Countdown to Turkey Day Plan the Menu – For Real Now

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Let’s make sure everyone is on the same page. We’ve found the dining room table and figured out who is coming. (and you did ask them to come, right?), we have made a soft menu plan. 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, you may want to plan to spend a few extra minutes on the guest bathroom this Thursday—one week out. A good cleaning now will prevent panic on the 25th.

Check your toilet paper stash while you are at it

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

It’s time to start figuring out the final Thanksgiving menu.

Real quick, I want to apologize if you received last week’s email, clicked through and got an error. This site is having issues. It’s getting a bit up there, in website years 14.5 and I need to do some serious technical work but it needs to wait until after next week. Hopefully, some duct tape will hold her together until then. 🤞🏻

Do you have your Thanksgiving Menu Printable? Grab it and get your guest list because to plan your menu thoroughly, 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 other relatives you already know have healthy appetites increase the estimates as needed.

(You know who you are. Quit acting innocent. I’m on team Indulge. We’re all friends here.)

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—plan for it.

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 to find it again later if I lose it. Underneath that? I list the ingredients. ALL of the ingredients, and yes, that includes the spices.

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 start placing items on the shopping list by the grocery store section.

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.

Once you have your grocery list, you can then shop your pantry, and this is VERY important, slap labels on the things that no one is allowed to eat before next Thursday.

When I was doing this week’s grocery order, I took some time to check for what some people may be looking for. Walmart has almost no StoveTop Stuffing or pre-made bread cubes etc., to make your stuffing or dressing. Do not panic. It’s pretty simple to make your own. This recipe for apple, sage and cranberry dressing is easily adaptable. You can leave out any one of the ingredients you don’t like and still end up with a nice dressing/stuffing. You can make the stale bread/toasted bread very easily. Just buy the cheapest white and wheat bread you can find. If you live in a dry area, leave it out, loosely covered, where no animals can get to it overnight. If you live in a humid place, you can lightly toast it in the oven the night before and place it in a sealed container.

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?

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8 thoughts on “Countdown to Turkey Day Plan the Menu – For Real Now”

  1. Yes! I am happy. Thank you. This is Charleston and you _must_ have rice with your Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, most dinners.

    Now, how much apple pie do I allocate? And how much hard cider? And how many cigars? 😉

    Reply
  2. 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.

    OUR SIMPLE MENU
    Smoked and Grilled Turkey
    Mashed Potatoes
    Dressing
    Gravy
    Sweet Potatoes
    Green Beans
    Green Salad
    Rolls
    Pumpkin and Apple Pies w/whipped cream topping

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

    Reply
  3. 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? 😉

    Reply
  4. 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!

    Reply
  5. 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
    corn
    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.

    Reply
  6. Turkey
    Mashed potatoes and gravy
    Dressing (stuffing)
    sweet potatoes with marshmellows
    Green bean casserole
    corn
    Cranberry sauce
    Rolls
    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)

    Reply

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