Countdown to Turkey Day 2012 Plan the Menu

Let’s make sure everyone is on the same page. We’ve found the dining room table, made a guest list (and invited them), we have made a soft menu plan, and if you’ve never even roasted a chicken that’s on the to-do list, right? Also, if you’re anything like me, you may need to put away all the stuff that has already found its way back to that recently cleared table. While you’re at it, spend a few minutes checking the guest bathroom today. A good cleaning now will help keep the next one from being so intensive.


Ok, today we’re doing another pen and paper exercise.  Try to contain your excitement.

It’s time start figuring out the final Thanksgiving menu. Do you have your Thanksgiving Menu Printable? Grab it and get your guest list, because to plan your menu completely, you need to know how many people are dining and have a rough idea of their usual appetite. The list below accounts for “average people” whoever they are.

If you are serving teenagers or relatives you already know are greedy increase the estimates as needed.

(You know who you are, quit acting innocent. I may be thin, but I can put away the food when I want to and on Thanksgiving? I want to.)

Additionally, I increase the dessert estimate just because it’s a holiday for Pete’s sake. These estimates work best for a formal Thanksgiving meal where everyone sits down and eventually people get tired of passing items.

If you’re serving your Thanksgiving dinner buffet style, definitely increase the gravy. I don’t know what it is about a buffet that makes people go nuts on the gravy, but that’s life.

So get your soft menu, find the recipes that go with the menu and figure out if you’re going to need to double or triple any recipes for the Thanksgiving dinner you’re hosting.

Once you have that, it’s time to put together your shopping list.

I use a Google Spreadsheet to create my shopping list. The top row or header cells each get a recipe. Below the recipe title, I include the url so I can find it again later if I lose it. Underneath that? I list the ingredients. ALL of the ingredients.

I then scroll partway down the page and begin making sections of the grocery store: Produce, Canned Goods, Spices, etc. Starting with the first recipe I begin placing items on the shopping list by grocery store section. (I’ll get the produce and turkey just few days beforehand, everything else I try to get within the next week).

Do this carefully and you can consolidate items, salt – one canister had better be enough, but butter? Are you sure if you’ve used butter in 6 recipes that one pound is enough? Be sure to keep an eye on that and do things like butter 1lb x 2, apples x 6 etc.

It’s easy and won’t take long.

Serving estimates for holiday meals:

  • Whole turkey* – 1lb turkey for each guest up to a 14lb bird. Anything larger, estimate 3/4lb per person. (The skeleton of the turkey weighs less proportionally in large birds).
  • Bone-in turkey breast – 2/3 lb per person
  • Boneless turkey breast – 1/2 lb per person
  • Dressing aka Stuffing aka Filling – 3/4 cup per guest, unless you serve the andouille sausage and shrimp cornbread dressing which is particularly awesome. Then go for 1 cup, same goes for the apple, cranberry, sage dressing.
  • Gravy – 1/3 cup per person go 2/3rds cup per for buffet style
  • Mashed potatoes – 1lb of potatoes for every 2 guests if you are serving two kinds (roasted and mashed) estimate 1lb for every 3 – 4 guests
  • Cranberry relish / sauce – 1lb of berries for every 5 people who actually like cranberry sauce.
  • Vegetables, including sweet potatoes and roasted potatoes – 1/2 cup per person of each type, unless you’re making the brussels sprouts with bacon recipe, go ahead and call that a cup, too. Last year, people were getting a bit testy about there not being enough. Of brussels sprouts? YES, Brussels Sprouts of awesome and win.
  • Rolls – 2 per guest minimum
  • Rice – 1/2 cup per person -happy Michael?
  • Risotto – 1/2 cup per person
  • Macaroni and Cheese – 1/2 cup per person
  • Dessert – 1 – 2 servings per guest

Some of the very dedicated choose to serve both turkey and ham. In that case estimate one pound of ham for every four or five people and 3/4 lb of turkey.

*If you love leftovers, as I do, increase your turkey estimate by 50%.

Tell me, Home Eccers, what’s going on your Thanksgiving dinner menu?


  1. MamaDuke on November 20, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Thanks so much for your more realistic serving estimates. My husband and I are cooking two holiday dinners this year. One was last night where we served approximately 60 teens and adults. In a few weeks we will be cooking Christmas dinner for approximately 40 mostly senior adults. Your reminder to consider who you are serving (and how they eat) was quite helpful.

    Smoked and Grilled Turkey
    Mashed Potatoes
    Sweet Potatoes
    Green Beans
    Green Salad
    Pumpkin and Apple Pies w/whipped cream topping

    (For the senior dinner coming up we will include cranberry sauce/relish.)

  2. Deneicer on November 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Oh ….

    My husband is determining the menu this year.

    So far we are having steak. 🙂

    Which he will be cooking on the grill. 🙂

    Which is outside. 🙂

    Can this get any better? 😉

  3. Deneicer on November 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Hi Heather ~

    You are so organized when it comes to Thanksgiving! Are you kidding me???? I am still in the midst of painting the sitting room project. My house is a mess with all the displaced items and sanding dust …. and I am washing all the dusty dishes so they will be available for T.G.D. (Thanksgiving Dinner or Thank God, Dear…whichever you prefer! 🙂

    I gotta tell you …. that spreadsheet you are describing sounds absolutely genius! That in itself could be a major money maker! 😉 That sounds like a fabulous tool for menu planning and not just for T.G.D., either!

    Do you have it set up as a ‘blank’ form in Excel? How did you do this so that it stays blank each time you need to use it again? Do you just make a new one each time? (BTW ….that seems like a lot of extra work …..)

    So….. please share! Would love to check out your great organizing tool for T.G.D. Gobble gobble!

  4. Nancy from Mass on November 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Well, I am hosting thanksgiving this year (first time ever). there will be 22 people at my house (oh my!). I am doing the turkeys, ham and mashed potatoes. this is what everyone else is bringing.

    yam casserole
    french meat stuffing
    bread stuffing
    roasted squash
    real canned green beans from my sisters garden
    homemade bread and rolls
    green bean casserole
    cranberry sauce (home made and canned)
    different types of canned pickles
    pumpkin whoopie pies
    cream pies (4 in all)
    m&m cookies
    pumpkin bread
    loads of coffee
    My sister will make the gravy while we carve the birds.
    there will be more items showing up on turkey day.

  5. karla on November 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Sorry – strawberry jello packet – tradition

    I might try bacon brussel sprouts 🙂

  6. karla on November 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Mashed potatoes and gravy
    Dressing (stuffing)
    sweet potatoes with marshmellows
    Green bean casserole
    Cranberry sauce
    jello salad (tub of cottage cheese, tub of cool whip, packet of strawberry salad, and drained can of fruit cocktail) – trad
    relish tray
    pumpkin pie for lunch (ie 4ish)

  7. betsy on November 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Would you mind making your google spreadsheet available, somehow. It sounds great.

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