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Thanksgiving Meal Prep Guide

guides meal planning thanksgiving Nov 04, 2021
Bowls of vegan foods for Thanksgiving

Countdown to Thanksgiving has begun! With just 3 weeks until the big day, have you thought about your Thanksgiving meal prep plan? With my Thanksgiving Meal Prep Guide, you don't have to!


My goal is to have everything done about a half hour before guests arrive so I can pour myself a glass of wine and take in an attitude of gratitude (vs overwhelm). Read on for all my tips and detailed Thanksgiving planning checklist to get it done. 


Thanksgiving Meal Planning Tips

When planning what to serve, follow these tips and build your prep plan from there.


  • First decide if you're going to serve a traditional turkey AND vegan turkey and / or another vegan main. There are an abundance or store-bought vegan turkey options, as well as homemade recipes if you want to make your own. Depending on your choices, you'll need to adjust your Thanksgiving meal prep plan accordingly. Based on your choice, will you make gravy from scratch or buy it from the store?


  • Next, determine how many sides you want (including the number of starches and vegetables). Will you include a salad or just vegetables?


  • When it comes to breads / rolls and cranberry sauce, will you purchase or make from scratch? What other condiments do you want on the table? (For example, my family LOVES olives so I always make sure to stock up on a few cans of olives every holiday.)


  • Decide if you want to make your desserts from scratch or buy from a local bakery or grocery store


  • Finally, choose what you will make from all of the above, what you will assign out to other guests, and what you will buy from the store.



Tips for Getting it Done
Break up all of your work into bite-sized tasks and schedule them in your calendar

I start by making a giant to-do list of EVERYTHING I need to get done for the big day. That includes the cooking, but also the grocery shopping, making (or ordering centerpieces), confirming the guests, cleaning the house, and all the other things that go into the day. I do this 3 to 4 weeks before Thanksgiving.


Then, I break down each of those tasks further if I can, (such as dividing up the menu and the meal prep for each recipe), and I schedule a time for each task into my calendar over the course of one to three weeks, depending on how many tasks I need to get done and how much time I have available.


 Delegate what you can and give assignments

While you’re cooking, have your partner or kids set the table. Assign another family member the task of making place cards (this is a great job for kids!) and get some help by having your partner do the grocery shopping. (I build my Thanksgiving shopping into my weekly trip to the store but I add in an extra trip 2 days before for all the produce and send my husband to do that shopping!)


Delegation also includes the cooking. When people ask, "What can I bring?", take them up on it! Because I'm Type A, I'm very specific when I get asked that, "Here's the recipe for Caramelized Onion Dip I want you to bring." Of course, you can also just say "Bring a bottle of wine" like normal people!


Take some help from the store where no one will notice

Holiday entertaining is the perfect time to include a few homemade-ISH items to your menu. Dips, for example, are easy and delicious to buy at the store. I also utilize the vegan frozen pie crusts at my local natural foods store and spend my time and energy on a decadent filling instead.



Holiday Planning & Meal Prep Timeline

When it comes to my actual Thanksgiving meal prep plan, here’s how I break it all down: 


3-4 weeks in advance
  • Plan the menu
  • Confirm guests (and anything they are contributing to the meal)
  • Determine table scape theme


2 weeks in advance
  • Plan and purchase supplies for centerpieces, dinnerware, etc.
  • Place any special food orders (for example, a vegan roast, special dessert, specialty vegan cheeses). There are an abundance of online vegan retailers that offer a variety of plant-based food items for your Thanksgiving feast. Some of my favorites are GTFO and Shop Vejii.


1 week in advance 
  • Make your grocery list and shop for everything but produce
  • Make place cards (if using)


3 days ahead
  • Shop for produce
  • Make centerpiece(s) (if not floral)


2 days ahead
  • Shop for produce
  • Set aside 2 ours to meal prep:
    • Salad dressings
    • Dips
    • Pies


1 day ahead
  • Prepare the sides (except vegetables), such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and mac ‘n cheese
  • Make centerpieces (if floral)
  • Set the table (take out all serving platters and utensils): I like to assign my husband and kids to this task.
  • Pick up any ordered food items
  • Thaw vegan turkey in the refrigerator


Morning of:
  • Prepare any salads 
  • Plate any condiments, such as butter 
  • Prepare vegan turkey


1 hour before
  • Prepare any vegetable dishes
  • Make charcuterie board or other appetizer spreads


I use my Holiday Meal Planning & Prep Checklist to check off the tasks and map out what I'm going to cook and when. Download your free copy here.



Other Plant-based Thanksgiving Resources


Visit the blog next week for a list of vegan recipe and meal ideas that everyone will love (including your non vegan family).


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