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Thanksgiving Traditions, Tips & Printable Cooking Timeline

Whether you’re hosting your loved ones or visiting family, I wanted to share some Thanksgiving Traditions, time-saving cooking hacks (including a free printable Thanksgiving Cooking Timeline), hosting tips, family games, and more for making this holiday a little extra special.

I originally shared this list of my favorite tips, along with a bunch of reader tips back in 2020 and have updated it quite a bit each year! I hope you find a tip or two you love…

Recipes & Cooking Tips

*scroll to the bottom of this post for my printable Thanksgiving Cooking Timeline!

  • Outsource the turkey and make your own sides!
  • Make your own turkey and outsource the sides (Reids, Whole Foods, Publix)
  • Make sides in the crockpot
  • Prep as much ahead of time as possible so you’re not stuck in the kitchen cooking all day
  • Always use a thermometer for the turkey and never trust the time per pound charts
  • Let your turkey rest, covered, while you heat up the sides to keep it moist
  • Costco’s pre-made gravy tastes better than homemade
  • Pioneer Woman’s make-ahead mashed potatoes (recommended by multiple readers)
  • Pioneer Woman’s green bean casserole is so good I have dreams about it!”
  • “My family gets a keg every year. I remember it from even when I was little!”
  • Forgetting the gravy or burning the bread will make for funny memories later. (I loved this tip. My grandma was known for burning the bread at every family gathering, and we still laugh about this!)

My family has always been huge on appetizers. We tend to graze all day long on snacks before dinner. Over the past few years I’ve tried almost every Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer and rounded up all my favorites in my Trader Joe’s Appetizers Post! Some of these items you can find in your local grocery store too. 

Centerpiece & Tablescapes

  • Put the kids in charge of setting and decorating their table.
  • Coloring activity tablecloths for the kids table! Not only do they keep the kids busy, they can eat right on top of them!
  • Rent your dishes. You can return them dirty!
  • Custom koozies at each placesetting that also serves as a party favor! (I thought these were a cute option!)
Coloring Table Mats

Fresh or faux garland is a simple and easy way to decorate your buffet! And bonus, the next day you can hang your garland right up for Christmas! I absolutely love this faux garland and have multiple strands for my fireplace mantel and staircase. The quality it top notch and it looks so real!

A few tablescapes I’ve created over the years…

candle holders / disposable flatwaredisposable plates / mercury glass votives / candles / gold chargers / black napkins

Family Games & Activities

  • Flag football on Thanksgiving morning
  • Play the Saran Wrap Ball game
  • Thanksgiving Bingo with gifts for winners (coloring books, dish towels, mini candles, ornaments, candy, mini liquor bottles, holiday socks, etc.)
  • Morning family walks/bike rides/park dates to give mom a quiet home to get these ready!
  • Watch the Macy’s Day Parade

Other Reader Tips & Traditions

  • Leave Christmas pajamas on the kids’ beds from the “pajama fairy”! If you need pajamas, here are a bunch of our favorite pajamas. Old Navy also has a ton of cute options across a wide range of sizes.
  • Eat takeout the night before.
  • Don’t forget to stock up on disposable containers to send guests home with leftovers. I love this combination set for storing leftovers in your fridge and packaging up individual meals! And these stackable containers are microwave/dishwasher/freezer safe — and a great price!
  • Host a “leftovers” meal the next day. The house is already decorated and it will help you clean out the fridge!
  • “My dad’s family has the family ‘turkey bowl’. It is a wooden bowl that every person that comes to Thanksgiving dinner signs. You just sign it one time and it’s filled with signatures of all the family and friends through the years that have sat at the table for dinner!! The tradition started 30 years ago and with my dad being of 8 siblings there are many signatures as the family as grown and friends have joined for dinner!”

Final Tip: Schedule A Snooze Day

Make sure to schedule a day of REST to decompress after the holiday is over. Give yourself a day to relax, recharge, and a break from cooking, hosting, cleaning, etc.! You deserve it!


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Gayle Davis

Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

For some reason I haven't been getting your posts for several months and it was like hearing from an old friend this morning when I opened my email! I don't know what has been going on, I'm just hoping the problem has resolved itself.


Saturday 26th of November 2022

Aw, I love this! Thank you Gayle! The daily email feature is no longer available, so I had to switch to a monthly newsletter. :)

Kim Oliver

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

"My family gets a keg every year!" Where has this idea been all my life!?!?!?! Best suggestion!