Thanksgiving Checklist for a Stress-Free Holiday

Get a complete Thanksgiving checklist with cleaning tips and important meal ingredients, snacks and drinks that you can have delivered last-minute

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Thanksgiving 2020 will be a Turkey Day like no other. Traditional huge gatherings are far less likely this holiday season. Instead, many people will celebrate and give thanks with immediate family or a few close friends. Some may even opt to host a virtual Thanksgiving using Zoom or another video conferencing platform for the first time to avoid crowded travel and crowded homes.

Whatever your Thanksgiving feast may look like, we’ve got a couple Thanksgiving checklists to help keep you on track throughout the countdown and leave you with plenty of time for a chill holiday. 

We know you’re here for the lists, so we won’t bore you with long, drawn-out stories or memories of someone else’s past holidays. Let’s get to it.

Thanksgiving Dinner Preparation Timeline & Schedule

Decide whether you’re hosting a small gathering in-person or a virtual holiday dinner. 

If virtual, choose the platform that works best for you. Try to find a platform that works for everyone, if possible. The most popular free option is Zoom, where you can host up to 100 guests, but for only 40 minutes at a time. Other platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts may work, too.

A virtual option means that everyone will be making their own Thanksgiving dinner, which is great news if you’re not excited about the idea of preparing and cooking a huge meal and then cleaning up afterward.

1. Choose a Time

Because it’s helpful if everyone arrives at roughly the same time and you’re not waiting on the mashed potatoes and gravy or the sweet potato casserole.

2. Make a Guest List and Invite Guests 

If you mail out invitations, make sure to send them out a few weeks ahead. Otherwise, do whatever works best, be it email, a group text, a Facebook page or invitation or a Zoom invitation. Obviously, it’s important to make sure everyone uses the same method of invitation and, if you’re going virtual, the video conferencing platform you choose. 

3. Create Your Thanksgiving Menu 

Here’s where you get to bring your A-game with great food and drinks for your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving. Are you going with traditional Thanksgiving recipes or trying new recipes? Think about the main course, side dishes, appetizers and great Thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin pie or apple pie. 

4. Order Your Turkey 

Do this as early as possible. Make sure you’ve sourced your tofurkey if you’re going with the vegetarian alternative. 

5. Delegate Tasks and Side Dishes to Willing and Able Guests 

Teamwork makes the dream work. Unless there’s some kind of cash prize, don’t be a hero or a martyr and go it alone. If you’re sure that someone isn’t likely to bring a dish to pass that’s edible, the most heroic thing you can do is assign something useful like canned veggies, premade dinner rolls, napkins or utensils.

6. Get Your Shopping List Together

Then start picking away at it. This will ease the impact on your cash flow as well as make the final grocery shopping trip feel less like prepping for the apocalypse. 

7. Begin Buying Non-Perishable Items 

Have you ever stood in the grocery store staring at the empty space on the shelf where the food you need for your Thanksgiving dinner should be? Like the green beans, cream of mushroom soup and fried onions for green bean casserole, which happens to be one of the favorite Thanksgiving side dishes for a solid third of the country. Wait, where’s the cranberry sauce?

United States map showing the most popular Thanksgiving side dish in each state
Source: delish

8. Start Cleaning 

It’s safe to say that 2020 has probably changed our cleaning habits. We’re home. A lot. Stuff has accumulated, to say the least. Cleaning is not everyone’s idea of fun, but lots of great cleaning hacks and cleaning supplies are available to help you manage the process. Really, taking just 15 minutes a day to clean up an area at a time can make a huge difference. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done.

9. Take Inventory of Dishes, Utensils and Drinkware

If you’re hosting an in-person dinner, be sure you have essentials like flatware, serving dishes, tablecloths, cups, napkins, utensils and arrangements for ice. Make sure you have your tablecloths as well.

10. Remember Centerpieces and Decorations, Too 

Buy some or make your own. Sometimes it’s for the sake of the ritual and the grounding sense of normalcy it brings in the midst of the chaos of life.

11. Pick Up Some Wine 

Solid choices of white wine include Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The best red wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner include Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!

12. Stock Up on Other Drinks Like Coffee, Water and Soda 

Make sure you have your preferred drinkware. If you’re going low-key, go for the party cups

13. Buy the Perishable Items on Your Menu

Do this the week before. 

14. Find your favorite turkey recipe

Here are some great turkey recipes that tell you everything you need to know, from thawing or defrosting to brining and seasoning and letting the turkey rest.

15. Test Run the Video Conferencing Platform

If you’re hosting a virtual holiday feast, try a quick test run with guests to make sure everything is in working order and everyone is as comfortable with the technology as possible. Troubleshooting while your Thanksgiving meal gets cold will give new meaning to cold turkey.

16. Start Thawing Your Frozen Turkey 

Thawing slowly in the refrigerator, plan on 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. To thaw it a little more quickly, thaw the turkey in cold water, submerging the turkey for about 30 minutes for every pound.

17. Put It All Together for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Day

The day before Thanksgiving, make any dishes and beverages that can be made ahead of time. Find out what items you can reheat in the oven or on the stovetop and what’s okay at room temperature. Cut up vegetables. Put the finishing touches on your centerpiece and other decorations. If you’re having a Zoom Thanksgiving, this means clearing the area that will be on camera. (Pants optional.)

Thanksgiving Essentials Checklist

This is a different kind of checklist for the big day. Yes, it’s important to make sure the table linens are clean and ironed and that you order your turkey way ahead of time. But some items don’t immediately come to mind when you make your list of essentials.

The little stresses of not having those items can add up. Whether you need to open a bottle of wine or send people home with leftovers, we’ve got a list of the basics that you’ll want to make sure to have on hand. Save time and minimize your stress and order what you need from Gopuff, even if it’s last minute.

Wesson Vegetable Oil 24oz
Pam non-stick oil spray
Domino sugar, 1 pound

Gold Medal All-Purpose Bleached Flour 32oz
Salt and pepper
Land O’ Lakes Butter

Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil 30 feet
Nicole Home Collection Tall Kitchen Trash Bags with Handles
Nicole Home Collection Half Size Deep Aluminum Pan 4-pack

Click & Lock 14 Piece Storage Containers
Ziploc Freezer Bags Gallon 14ct
Dawn Ultra Liquid Original Dish Soap 19.4oz

Cascade Complete Dishwasher Detergent Pacs Fresh Scent 27ct

Bounty Select-A-Size Plus Paper Towels 8 pack

Wine corkscrew and bottle opener
100-count dinner napkins

Do you have the Gopuff app yet? Download it from the Apple Store or Google Play to make ordering even easier. 

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