I know what you’re saying, why talk about Thanksgiving when it’s weeks away? Trust me, you’ll thank me at Thanksgiving when your event goes smoother, and you enjoy your family and friends with more available quality time.

My family used to be upset with me when my back faced them while I was tending to the several hundred dishes I had going on the stove. It seemed that even though I carved out a couple of days ahead of Thanksgiving to prepare, it was never enough time and there was stress and friction of getting things done and making sure things went as planned.

After all, you would plan a birthday party or a small wedding months in advance and Thanksgiving deserves that kind of respect.

While Thanksgiving has its distracters who say that it’s over the top and the work that is put into your holiday festivities is way more than the reward of the dinner, I couldn’t disagree more. The old saying is you get out of what you put in, with that said, to ensure a great Thanksgiving experience it’s a good idea to prepare thoroughly.

I like to share with you my routine in preparing for the big feast. My friend says that I’m like General Patton with plans, flank maneuvers, and attack strategy. He’s pretty close to the truth of that analogy.

First, you’ll want to get a good idea of a guest list and realize that may change because of the early time between your guest's confirmation and the actual dinner. For your guests, it’s a relief that they now know where they’ll be on that holiday so that they can make early travel plans and save money on booking reservations.

Life happens and sometimes we have cancellations or additions to our table. I always prepare for two or three extra dinners just in case someone has no place to go on Thanksgiving or one of your guests asks to bring a last-minute guest, if you get a cancellation or two, that’s OK, your leftovers can go to your guests with extra for the freezer for another reminder of that Thanksgiving goodness.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Second, put your menu together, from the appetizers that you want to the desserts, and don’t forget to add the necessities to make a turkey sandwich later that night. You can also make note of your guest’s dietary restrictions. My nephew and a guest or two are vegetarians so I know my menu will also reflect a few vegetarian choices throughout the day that they will enjoy.

Homemade Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner

Third, once the menu is set start your master grocery list based on the ingredients for each dish you’ll need for the incredible dinner you’ll be preparing.

I like to change out the spices that I need for Thanksgiving so that I have optimum freshness for the big day. To ease your shopping experience, add items into specific departments like dairy, produce, meats, etc. and it’s great to put those categories in order based on how your supermarket is laid out, it makes one trip easier than going back and forth down the aisles. Don’t forget to take inventory of wine and alcohol along with the mixers and fruit for cocktails, soda, or apple cider for the kids and those who don’t drink.

Once your master list is completed you can shop for the non-perishable’s way in advance of Thanksgiving. I carve out a section of my pantry that becomes Thanksgiving central and place my non-perishables in that section ready to go. Shopping early puts less stress on you than shopping a day or two before Thanksgiving with a shopping cart or two piled high along with the long lines at the supermarket.

I like to clean out the fridge to make room for all side dishes and turkey. I’ll make a few side dishes the day or two before Thanksgiving so I can clean up and get ready before the house and kitchen become a little hectic on the actual day.


I have a big rule, if possible take the night before Thanksgiving and use it to welcome your family or friends who may be coming from out of town. It’s a great night to grab a pizza and a couple of beers and catch up. No cooking the night before Thanksgiving!

I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving as much as I do. In the coming weekends, I’ll be posting my recipes for sides, turkey, and gravy and you can always find them by logging onto my page at nj1015.com. Good luck and have fun and have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Spadea's Sunday Gravy

Gravy or sauce? These restaurants make the best red in Central Jersey

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

Report a correction 👈 | 👉 Contact our newsroom

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM