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48-hour Thanksgiving dinner timeline

Ready or not, Thanksgiving is almost here. Are you prepared? Here’s what to do, beginning 48 hours beforehand, to ensure a smooth Thanksgiving Day!

It’s Tuesday, Nov. 26, just two days before Thanksgiving, and you’ve done nothing. Fortunately, with a little organization and a lot of motivation, you still have time to pull off the most fabulous Thanksgiving yet! Here’s how.

48 hours before (Tuesday afternoon)

What to prepare 48 hours before Thanksgiving

Two words: Grocery. Shop. Tuesday’s the day you need to settle on your recipes, make your grocery list (and check it twice!) and get to shopping. The stores will be busy, but they won’t be getting any tamer in the next few days, so don’t put this off. If you’re still deciding on recipes, we have a few delicious and popular recommendations:

  • Apple cheddar bread. This works as a perfect appetizer for guests to munch on while waiting for dinner. Plus, it’s super-easy to make and can be made ahead of time!
  • Sausage, apple and Brie stuffing. Give traditional stuffing a twist with this sausage, apple and Brie version. Plus, you’ll already have apples for your apple cheddar bread!
  • Wine-braised turkey breast. Perfect if you’re having a smaller party.
  • Ultimate creamy mashed potatoes. The best (and easiest!) mashed potato recipe around!

Also, don’t forget drinks!

42 hours before (Tuesday night)

Baking supplies

Keep it simple and get organized. Don’t worry about baking pies or peeling potatoes in advance, simply just lay out all your recipes and group like-items together (baking supplies together, turkey ingredients together, etc.).

30 hours before (Wednesday morning)

Apple pie

Bake pies. Pies and desserts easily keep for at least a few days, and some tend to get better as they sit in the refrigerator and absorb all the sugary goodness. Getting the pies baked Wednesday morning will be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Come Wednesday afternoon, you no longer have to even think about dessert!

24 hours before (Wednesday afternoon)

What to prepare 24 hours before Thanksgiving

Make two or three side dishes. Even though you did just bake all morning, you’ll be a lot happier on Thursday knowing a few sides are done, too. Dishes that freeze well include:

Also, prepare the cranberry sauce and store in the refrigerator until serving time.

18  hours before (Wednesday night)

Couple cleaning kitchen

Time to clean. You’ve baked and cooked all day so tonight’s the perfect time to clean up the mess in the kitchen, wash the floors, tidy up the guest bathroom, dust and de-clutter. If possible, enlist your husband or the kids to help out with the cleaning. When all is said and done, turn on a classic holiday-themed movie, such as A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

6 hours before (Thursday morning)

Woman cooking turkey in oven

Get the turkey prepped and in the oven. A 12-pound turkey takes about 4 hours to cook, so plan accordingly (typically, turkeys need 15-20 minutes of cooking per pound).

How to roast a turkey >>

Set the table. Make sure you have enough place settings, utensils and chairs for all your guests. If you’re low on dishes, we suggest using Thanksgiving-themed paper plates for kids and dessert.

2 hours before (Thursday afternoon)


Make the mashed potatoes (don’t forget the gravy!) and begin heating up any dishes that you made ahead of time. Prepare all your hors d’oeuvres and get out the drinks. Guests will be arriving shortly and the more you have done, the more you can relax and enjoy the holiday!

A few final tips

  • If you realize you forgot something come Thanksgiving Day, ask a guest to bring it.
  • Get enough sleep. As tempting as it can be to stay up late cooking and prepping, getting enough sleep is a must.
  • Take breaks. For example, after you’re done baking your pies, allow yourself some downtime (possibly a nap) before diving into the side dishes.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If just the thought of preparing all the dishes on your own overwhelms you more than you’d like to admit, ask each guest to bring a dish or invite a close friend/guest to help prepare the meal.

More on Thanksgiving

A savvy girl’s guide to a gluten-free Thanksgiving
Lightened up Southern Thanksgiving menu
Thanksgiving wines on a budget

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