Recently updated on November 22nd, 2023

Wooden planks are covered with leaves and gourds. Text reads, "Menu, decor and more!"

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and food. It’s the unofficial start of the holiday season when we all slow down a little and open our hearts to loved ones, friends, and family.  It’s also a time for a lot of work, especially if you’re the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner. But with a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy the holiday just as much as your guests.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task, but it’s also a rewarding one. There’s nothing quite like gathering your loved ones around a table for a delicious Thanksgiving meal and celebrating all that you’re grateful for.

If you’re new to hosting Thanksgiving, or a pro just looking for some new ideas, this guide is for you. We’ll offer Thanksgiving hosting tips, and cover everything from planning your menu to keeping your guests entertained.

A woman starts a list while sitting at a table filled with pumpkins and apples.

Planning and Preparing Your Menu

We suggest starting early. Give yourself plenty of time to plan your menu, organize seating arrangements, and put together a guest list. Now’s a great time to decide if you want to try a new recipe and maybe give it a test run. There’s nothing worse than trying a new recipe the day of, only to realize it’s awful!

While turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, many households serve ham, chicken, and even vegetarian or vegan options. Once you have your main course (or courses) figured out, choose a few side dishes. Some popular options include mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. And while gravy isn’t technically a side dish, it’s a big part of the meal for many. Be sure to have a few desserts on hand as well.

Pumpkin pie is a classic, but you can also serve other desserts like cakes, bars, trifles, or cookies. Apple, maple, and cranberry are popular fall ingredients that make great dessert flavors. Now’s also the perfect time to look through your drawers and cupboards to make sure you have all the cookware, bakeware, and kitchen tools and gadgets you need. While you’re checking to make sure you have all your supplies in order, be sure to check that your toaster oven, microwave, electric tea kettle, and air fryer are in good working order, too. If not, check out our high-quality appliances at an incredible value.

Accommodating dietary restrictions like nut allergies, gluten sensitivities, or lactose intolerance can be easy with a few simple switches. Thicken sauces or gravy with cornstarch instead of flour, and use plant-based milk in place of cow’s milk.

If you’re hosting a large crowd and start to feel overwhelmed with all the cooking, consider asking your guests to bring a dish to share. This can help to lighten the workload on you and ensure that there’s plenty of food for everyone. Asking people to bring a dish can also help make your guests feel less uncomfortable about bringing something if they have picky eaters in their family who don’t like the traditional turkey dinner.

A table is laid out with vegetarian options.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options for Inclusive Feasting

It’s also pretty easy to include vegan or vegetarian options in your traditional Thanksgiving meal.  For example, you can make a vegetarian stuffing by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, omitting any meat, and adding vegetables like mushrooms, onions, and carrots. You can also make a vegetarian gravy by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Our selection of sauces and condiments has something for everyone.

Including vegetarian options at Thanksgiving dinner is a great way to ensure everyone has something to enjoy. There are many delicious and easy-to-make vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes available online and in cookbooks.

A woman checks her list while grocery shopping.

Prep Your Shopping List

Once you’ve decided what to serve for Turkey Day, it’s time to prep your shopping list. Sometimes we can forget the details of Thanksgiving dinner (like cranberry sauce) while we’re focusing on the larger parts of the menu. Groceries for your main course, side dishes, and desserts are pretty obvious, so we’re going to get really detailed here. Ocean State Job Lot has a large selection of food and beverages not only for the main meal but also to keep your guests snacking happily throughout the day. We also carry a wide variety of household essentials to make setup and cleanup a breeze. Stock up on cleaning supplies before the big day so you have them on hand for any spills or messes. Here’s a brief Thanksgiving checklist to make sure you don’t miss the small yet equally important things it’s easy to overlook during the holiday rush:

  • Olive oil
  • Spices
  • Trash bags
  • Storage for leftovers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
A table set and decorated for Thanksgiving dinner.

Setting the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Now that your menu is planned and your shopping list is ready, it’s time to start thinking about your Thanksgiving table setting. You want to create a festive and inviting atmosphere for your guests. Here are a few tips for setting the perfect Thanksgiving table:

  • Choose a tablecloth or table runner that complements your décor.
  • Set out placemats and napkins.
  • Use chargers under your dinner plates to dress up your place settings.
  • Set out silverware and dishes.
  • Place glasses for water and wine.
  • Add a centerpiece to your table. This could be a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit, or even a cornucopia.
Young couple makes a bed.

Hosting Overnight Guests for Thanksgiving

Having overnight guests for the Thanksgiving holiday can be a wonderful way to celebrate with loved ones and create lasting memories. However, it can also be a bit of work to prepare your home and make sure that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. Here are a few tips to help you host overnight guests for Thanksgiving:

  • Prepare the guest room: Make sure the guest room is clean and tidy, with fresh sheets, blankets, and towels. If it’s been a while since you had company, consider buying a new air mattress to give your guests a good night’s sleep.
  • Stock up on toiletries and linens: You may also want to provide extra pillows, a throw blanket, and a few magazines or books. If you have a guest bathroom, be sure to stock it with fresh towels, soap, shampoo, and conditioner.
  • Plan some activities: While your guests may want some time to relax and unwind, it’s also nice to have a few activities planned. This could be anything from playing games to watching movies to going for a walk.
  • Be flexible: Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s important to be flexible when hosting overnight guests. Be prepared to adjust your schedule or plans if needed.
A happy family in the kitchen having fun and cooking together.

Kid-Friendly Activities and Foods

To make your Thanksgiving celebration more enjoyable for all your guests, make sure you have some child-friendly activities and foods on hand. This will help to keep them entertained and engaged. Here are a few ideas:

  • Set up a table where kids can decorate their own placemats or napkins.
  • Give the children age-appropriate kitchen tasks like peeling potatoes or setting the table.
  • Provide them with games and puzzles to play.
  • Serve a few kid-friendly foods, such as chicken fingers, mac and cheese, and pizza.

Decorations: Creating a Festive Atmosphere

No Thanksgiving celebration is complete without decorations. You can go all out with your decorations, or you can keep it simple. Either way, be sure to create a festive atmosphere for your guests. Here are some ideas for Thanksgiving hosting essentials and home decor for the holiday season:

  • Put up a Thanksgiving banner or bunting.
  • Watch the Thanksgiving Day parade.
  • Hang fall leaves or gourds around your home.
  • Set out candles or lanterns.
  • Place a wreath on your front door.
  • Play festive music.
A sandwich made from Thanksgiving leftovers.

Tips for Handling Leftovers

A tasty Thanksgiving sandwich is the perfect way to enjoy the holiday days later. But it’s important to store them properly so you or your guests don’t get sick. Here are a few tips for handling leftovers:

  • Let leftovers cool completely before storing them.
  • Store leftovers in shallow containers. This will help them to cool evenly.
  • Label all containers with the date and contents.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.
  • Freeze leftovers for up to four months.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with loved ones and be grateful for all that we have. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a lot of work, but it’s also a rewarding experience. By following the tips in this blog post, you can make your Thanksgiving celebration a success. Most importantly, remember that Thanksgiving is all about spending time with the people you love. So relax, enjoy yourself, and create lasting memories.