home...don't put it off another day!
    • I don’t recommend doing anything else on this day.  Shopping and putting it all away is hard work!

{this will take only about 30 minutes or less...even if you need to bag everyone of them... and doing it will save you time and SANITY on the day of the dinner}
  • Review the recipes you have selected and identify which ones you can do some early preparations for by bagging blends of dry ingredients. 
  • Bag, label and store them all in one basket in the pantry so you can go right to them when needed. 
  • Recipes from the suggested menu that have blends you can bag are:
    • Instantly Delicious Mashed Potatoes (make enough bags for the number you plan to serve)
      Quick and Easy Brown Gravy (go ahead and bag the white sauce blend and roast seasoning blend together and label the bag with the liquid needed and heating instructions for last minute preparation)
      Cranberry Pasta Salad (see recipe for bagging tips...making it fast and easy to prepare later)
      Squash Casserole (this needs the Basil and Garlic Seasoning blend....be sure you have it on hand or download the Seasoning eCookbook today so you can have it ready!)
      Green Bean Casserole (this needs the Roast Seasoning blend....be sure you have it on hand or download the Seasoning eCookbook today so you can have it ready!)
      Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake (see the recipe link for tips on bagging up the ingredients for this recipe)
      Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Skillet Fruit (Sweet Bread from the Breads eCookbook, No Bake Cheesecake dry blend [link here] and for the skillet fruit...prebag the brown sugar and ground spices now so you just need to dump them out the day of service...no need to hunt for ingredients at that time!)

  • Bake and ice the Pumpkin Cake and keep covered in the fridge.  The skillet fruit will be made at the time it is served. (This is wonderful fresh from the oven too, but you can make it now to save time the day of the dinner)
  • Make the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake (ball or pie).  If making it as a pie, reserve the whipped topping that goes on top for the day of service.  
  • Bake and Crumble any breads or cornbread you may need for the family's favorite Thanksgiving Dressing. Put it into a sealed container and save at room temperature. 
  • Thaw your turkey.  Take your turkey from the freezer and place in fridge to be sure it is thawed in time. 
  • Make the Cranberry Pasta Salad.  Keep refrigerated in an air tight container. A gallon sized zip top bag is perfect to keep this pasta in the fridge without taking up a lot of space.  Just pour it into a nice serving dish on the day of the dinner.
  • Cut  / chop / dice.  Any fresh vegetables needed for salads, casseroles or other cooked dishes can be prepared today.  Bag them and label the bags with what recipe they are meant for.  If preparing ingredients for a salad, put individual items into individual bags and then put all of those bags together in one container so you can pull it from the fridge, toss it into a bowl and have a fresh salad ready in seconds.  
  • Get the serving dishes and utensils ready.  Decide what you will serve each dish in at this time (if not the dish it is baked in).  Make sure it is clean and ready to be used.
    •  Go ahead and pull them from the cabinets and put a sticky note inside each dish with a note about what goes in the dish and where you want it placed for service.  Yes...it sounds compulsive but just do it...it really does relieve your stress.
    •  If you just don’t have time to do this today, there is time the day before to try again!  However, doing it now gives you time to identify things that may need to be washed OR things you may need to borrow from a neighbor!
  • Complete any items that could have been done up to 5 days ago if not already done.    
  • Assemble the following and store, covered, in fridge: Get each of these casseroles ready to the point that they go into the oven...except you are not going to bake them to day.  Just cover and refrigerate (ready to pop in the oven on the day of the dinner)
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Squash Casserole
  • Set your dinner table(s) if possible.  Go ahead and set the place settings if you can, avoiding a last minute rush the morning of the event.  If not doing place settings, prepare the dishes, cups and utensils for setting out your buffet table at this time.
  • Determine what goes where.  Where will you put all of the desserts?  What about a beverage area?  Do you have counter space identified for setting out all of the items on your menu?  This is the time to figure that out so you are not scrambling tomorrow with limited space.  Use sticky notes to label your space with the plan. Some suggestions:
    • Drink stations near a sink make it easy for you to store ice in a location where you have drainage.  Or, place drink stations at the end of a counter so you can place a cooler full of ice on the floor beside it. 
    •  If possible, plan space so that you can put serving dishes about 2-3 inches from the edge, giving room for guests to rest a plate as they go down the buffet line. 
    • If you are serving gravy with your turkey / dressing / potatoes, be sure you plan the space to have all of those items together. 
    • If you want your guests to use a separate bowl or plate for the salad items, consider putting those bowls/ plates at that place on the buffet line for ease of serving.  (this assumes all salad / cold items are put together on the buffet.
    •  If counter space is limited, get creative. Some ideas:
      •  Set up a dessert station in a room other than the kitchen. 
      •  Use a large cutting board across your sink to make additional counter space at the time of service (this would need to be set up right before service so you can use the sink during prep time)
      •   Making sure you have the burners securely turned off, stove top space can be used for buffet service too.
      • Put salads / cold items in a different room using a card table or even the coffee table in the living room!
  •   If you did not get to this 2 days ago, get the serving dishes and utensils ready.  Decide what you will serve each dish in at this time (if not the dish it is baked in).  Make sure it is clean and ready to be used. Go ahead and pull them from the cabinets and put a sticky note inside each dish with a note about what goes in the dish and where you want it placed for service.  Yes...it sounds compulsive but just do it...it really does relieve your stress!
  • Complete any items that could have been done 2-5 days ago if not already done.   
  • If you did not do this the day before, go ahead and get the dinner table set early in the morning so you are not distracted later.  If you have to keep running from the kitchen to the dining table, you are going to be frazzled and distracted when it is time to sit with the family.  So, get started a little early today if you did not get this done yesterday. This is also the time to have those serving dishes you labeled with sticky notes 2-3 days ago set out and ready for filling.
  • Get your turkey in the oven. Check your recipe and make sure you get it going in plenty of time before dinner is to be served so your turkey will be warm.
  • After the Turkey is in the oven, do the following:
    • Prepare all of the ingredients for the spiced skillet fruit that goes on the Pumpkin Cake.  Do all of the slicing and dicing of the fruits and put them in a sealed container, along with the sugar, spices and butter, and put the container the fridge.  Bring the cake out of the fridge so that it is at room temperature when ready to serve.  Fifteen minutes before serving dessert, throw the ingredients for the skillet fruit into a warm skillet and complete the dish as directed in the recipe.
    • Assemble your dressing. Set aside to be baked closer to meal time. (time it according to your recipe so that it is hot and ready when it's time for dinner)
  •  1 1/2 hours before dinner is to be served. Bring all pre-assembled vegetable casseroles out of the fridge at this time, so they will not be chilled before going into the oven.   
    • Put the Hearty Green Bean Casserole in the oven 1 hour before dinner is to be served.
    • Put the Squash Casserole in the oven 30 minutes before dinner is to be served
      • NOTE: these casseroles bake at 350.  If your turkey and/or dressing is still baking at this time and is baking at 325...just bake these casseroles at that temperature a little longer. It is recommended that an oven roasted turkey sits for about 20 minutes before being carved.  During this time, turn up the oven temp to 350 and finish baking the casseroles.  (the squash casserole could actually wait to go into the oven at this time) 
  • 30 minutes before dinner is to be served, do the following in this order:
    • Prepare the Instantly Delicious Mashed Potatoes. Cover when done to keep warm until service time.  
    • Prepare the quick and easy brown gravy. Keep warm until ready to serve. 
    • Place the Cranberry Pasta into the appropriate serving dish. 
  • Dinner is now ready to be served!  Set out  the dishes buffet style and let everyone serve themselves to an array of hot and delicious dishes! 
  • Remember dessert! When guests are ready for dessert, get the coffee pot going, heat up the skillet fruit and serve it fresh and warm.  Place your Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake out for service too. 


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