It’s that time of year already! Time to buy that turkey and start stressing over how you are going to make this year’s Thanksgiving dinner memorable for your loved ones.

This Thanksgiving will be different, no doubt, than previous Thanksgivings thanks to the pandemic that is continuing to affect our nation daily.

Some of you may be planning to host a small gathering with a few close family members or friends or some of you will be celebrating at home with just your household. No matter what your Thanksgiving will look like, you have come to the right place to know exactly how to plan your Thanksgiving menu in 2020.

#1 Create a Guest List

If you don’t plan on inviting outside guests, you can skip this and move on to the next step in the Thanksgiving meal planning process. [I have a pandemic hack to share later so you can still spend time with family and friends from afar.]

This can be a daunting task but it is essential in order to make sure you have enough food and beverages for all of those who will be in attendance for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving this year falls on  November 26, 2020. You will want to finalize that guest list no later than the first weekend of this month to make sure you have ample time to prepare.

#2 Clean Out Your Freezer

Go ahead and start moving things into your fridge to eat in the coming days to make space for food that you will be getting for Thanksgiving i.e. your bird!

I have some chicken thighs and breasts in my freezer right now so I can move those to my fridge and add them to my meal plan for this week. I also have a loaf a bread I can thaw out and use to make sandwiches for lunch. That makes a lot more room in my freezer before I head to the grocery store later.

Make space before grocery shopping to make your life that much easier.

#3 Create Your Menu

This is the fun part! I love creating menus for special occasions. Thanksgiving is a special time because it is all about bringing family, blood related or not, together.

Because of that, I like to make food items that I know my family absolutely loves. I personally do not use Thanksgiving day to “try new recipes” unless I make them beforehand and my family enjoys it.

This post will not only give you steps, but I will also include timeframes of when you should be doing certain things as well. With that being stated, if you want to try a new recipe, two weeks prior (by November 12th) is the time to make them and see if it is worth adding to your menu.

But honestly, don’t overcomplicate it. You already have so much to do.

My  rule of thumb for creating a menu is to have a protein, two sides, rolls or any kind of bread, and a dessert. For holidays, you can add 1-2 additional sides per additional protein. So if you have turkey and chicken, prepare 3-4 sides. If you are making, turkey, chicken, and ham, prepare 4-5 side options.

Sample Menu:

  • Appetizer-Spinach dip and deviled eggs
  • Proteins- turkey, chicken,  ham
  • Sides- mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted carrots and brussel sprouts, collard greens
  • Dessert- Sweet potato pie, fudge brownie muffins

Don’t Forget the gravy and the cranberry sauce (if you like it!).

Here is a cheat sheet via PopSugar that tells you how much food you’ll need by how many guests you’ll have.

how to plan your thanksgiving menu in 2020

#4 Make Sure You Have the Right Supplies

There is nothing worse than pulling out all your ingredients to cook and realizing you don’t have to right type of pan needed or the right size pot.

Avoid wasted time by making sure you have everything you need on hand. If you are on a budget, ask neighbors, friends, or family members to borrow supplies you may not have and return it to them after Thanksgiving.

This hey there, mama post includes affiliate links. Their use is at no extra cost to you, but helps to support the hey there, mama blog. Full disclosure policy here.

Here are a few items you might forget to consider when prepping for your meal:

#5 Buy Your Turkey

It’s time to buy your turkey! How do you know what size turkey to get? Or what kind? No worries, I got you, mama!

When at the grocery store, read the packages on the turkey. If you see anything that says “injected”, “self-basted”, or just “basted”, do NOT buy these. They are bigger for a reason.

Look to purchase natural, organic, or “pastured”. These are usually free roaming birds. You can even purchase a fresh turkey from a butcher and request a heritage breed turkey. These taste the best but are costly.

What size do you need? You’ll need 2 pounds of turkey per adult and 1 pound per child to have any leftovers. So for my family, I will be looking for a 7lb turkey or under. Most likely, I’d get a 5-6 lb turkey as my husband only eats it on Thanksgiving day.

You can order your turkey online or from a local farmer. You may need to order at least a month in advance, so if you are going this route, now is the time to look into it.

Grocery stores like Whole Foods, have really great quality meats if you plan to grab one at the store.

#6 Go Grocery Shopping

As you get closer to the big day, it’s time to shop!

I suggest heading out for your first round of shopping by November 16th to try new recipes and do any last minute shopping before Thanksgiving. You’ll want to grab things that can go in the freezer and in your pantry. Save refrigerated items for the last grocery shop a few days before.

Are you making your own turkey stock? This is the time to get what you need, make it and freeze it for Thanksgiving.

You can also pick up wine for your dinner. There are a few wines that pair well with turkey: chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, zifandel, or even champagne. Cheers!

#7 Clean Out Your Fridge

Start clearing out fridge space a week before Thanksgiving. Get rid of those old leftovers, wash out those containers (you’ll need them!), and start preparing for your next grocery haul! You will also need space to begin the thawing process for your turkey.

#8 Pull Out Your Recipes

Do not wait until the day of to pull out your recipes. You want to make sure you have everything you need before heading to the store one final time. You also want to check to see what things you may already have on hand.

My Family Meal Planner makes this super easy as well when needing to know how to plan your Thanksgiving menu in 2020. There is a section for you to keep all of your recipes and an inventory list to know what you have at home  already.

#9 Final Grocery Shop

This is the time to purchase all of your perishable items and your turkey if you haven’t already done so. I would suggest doing this shop about 4 to 5 days ahead of time.

You will want to get your cheeses, breads, dressings, etc. during this shop. Don’t forget any extras like ice cream to put alongside that warm pie!

how to plan your thanksgiving menu in 2020

#10 Meal Prep and Clean

It’s time to prep! If you are thawing out your turkey, you’ll want to start about 24-36 hours ahead of time, depending on its size. Work on preparing veggies by washing and cutting them up and putting them into Ziploc bags or containers.

Start working on any make ahead sides two days before and get that turkey marinating in a good brine.

You should also start chilling your wine or beer.

Know how you are going to set your table? Then now is the time to start! Linens, candles, and a floral centerpiece would be perfect for a cozy Thanksgiving tablescape.

As long as you are prepared, you will have the perfect Thanksgiving meal for your family and friends.

I have created a FREE Thanksgiving Meal Planner that you can grab below.

What’s Included?

  • Blank Menu Page
  • Blank Grocery List
  • Blank To Do List
  • Blank Recipe Page

You’ll have everything you need to know how to plan your Thanksgiving menu in 2020.

How are you planning to celebrate this Thanksgiving?

Set up a Zoom with other family members at your set dinner time to have a family meal “together”!

COVID-19 Hack