How to Organize Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner


I reinvented Thanksgiving dinner 3 years ago, and not by choice. Thanksgiving dinner is one of my favorite dinners to fix for my family.

Three years ago, things changed. I was recovering from major surgery, forbidden from driving, forbidden from lifting more than 5 pounds, and needed to sit more than stand. My husband and our kids, then ages 13 and 15, would need to cook.

As I organized the menu, recipes, and shopping list, I didn’t realize I was discovering a way to destress future Thanksgivings.

Here are the steps:

  1. Plan your menu. Do this as a family meeting, with everyone involved.
  2. Make a folder. Make a folder you can find later, named Thanksgiving Dinner.
  3. Collect recipes.  Collect the recipes for each dish – yes, EACH dish. Print them if needed. Write extra instructions on the recipes if needed. (My Thanksgiving Recipe Go To Guide)
  4. Shop. Compile a grocery list, based on the menu and recipes If you’re baking a turkey, give yourself enough time for it to defrost in the refrigerator.
  5. Delegate the dinner. Family meeting time again – each person makes at least 1 dish the  day before Thanksiving and the day of. Each is responsible for the cooking and cleanup of the assignd dish.
  6. Schedule the cooking. Make desserts and salads the day before.  If baking a turkey, back schedule the meal around the time it will take to bake the turkey and other items such as dressing, sweet potatoes, and rolls.
  7. List your menu. List what needs to be cooked Thanksgiving Day and who’s responsible. A younger child can be assigned table setting.  Maybe one family member could be assigned cleanup duty. Cleanup as you go makes a lighter load.
  8. Make the meal. Keep it fun, and don’t get stressed, even if the turkey falls on the floor and the cat licks it. (Which has NEVER happened at my house!)

Next year, with your folder of recipes, planning is a lot easier..

My family may miss the before time, when I did most of the work.

However, I’m sure they don’t miss the stressed out, exhausted mama at the dinner table.


(© 2012 Mary Biever)


About Author

Mary is a computer coach and speaker who raises 2 teens with her husband in Evansville, Indiana. She loves to cook, garden, sing, and bleed green with 4-H. She blogs at

  • TC

    I love these kinds of articles! I have a large family and the older children are starting to bring home potential spouses. MORE PEOPLE AT HOLIDAY MEALS! I seriously get so stressed even thinking about managing it all. This helps ease my mind a little. Thank you!