Your Epic Thanksgiving Planning Guide + A Free Workbook

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away! And before we know it, Christmas will be here! Today I have an EPIC guide to help you plan your Thanksgiving meal. If you are hosting your family's meal this year, you do have quite a big job ahead of you, Thanksgiving is probably the biggest "food holiday." But don't you worry, I have a


 guide to help you every step of the way. Plus an EPIC and beautiful FREE workbook.

Click to Tweet: "An EPIC guide to planning your Thanksgiving meal + a FREE workbook!"


This post is broken up into four sections:

  • Menu Planning
  • Prepping Guide
  • Table Setting
  • Decorating

Planning these four main sections of the meal will ensure that you have not only a beautiful but also a low-stress dinner. I can't say no-stress because sometimes family, as much as we love them, can just be a little much. Am I right? 

P.S. To my family who reads my blog - love you!

If you find this post or the EPIC workbook helpful in any way, share a photo of your Thanksgiving meal or your workbook notes using




Section 1: Menu Planning

We all know how obsessed I am with

menu planning

 so planning a holiday meal is like --well-- Christmas, for me. I'm also a little strange and I almost never make the same recipe twice, it's just too fun trying new recipes! Planning a meal for a holiday is typically much different from

planning your meals for the week

. But don't worry, if this is your first time hosting and you don't know what to include, I've got you covered. 

Thanksgiving Menu

Ultimately your meal can include whatever you would like. If instead of turkey, your family traditional makes a chicken or a turducken, then cross out "turkey" and write "turducken" in your


. Below (and in

the free workbook

) I have laid out a "traditional" Thanksgiving meal.

+ Turkey

+ Stuffing

+ Cranberry Sauce

+ Sweet Potato Casserole

+ Mashed Potatoes

+ Pumpkin Pie

+ Gravy

+ Green Bean Casserole 

+ Dinner Rolls

TSome of these items you may or may not include and you may add some more side dishes to the list. It is a lot of food. I know. But if you're having a smaller gathering, I suggest simply halving the recipes, that way instead of a 9x13" pan of stuffing, you have a 9x5" pan. Make sense?

As far as drinks go, my family typically just has water on the table. But a few other options may be:

+ apple cider

+ lemonade

+ iced tea

+ coffee

+ hot tea

+ wine

+ mixed drinks

Section 2: Prepping Guide

Ya'll know that I also love food prepping. It was part of my job when I worked at a cafe my senior year of high school and that one year I went to college. And it was my favorite job to do at the cafe. Maybe it's a weird but when I asked, I would definitely say that prepping is my favorite hobby.

As far as prepping for Thanksgiving goes, there are tons of items that you can prep up to a


 ahead of the big day. Normally Thanksgiving day is a ball of stress, trying to get everything done on time, at the same time. Save yourself some time and prep some items in advance and freeze them, then simply reheat on the day of. I promise that as long as you store them properly, you will see no difference in taste. 

Prep List

Although you cannot make the turkey ahead of time, there are many, many items that you can make in advance.

+ Mix together the dry brine, rub, or compound butter for your turkey and store in an airtight container. The butter should be frozen.

+ Make mashed potatoes ahead of time and freeze in a large freezer bag. Mashed potatoes freeze best when they are


 creamy. And let's be honest, they taste best that way too.

+ If you make a "practice" bird, go ahead and use that to make turkey broth and gravy and freeze and reheat it on Thanksgiving day.

+ Cranberry sauce from scratch is delicious but can take a little longer than some side dishes, so make it ahead of time and freeze or can it.

+ If you plan on making bread from scratch from the stuffing (maybe a good crusty french bread or some cornbread), make it up to

three months

 in advance and freeze it in an airtight bag.

+ Homemade dinner rolls also freeze well unbaked. Most rolls you can even bake frozen.

+Pie crusts (even graham cracker crumb) can be frozen ahead of time in an aluminum pie shell. Simply press the unbaked crust in the pan and cover with plastic wrap or place in a large airtight bag, tightly closed. 

Section 3: Table Setting

I know how to set a table, but I don't do it very often. Our everyday family dinners are super casual (I mean with a toddler throwing food half the time, you don't really have a choice anyway), I usually plate the food at the counter and bring it over the table. So by the time the holidays come around, It's always good to have a little refresher.

What Goes Where

Put the plate down on the table. I'm assuming you don't need more directions for plate placement. Place the fork on the left of the plate and on the right of the plate place the knife closest to the plate, with the blade facing in, and the spoon to the right of the knife. The cup goes above the plate, parallel with the fork. The napkin can either go on top of the plate or to the left of the fork.

If you are hosting a more formal dinner, I recommend checking out Martha Stewart's Formal Dinner Table Guide. Because it's Martha Stewart.

Serving Style

If the aforementioned survey, 66% of people surveyed said that they were eating their Thanksgiving meal "family style." But that still leaves a large number eating buffet style. So let's talk about both.

Family Style

Family style serving is when you have all of the dishes on the table and you pass them around as needed. This is the most common serving style at family dinners. Serving family style helps your table look full and even if you're sitting beside that really annoying family member, you are forced to say a few words to them when you went them to pass the green beans. Forced family fun, my friends. Two options for displaying your food when serving family style are: A) using a matching set of dishes or B)


(or not matching!) the dishes. Either one will look beautiful. Whichever one you choose to do, take an overhead photo so we can see it and share it using #littlecitythanksgiving.

Looking for a new matching set of dishes? I love my set of Everyday China white dishes from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Buffet Style

If you're worried things will be too cramped with  all of the food and the people at the table, buffet style may be a good option for you. Pull out

a portable kitchen island

or use your actual kitchen island, and display the dishes. I recommend putting the drinks on a different table from the food, to help prevent "bottlenecking" and spills. Or you could keep the drinks on the table. Buffet style is also a great option if you're trying not to over eat, the food won't be sitting right in front of you, tempting you with their delicious aromas.

I found some more buffet tips for you at How To Decorate.

Section 4: Decorating

This is the super fun part. From the survey, 83% of people said that they preferred when the table was decorated and pretty. I have a whole list of ideas and links for decorating

in the workbook

, but here are a few more, easy and affordable DIY ideas.

+ a simple burlap table runner or tablecloth or placemats

+ hollowed out mini pumpkins with tea lights

+ hollowed out gourd with a cup of water in it and use as a vase

+ pinecone place settings

+ garland of fake leaves with what you're thankful for written on them

+ bouquets of pretty seasonal flowers

+ clear candle holders with fake acorns and candles

+ sprinkling of mini fake leaves across the table

+ pretty painted pumpkins

What's your favorite Thanksgiving/fall decoration to make?

Don't forget to share a photo of your Thanksgiving table/decor/dishes or of your workbook using #littlecitythanksgiving.

P.S. Do me a solid and fill out

this super quick survey

. I'm working on a similar guide but for Christmas dinner and Christmas brunch! I promise that if you take like two minutes to answer the

survey questions

, I will make you another EPIC guide and workbook.