I host Thanksgiving dinner each year for a large crowd. It usually ends up being between 18-25 people. But whether you are hosting for a large number of guests or a small number, there is always the need to time everything just right so that you can present a hot, wonderful meal to your guests.
After doing this for many years, I have created a timeline for Thanksgiving dinner that works for me. I will share what I do and you can adjust it however you would like to fit your circumstances. You can download the free Thanksgiving Timeline Planner below at the end of this post and fill in with your specific items and times.
You can also download the Thanksgiving Dinner Planner for 11 pages of Thanksgiving planning and other fun stuff to help organize your entire Thanksgiving holiday.
My timeline starts the week before Thanksgiving and goes something like this:
One week before:
Related: Thanksgiving Place Cards Printable
Shop for food, make sure I have enough place settings, chairs, etc. (I will usually borrow any extra silverware or chairs that I need from my sister).
My shopping list looks like this (keep in mind, I am cooking for a lot of people and I only have one oven):
- 2-3 loaves of bread for stuffing
- One bag of onions
- 2 lbs of butter
- One dozen eggs
- Three large rutabagas
- 2 lbs bacon
- Turkey Breast (1 or 2 – depending on the number of guests)
- 1 small bag of brown sugar
- 4-5 packages of frozen white shoepeg corn
- 2-3 packages of crescent rolls (I find that two is usually enough. Not everyone takes a roll.)
- One large can of gravy from GFS
- Whipped Cream for Pie
That is it for my part. My sister always brings the mashed potatoes, so you might want to add items to make mashed potatoes to the list. Also, as far as the pie goes, whenever someone asks me what they can bring, I tell them pie or dessert. That helps me tremendously in not having to worry about that part of the meal. Also, I don’t worry about a full turkey (nor do I have room for it) or homemade gravy. I know some may not like this, but my mom always did it this way, and thus the way I have always done it. No one has ever complained, and they keep coming back year after year.
Two days before Thanksgiving:
I break up the bread (which can take a considerable amount of time, so plan accordingly) and sprinkle it with the sage. I then cover it and let it sit until the next day.
One Day before Thanksgiving:
This is when the cooking begins. I make the stuffing the day before and also the rutabaga. This is the most time-consuming part, so by making these two dishes the day before, all I have to do on Thanksgiving day is heat them in the oven with the turkey breast. If I am having a particularly large crowd, I will also set the table the day before.
On Thanksgiving Day:
The first thing I usually do is cut up the kielbasa and put it in the crockpot with a small bag of brown sugar. I turn this on low and let it be until dinner time.
An hour and a half before dinner:
I usually put the turkey breast in an hour and a half before dinner time at 350 degrees. I will also put the rutabaga and the stuffing in to heat through. Then I have about an hour’s break to make sure the table is set, making sure there is butter, salt and pepper on each table, etc. I print out table setting place cards to put at each place setting. I also print out a candy bar wrapper and wrap it around a Hershey bar as a sweet treat for everyone to take home with them. It makes the table look nice and adds a sweet extra touch that is very easy to do. You can get both the table setting place cards and the candy bar wrapper as part of this Thanksgiving dinner planner.
One half hour before dinner:
About 1/2 hour before dinner time, I will cook the corn on the stovetop. When it is ready, I will cover it until I’m prepared to put it in a serving dish. Next, I will heat the gravy through on the stovetop and cover it until I am ready to transfer it to a gravy boat.
Ten minutes before dinner:
Next, I will prepare the rolls (I always use Pillsbury crescent rolls) and put them on their baking sheets. I will take the turkey, stuffing, and rutabaga out of the oven and put the rolls in. While the rolls are baking, I will cut up the turkey breast and put it on a meat platter with the kielbasa.
I will also put everything else in its serving dish and on the table. When the rolls are finished, they go in the breadbasket and onto the table.
Download the free timeline for Thanksgiving dinner pdfs:
I keep track of when to do each thing on the Thanksgiving timeline tracker. You can download one below to fill in for your situation. The first sheet is leading up to and including Thanksgiving day. The second sheet is a more detailed view of Thanksgiving day.
If you like this post, pin it :