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Whether you are cooking thanksgiving dinner for the first time or looking to learn how to prepare thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, this post has all of the tips to simplify cooking a thanksgiving dinner.

Don’t let cooking Thanksgiving dinner get you down. With a thanksgiving meal plan, and time saving tips you’ll be a pro at cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your family.

1. Make Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner Easier by Creating a menu

It’s easy to get caught up in adding lots of dishes to Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone has their favorites. Ask your family to pick their favorite dishes and create a menu.

Don’t make dishes only a few people will like. Try to stick to making the recipes that the majority of people like and will eat. This will eliminate having too many leftovers after you are done cooking a Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Create a Shopping List

First make a list of all of the ingredients that you need to make all of the recipes that you wrote done for your Thanksgiving menu.

Then, take inventory of ingredients that you may already have on hand before heading to the store.

By “shopping” your own kitchen you can eliminate the need to buy more ingredients that you may not need at this moment.

Simple Southern Style Creamed Corn Recipe made with frozen corn, butter, milk, and flour.
Simple Southern Style Creamed Corn Recipe made with frozen corn, butter, milk, and flour.

3. Save Time with pre-made Desserts

Pre-made Desserts in the Bakery section of the Grocery store

Most grocery stores sell a variety of pre-made pies, cakes, and cookies all year round not just during the holidays. When it comes to preparing for Thanksgiving, picking up a premed pie from the bakery section of your local grocery store can save you a good bit of time in the kitchen.

Just be aware of the expiration date and make sure you pick your pre-made dessert with an expiration several days AFTER Thanksgiving so you and your family have plenty of time to eat it.

Baking Kits in the Baking Aisle

Another option would be to use a baking kit from the baking aisle at the grocery store. There are plenty of cakes, cookies, bars, and breads available in kits that only require a few more ingredients and some baking time that you can make at home.

Take and Bake Frozen Desserts

If you don’t want to take the time to whip something up from a box, you can also check the frozen food section where they have frozen pies available that you can thaw and bake the day before Thanksgiving. This is a great option if you are planning on buying ingredients to make Thanksgiving well in advance and want to store them for an extended period of time and bake at a later date.

Southern Macaroni and Cheese Casserole Recipe - this macaroni and cheese recipe feeds a crowd. Perfect for holiday get togethers or large family gatherings. Baked in the oven, everyone is going to want to seconds of this southern macaroni and cheese casserole.
Southern Macaroni and Cheese Casserole Recipe – this macaroni and cheese recipe feeds a crowd. Perfect for holiday get togethers or large family gatherings. Baked in the oven, everyone is going to want to seconds of this southern macaroni and cheese casserole.

4. Make or assemble side dishes for baking the day before

Are you wondering what to cook first for Thanksgiving Dinner?

The sides!

When should you start cooking Thanksgiving Dinner?

The day before Thanksgiving.

My poor oven sure does get a workout on Thanksgiving day. There are lots of things to bake. The night before I will assemble all of my side dishes that need to be baked in the oven and store them in the fridge.

On the day of Thanksgiving, all I have to do is pull them from the fridge and pop them in the oven to bake after the turkey is done cooking.

Cook Homemade Desserts the Day before Thanksgiving

If you are planning on serving homemade desserts instead of a premade dessert for after Thanksgiving dinner then be sure to make them the day before as well. We typically have a variety of desserts to choose from so there is typical a mix of both premade and homemade on our Thanksgiving Table.

5. Use Disposable cooking pans, plates, cups, and silverware.

I don’t just assemble my side dishes in regular baking dishes though. Clean-up after Thanksgiving Dinner is not very much fun so to cut down on the after dinner clean up time with disposable cooking pans, plates, cups, and silverware.

For example, I like to make my homemade green bean casserole in a 9×13 disposable baking pan with lid. I am able to assemble the casserole ahead of time and bake the morning of Thanksgiving dinner. The lid helps with storing before cooking and after as leftovers in the fridge. And cleanup after it’s all gone couldn’t be easier, simply throw the pan away when all the goodies are gone.

100% Compostable disposable plates, cups, and silverware set makes clean up time after a delicious Thanksgiving meal a breeze.

6. Planning the right Size Turkey for a Family Thanksgiving Dinner

Buy the right Turkey for a Family Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey’s come in a variety of different sizes the trick is to find the right sized turkey to feed everyone at your get-together. My ideal turkey is one that feeds everyone at our family Thanksgiving with just a little bit leftover for sandwiches the next couple of days. So for a small family buying just a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey may be a better option. Also keep in mind that larger turkeys will need longer time to cook.

Thanksgiving Cooking Tips
First time cooking thanksgiving dinner or want to prepare thanksgiving ahead of time, simplify cooking a thanksgiving dinner with these 6 tips. Learn how to create a thanksgiving menu, what to put on your thanksgiving shopping list, the best Thanksgiving cooking schedule, how to make thanksgiving cleanup quick and easy, how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, as well as alternative thanksgiving turkey ideas.

Cut out the prep and thawing time of cooking a turkey with an oven ready variety.

Don’t want to go through all of the trouble of cooking a turkey from scratch. No problem! Thank goodness for companies like Jennie O that makes Oven Ready Turkeys and Turkey Breasts in a Bag.

There is no prep before cooking this turkey. Simply remove from the freezer on Thanksgiving morning and pop it directly into the oven.

Although I’m pretty good at making gravy from scratch, these oven ready turkeys can save you an additional step with a gravy packet that is included. Just heat and serve.

Save Oven space by Cooking Turkey without an Oven

Make cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner even easier with this Quick and Easy Instant Pot Turkey Breast Recipe with Buttery Herb Gravy
Make cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner even easier with this Quick and Easy Instant Pot Turkey Breast Recipe with Buttery Herb Gravy

Another way that I like to cook turkey on Thanksgiving is in the Instant Pot. I love my Instant Pot and the versatility it gives me in my cooking. By cooking a turkey in an Instant Pot I not only cut my cooking time in half but also it frees up the oven for other delicious dishes to be prepared like my family favorite macaroni and cheese casserole.

What are some tips that you have to make cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner easier?

By doing some advanced prep work the night before, eliminating clean up with disposable, loving the bakery section for after dinner indulgences, and picking the right sized, oven-ready turkey Thanksgiving meal prep becomes a lot more manageable.

Author

Heather began blogging in 2004 providing a glimpse into her domestic life. Over the years her writing topics have changed but one thing has remained the same, her love for preparing homemade, southern-style recipes for her family. When not dealing with household chores or cooking delicious recipes, she can be found homeschooling her two high school boys.

16 Comments

  1. Amber Myers Reply

    I am all about making meals easier. I tend to always get premade stuff. I don’t have the patience with from scratch recipes!

  2. We already celebrated Thanksgiving here. And this year, we decided it would be potluck, so much easier for everyone!

  3. My daughters are always on me for not creating a shopping list and prepping/planning. It really does help.

  4. Shelley King Reply

    We love to pick up pies at our local Mom and Pop’s. I will say this, you will only make the mistake of not laying the turkey out in time once! Ask me how I know? That was stressful!

  5. Thank you for this! I will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year and I was trying to figure out what order to do things. Now I know.

  6. It can help to find ways to simplify a dinner where you have guests. Buying a premade dessert can work well as it saves a fair amount of time that you can use to make something else.

  7. My tip has always been to have someone else cook it, lol. That’s better all the way around as my grown kids will atest to… I am not the world’s best cook. :)

  8. Richelle Milar Reply

    What a really great and very helpful tips you have here! Thanks for sharing this with us

  9. Planning a Thanksgiving meal can get expensive very quickly. This year it’s just me and my youngest son. I don’t want to cook a huge Thanksgiving meal. I’m thinking of cooking ribs or going out to eat.

  10. Start with a menu and shopping list will make it the easiest. Then use pre-made desserts. All very good ideas.

  11. These are some great tips. When I was younger, my partner and I looked forward to staying up all night Thanksgiving eve with friends and cooking with cocktails. Now, 4 kids later, it’s how quickly can we get Thanksgiving dinner prepper the night before and finished off in the morning lol.

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