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Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printable to Organize your Thanksgiving Dinner

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Stay organized and reduce your stress as you plan your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Regardless of your dinner party is small or 25 people having a plan thought out and written down will keep you on track for the Best Thanksgiving Ever! Get you Free! Printable PDF. 

Fairly early in our marriage, Jim’s mother, Grace, decided that she no longer wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner. All of our parents at that time had reach 65 and were settling into retirement. The Thanksgiving before Jim and I decided to take on the family traditional dinner, the food at Jim’s mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner with somewhat undercooked. It was a mutual decision to relieve Jim’s mom of the pressure of preparation, cooking, and hosting a Thanksgiving dinner.

My first years of hosting the Thanksgiving dinner were unplanned and chaotic. I had a plan, I took a notebook from one of the kid’s school supply stashes, and jotted down a menu, recipes, and notes.

This did not work well as each year I didn’t know where that notebook was and started a new notebook. I soon ended up with multiple notebooks scattered around the house with ideas, menus, and decoration plans. This is an example of very unorganized meal planning.

Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printables Organize Thanksgiving Dinner

Why Have a Written Thanksgiving Planner

I spent many November days and nights worrying if I was prepared and ready for the big dinner. Not having a cohesive plan in one place made the week of Thanksgiving dinner very stressful.

I didn’t have a cohesive grocery list which meant there were multiple trips to the grocery store. Each year we tried to have the turkey in the oven at 6:00 AM. As we were stuffing the bird, blurry-eyed, Jim and I would frantically scratch out a schedule of what needed to be done and when.

Not have a complete plan made it hard to tell anyone who is visiting how to help with the dinner setup. Several thanksgivings we ended up at Walmart just to get an essential item I had forgotten to purchase. Many of Thanksgiving morning we were searching the house for the recipe cards for the traditional Jell-O, stuffing, or cranberry sauce.

I love Thanksgiving dinner, however, by the end of the day, I was exhausted. That’s when I decided that a more cohesive all-in-one Thanksgiving dinner planning was needed to be done. So I designed what I know I needed which was a Thanksgiving Planner.

The Thanksgiving Planner

Get your copy of the Planner I used to plan our family Thanksgiving Dinner

Download and print off as many copies as you need and make sure to share with your friends and family and on social media. 

I realize now that some of my delay in starting a comprehensive Thanksgiving Day planning was having small children in the house. We all know when your house is full of little ones, there isn’t much time for yourself to sit reflect and plan.

Whether you need to get up early, stay up late one night, or hire a mother’s helper to come to play with the kids while you plan, it is well worth the effort to have the plan set in place, in writing, before the week of Thanksgiving.

I soon learned that I needed to start well in advance planning who is coming, and what decorations I was going to have.

Invitations needed to be communicated so I would know who needed a guest room.

I needed to plan when and where to purchase the turkey, what traditional side dishes would make everyone day memorable, and where were the recipe cards.

I needed to have the serving dishes ready to go, labeled, and in a place, where anyone could find them.

Why Crafting for Thanksgiving is Important and a Family Tradition

In our family, it has been a tradition to have crafts at all major holiday events. The crafts need to be planned and designed for in advance, and supplies need to be purchased. While the crafts are for the little ones, the adults enjoy them just as much. In your family as in ours, besides crafts, the annual Macy’s day parade and football games are a family tradition.

Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printables Organize Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Day is a day to be remembered when I start thinking far ahead of craft we are going to have, collecting the supplies, and having a designated area in my house to make the crafts. Thanksgiving is a lot about the food, it is even more about family members, young and old, enjoying the activity of cooking and crafting.

Having family get together on any holiday and especially Thanksgiving takes a lot of work and I like to have beautiful things around me as I prepare and plan this event. That’s why I have created lovely printable’s to use each year to organize my thoughts, and have all in one location.

Putting these in a beautiful folder keeps them clean and ready for the next year. I have also discovered the app of Paprika, and have put all the recipes for each holiday, labeled for that holiday, in the Paprika app.

While I may still want the recipe card out I can always grab my phone or iPad, hand it to a friend or family member to assist in the cooking. A great resource for learning Paprika can be found at keystoinspiration.com Click the link to learn exactly how to use Paprika to its fullest.

Begin Your Thanksgiving Planning

The first step is to grab these lovely fall printables that make the meal planning organized and simple. Click the download button to get access to the free printable library that has all the Thanksgiving Dinner Printables.


Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printables Organize Thanksgiving Dinner

When first thinking about Thanksgiving I usually start the first week of October. I start communicating with family members to determine who will be coming so that I know how many guests will be attending and how many guest rooms I have to have prepared. I start filling out the Guest List Plan.

I then start thinking of a theme for the decorations, and crafts. I start this planning two months before Thanksgiving Day. Decorating and crafts need to go together as I like to do most of my decorations DIY. Actually, when I brainstorm the plan for the decorations, I think of the other family members and the age of children to see if some of my decorations the kids would also like to make and take home.

I also think back to the traditions that our family has enjoyed in the past and would be disappointed if we were not to continued this Thanksgiving. One of our family traditions is that the table is set with the Christmas plates and silverware. My mother-in-law started this tradition with her favorite Christmas Spode collection and as we have 16 place settings, regardless of how many people come we always have enough dishes. I have matching Spode silverware Jim purchased for me as a gift the second year he hosted Thanksgiving dinner. The Christmas dishes set the mood for about the upcoming Christmas season. However, while the dinnerware is Christmas, the centerpieces, and decorations around the house are traditional Thanksgiving and fall.

Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printables Organize Thanksgiving Dinner

Other family traditions that have become very important include layering the formal dining table with a table padding and having the tablecloth and table completely set the day before. What are some of your family traditions?
This year as many years in the past I’ve decided to stick with the traditional fall leaves, acorns, buckeyes, pumpkin, and deep fall Earth tone colors.

Step by Step How to Plan Thanksgiving

Step 1: Guest List

Print off the free printable for your guest list. Write down all the guests that have committed to attend and those that you think may attend and note any dietary needs, or special table settings. An example of this would be how many high chairs you might need or booster seats, or extra room at the table for a wheelchair.

Step 2: Menu

Once you have your guest list determined, the second step is to determine your menu. I first start with the basics, whether it will be turkey or ham. For our family, it is always turkey and over the years we have decided that a fresh turkey pre-ordered is the best. The turkey is one item whether you love the taste or not it just is not Thanksgiving without a large whole turkey.

Print off the free printable of the menu planning to start this process.

Step 3: Review Recipes

Next start writing down all the traditional recipes that everyone expects. In reviewing the menu and my guest list, I determine whether there are any recipes that need to be modified for dietary restrictions.

I look at the recipes to determine the ones are must-haves to ensure we have that traditional feel. Just like the dinner would not be complete without the turkey, for us the traditional green bean casserole and handmade mashed potatoes are required.

I look at these recipes to see if they need to be modified for guests’ dietary needs. For example, someone might be vegetarian or have an allergy to certain ingredients. If I have an issue with a recipe I may modify it or make an alternative for my guest.

As you were thinking of the dishes to make think of your plate as a tables-cape combining nutrition and beautiful colors. Make sure that your dishes, when placed on the dinner plate, will have a beautiful array of fresh colors as opposed to a monotone color palette.

Always keep in mind, the nutritional value of the foods being served so that you have a well-balanced meal at the end of the day. I find that this sometimes can be difficult as a lot of traditional Thanksgiving foods are starches. This is why I am so thankful for Pinterest where I can search for new dishes to supplement the nutritional balance of our families favorites

Step 4: New Recipes

I next decide whether there any new recipes that I would like to add to make Thanksgiving even more special each year. I start looking at Pinterest to see if there are any ideas other people have and I ask friends what are some of their traditional side dishes.

Step 5: Desserts

I start thinking of dessert, I write down the desserts that I would like to eat. Then I decide on the desserts that my family members have expressed as their favorite. For our family apple pie has to be on the list.

You can find my post on the Perfect Apple Pie and the Perfect Pie Crust by clicking here.

For me, pumpkin pie has been a traditional pie and a must to be served. As pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert for both Jim and I. However, as the years, have progressed fewer people find this to be their favorite dessert. But being a traditionalist I will have this on the menu. I have seen several recipes for making individual small pumpkin pies and this year I think I’m going to try making a few small ones. I start our traditional pumpkin pie from the recipe on the can of pure pumpkin.

Step 6: Phone App

Once I have my menu planned, I then turned to my iPad and make sure that each one of these recipes has been entered into my Paprika app. You can again find a great tutorial at keystoinspiration.com on how to use this app.
I have a special category for Thanksgiving in my Paprika app. This way I can sort the recipes that I know we will be making on Thanksgiving. I then go look for my traditional recipe cards for these dishes to make sure that I have my recipes correct on my iPad.

Step 7: Items Needed

On my Menu Planning Printable, I then start writing down the ingredients that I know I’m going to need to purchase. Check my cupboards for some of the staples as a lot of times I have many of the things I need already in the house. You will find two lists, a non-perishable list to be purchased 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving and a perishable list for the two days before. I group my Foods that I need to purchase by the store in which they’re going to be purchased. This way I can look for sales in certain stores.

It is best to be thinking of all the foods that will be eaten by your house guests and have a supply in the house. You can print out the free printable of basic staples to have in your pantry for Thanksgiving to make sure that this list is comprehensive for your needs for the Thanksgiving week.

Here is a list of what I Have had an ample supply of before the Thanksgiving week starts. This way you can also look for sales and spread out the cost. These are just suggestions add to the list as you think of your family.

Print off the Pantry Essentials Shopping List

Items to have a supply of tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, tablecloths baggies, chips, crackers, cereal, pop, water, flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, brown sugar, vanilla, powdered sugar, butter, margarine, eggs, powdered milk, salt, pepper, any alcoholic beverages, batteries.

Items to have ready for Overnight Guests: pillows, blankets, towels, toiletry supplies in the bathrooms.

Items to purchase a Weekend Before Thanksgiving: cheeses, apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, all your vegetables, milk, yogurts, sour cream, bacon, sausages, breakfast bread.

Think of ways to make space in your house to keep these extra items actual fingertips.

Craft Supplies to have on hand: scissors, tape, glue, glue dots, glitter, supplies of colored paper.

Step 8:  Preparing Your Guest Rooms

Using preparing your guest room printable will help make sure that your rooms are clean and ready for all your guests. I make sure, as I’m sure all of you do, I make sure that all the bed linens have been washed and changed. I make sure each room has plenty of pillows and blankets as Thanksgiving is usually cold here in Ohio. If we are having little ones or younger children, I make sure we have a crib or inflatable beds available.

I hope these Printables help reduce your stress during Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving Meal Planning Printables Organize Thanksgiving Dinner

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  1. I cannot believe how close American Thanksgiving and Christmas are. It has to be a daunting task. The better planned you are the better your choices, the more elaborate your recipes can be, a prettier tables etc. etc. Great idea to have a printable.

  2. What a great idea! So much prettier than my spiral notebook too 😉 Thanks for sharing this. Happy Thanksgiving! Your neighbor at Sitting Among Friends.

  3. Wow, this was the best plan for a large group on Thanksgiving. I am the one who hosted Thanksgiving in our home for many years. Thirty to fifty people was the norm. Everyone would bring a dish to pass and we would organize who brought what. That took a huge load off of my shoulders. Thanks for a great post to share with blue Monday.
    Happy thanksgiving,

  4. Boy can I ever relate to starting several different notebooks of ideas and then losing them. I need more organization in my life! These planners are just what we need to pull off a great meal. I’m sharing! 🙂

  5. I feel so behind this year. I’m working on Christmas recipes already, but haven’t done a thing about Thanksgiving. Time to get on that, I suppose…

  6. I can definitely use the pantry essentials checklist – I always seem to forget something I need! Thanks for the free printable!

    1. You are so welcome. I have to start my planning. I can not believe it is Nov. Thank you for your kind comments

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