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My Number 1 Tip for a Stress-free Holiday? Start Planning Early!

Planning and prepping for a special holiday dinner can be overwhelming.  Especially, for Thanksgiving day.

At our house, we have the same, traditional (and delicious!) meal every year.  But, there is always LOTS to do before the big, turkey day arrives.

These Thanksgiving Day planning, hosting, and decorating ideas should help you to plan ahead and prepare a mouthwatering meal, all while enjoying time with your family and friends.

Thanksgiving Day Hosting and Planning


  • Plan Ahead – First, sit down and really think about everything you are going to need.  Also, think about what time you are having guests come over, and visualize your main Thanksgiving menu.  Then, get a notebook and pen (or use my Thanksgiving Planner) to write down all your thoughts and keep it in a handy spot near the kitchen.

  • Organize – Make lists of everything you will need (ingredients, guests, decorations, seating, activities, timeframe, etc.)

  • General Head-count – Try to keep a general head count in mind when you are thinking of how much food to prepare.

  • Ask for Help – Once you know who is coming, make a list of each family and ask them to bring something. Most people are happy to help out in any way that they can.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

1) Create Your Thanksgiving Menu – In the south, our menu includes these delectable items:  a turkey, glazed ham, sweet potato souffle, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, lima beans, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole, cranberry chutney, rolls, and several desserts.  Likewise, take a look at these enticing Thanksgiving recipe ideas from  And, here are some decadent-looking dessert ideas to try from Country Living.

2) Have a Recipe Folder – Be sure to keep a binder or file folder that has all of your recipes printed out that you are going to use for Thanksgiving Day (or use my planner).

3) Take Inventory – Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer to take stock of all the items you have and all the items you will need to purchase.  Also, make a grocery list and stick to it as much as possible to save on costs.

4) Prepare in advance – Prepare the things that you can do ahead of time, like the dressing, cut up your veggies, some of your casseroles, some desserts, etc.

Southern-style Baked Corn Recipe


  • 3, (15 oz) cans of whole kernel corn (with the liquid from 2 cans)

  • 1, (8 oz) container of sour cream
  • 1, stick of butter (melted)
  • 1, package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • Large sprinkle of black pepper



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all above ingredients.  Mix well and pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.  Top should be a light, golden brown.  Check oven frequently to prevent the top from burning.  Inside will thicken upon standing and cooling.
  4. Serve warm and watch it disappear!


Thanksgiving Day turkey pumpkins

thanksgiving day hosting and decorating ideas food servings

Thanksgiving Prep and Decorations

Clean Your House

A few days before, do some quick cleaning around where your guests will be.  I don’t get too crazy about this, as we have messy kids and pets (pet hair!) and there will be more kids and pets coming to our house. (It’s gonna be cray-cray ya’ll!) 

Furthermore, as long as the majority of things are picked up and the house is dusted and vacuumed, we are good to go!

Festive Fall Decorating Ideas

Recycle your festive fall home decor items every year!  Just keep it simple and fun! 

And, you can always grab a bunch of pinecones, branches, and colored leaves from your yard and use those in vases and as centerpieces. 

Also, another good idea is to go on Pinterest and search for Thanksgiving printables.  Then, you’ll have free decorations you can print and use in your home. 

Keep the Kids Busy on Turkey Day

As we all know, kids like to run wild, especially at someone else’s house. Here are a few ideas to keep the kids busy and productive while awaiting Thanksgiving dinner.

Have Planned Kids Activities

We usually have at least 8 kids in attendance, of all ages.  If you have a few, set-up a kids’ table with folding chairs and a disposable tablecloth. 

Also, place crayons and print out activity sheets to keep the kids busy until time to eat.

Check out my adorable Thanksgiving coloring books and activities that you can instantly print and hand out to all the kiddos!

Set Your Table the Night Before

This step will save you so much stress and time just having it done. 

Also, set the kid’s table the day before with all the printables, scissors, crayons, pencils, and tape. 

Additionally, for the kids’ table, I like to use disposable plates, napkins, and cups. That way I don’t have to worry if the kids spill their drinks, drop their plates, etc.  Plus, everything can be quickly thrown into the trashcan.

Clean the Guest Bathroom

The morning of your event, make sure to wipe down the guest bathroom, hang a clean hand towel, and add some fresh soap to the dispenser. 

Also, stock with plenty of TP and light a festive candle.

Serve Appetizers

For appetizers, I like to serve sausage and cheese balls, pigs in a blanket, or crockpot BBQ meatballs. 

Especially, if the preparation and cooking are taking longer than expected.  Here are more great Thanksgiving Appetizers ideas from Woman’s Day.

Kids’ Table Thanksgiving Printables

You’ve Got This!

Finally, remember to breathe and these last-minute tips.

Buffet Style on the Island

This saves time and space and makes for easier clean-up. 

I have a large island in my kitchen with counter stools underneath one side. 

It is great for letting everyone help themselves to the feast.

Have a Family Member or Friend Take Photos

I wish I had done a better job of this last year. 

Try and take pictures of everyone sitting around and enjoying each other’s company. 

Take pics of the kids playing, coloring, and having fun. 

And, take photos of the beautiful and delicious food!

Thanksgiving Traditions: Christmas Movies

Each year after cleaning up, we all watch Christmas movies and roast marshmallows over the fireplace.

Relax, have fun, and enjoy!

Of course, you are going to feel some stress when hosting Thanksgiving Day. 

But, remember, the day is about being grateful, giving thanks, and sharing a meal with the ones you love.

Most Important!

Oh, and one more thing.  I am SO VERY THANKFUL FOR YOU!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post!

I truly hope you found a little bit of helpful information for planning your Thanksgiving day celebration.

I would love to hear what you and your family do for Thanksgiving.  Do you have any special traditions?

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