Free Thanksgiving dinner meal plan including traditional dishes, gourmet sides, and dessert ideas (like apple slab pie). Save time and money with this ready-to-go food menu and shopping list.
Do you usually have the same thing for Thanksgiving dinner every year?
I always did growing up, and I still plan on doing that now… but if we always eat the same thing, then why do I always wonder what to make for dinner?!
I think it’s because we’re looking for something new, something fresh, a slight twist on the things we love most.
And we’re REALLY trying to not spend a lot of money on just one meal!!
Problem solved folks – here’s a budget-friendly Thanksgiving menu plan for dinner that is not only delicious, but it will help keep some of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket!
Before I share the meal plan though, I have some tips to help you pull off Thanksgiving dinner with LESS stress!
Thanksgiving Tips for a Stress-free Holiday
1. Clean Out the Fridge and Freezer
Clean out the fridge and freezer before the big day so you have room to store dishes that are ready to be baked, but leftovers after the big dinner too! There are always leftovers at Thanksgiving, and you can probably plan on that being the case with this Thanksgiving menu plan!
2. Get the slow cooker ready
Nothing beats homemade turkey stock, so get the slow cooker ready when you pull the turkey from the oven and set it aside. Toss bones and giblets and such straight into the slow cooker as it’s carved and fill it up with leftover bones after dinner. Follow this method for making stock and freeze once it’s cool (since the fridge will likely be full).
3. Double the butter
Always keep 1-2 lbs of butter at room temperature and 1-2 lbs of butter in the fridge. No one likes to spread cold butter on dinner rolls and warm butter won’t work in pie crusts. Having plenty of butter – in both places – covered the bases. Just don’t forget to replenish stock if you use it up!
4. Delegate tasks to others
Whenever possible, delegate tasks to other people. This includes the days leading up to Thanksgiving and especially the day-of. Things like setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, and sweeping the floor can easily be done by someone else other than the head chef.
Most times, guests arrive willing to work and often ask for things to do. Create a short and easy list of things they can help with while you’re manning the kitchen. Things like plating sliced vegetables and dip for the table, dressing the salad, or refilling the cheese tray are simple enough and make the guests feel like they contributed.
5. Wear an apron and have kitchen towels at the ready
Being able to wipe your hands on something as you work is priceless, but you don’t want to accidentally wipe them on your clothes or worry about making messes on yourself as you work.
6. Shower and dress early
Take a shower and get fully dressed before you start any work in the kitchen, but don’t put on your dinner clothes just yet. Change your clothes while the turkey is resting. This way you can be sure you’ve taken a shower before guests arrive, but you don’t have food splattered on yourself at the dinner table. And if you’re wearing shoes, make sure they’re comfortable. Cute shoes are not for this cooking marathon.
7. Clean as you go
Before you begin making any messes, fill the sink with hot soapy water so you can quickly wash items you need to reuse. This can also help for soaking extra dirty dishes before washing them as fast as you can as guests arrive.
Load the dishwasher or clean dishes as you work in the kitchen. You might not have much, but little bowls and utensils will add up as the day goes on. Keeping a somewhat clean workspace helps to keep the stress level down, and you won’t freak out if guests unexpectedly arrive early.
Although you’ll likely be exhausted, be sure to start the dishwasher before you sit down to dinner. Let it run during the meal and enlist family (the ones who live there) to quickly put them away before dessert. Then you can easily re-load with dinner and possibly dessert dishes and maintain a clean kitchen!
8. Use machines!
Bring out your slow-cookers (big and small), stand-mixers, food processors, and blenders and put them to work whenever possible. Potatoes can be baked in a slow cooker and mashed in a mixer. Food processors can slice or shred ingredients. Blenders can puree or make sauces.
9. Work on one recipe at a time
It’s fine to have lots of ingredients out on the counter, but work on one recipe at a time and either put it in the fridge or bake it. Clean up and then move on. Working on too many dishes at one time often leads to missing ingredients or missed steps.
10. Use plastic bags
I know plastic bags aren’t the most “green” option out there, but when you have so many guests and only so many storage containers, using plastic bags for one day won’t be the end of the world. Turkey, rice/stuffing, and dinner rolls travel well in bags. If you HAVE to give out storage containers, be sure to write your last name on the bottom so your guest knows where to return them to.
Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Plan
Here’s what you can expect to find in this Thanksgiving menu plan that features slow cooker recipes:
- 100% real food recipes. They’re simple, straight-forward, and family-friendly.
- Seven dishes. The meal plan is created to feed your thanksgiving crew. The price will vary depending on how many you are feeding and if you have to double any of the recipes.
- Hearty meals. There’s a good chance you’ll have leftovers! Thanksgiving leftovers are part of the holiday experience.
- Shopping list. I’ve done the hard part for you!
What’s Not Included:
- Precautions for food allergies. I have been blessed to not have severe food allergies in our family and as a result, I don’t plan for them in my meal plans.
Recipes in Thanksgiving Menu Plan
- Whole Roasted Turkey (see recipe inside Thanksgiving dinner menu below)
- Turkey Gravy (see recipe inside Thanksgiving dinner menu below)
- Autumn Rice Pilaf
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce
- Fluffy Dinner Rolls