Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Are you dreading it? Maybe you always get stuck with the lion’s share of the cooking. Or maybe this is your first time hosting a holiday since trying this thing they call “adulting.” Either way, you’re probably peeing yourself a bit and feeling unsure about where to start.

That was me two years ago. In true strategist fashion, I set to work creating an integrated plan. I brainstormed the menu, scouring thousands of Pinterest pins in the process. I finalized the list of ingredients. And then I wrote out an hour-by-hour itinerary to keep myself on-task and feeling confident.

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While my husband often LOLs at my planning OCD, it proved a handy personality trait (flaw?) to have, as my first Thanksgiving was a raging success.

So I’m here to play Fairy Godmother to all of you helpless Millennials trying to be a grown-up this holiday season. I’ve taken my plan-o-holiday-wizardry and digitized it for you. Get your ass off of Pinterest – this Thanksgiving Playbook for the Busy Bro/Bitch has everything you need to make this year bomb af.

Also, it took a shitload of time to curate all of this, and test it out over two Thanksgivings.

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My next project is a Whole30 version of this, with 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners, complete with recipes and shopping lists. You can image what kind of undertaking that beast is! Thanks in advance, friends.

Alright, back to Thanksgiving…

The Menu

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This menu has all of the Thanksgiving classics represented, and  balances handmade delicacies with quick, turnkey items (like plain-old corn out of the can because no one is ever a food critic about the one thing that will come out looking exactly the same as it did going into your body). This way, your plan of attack is designed to make you look like a fucking all-star without completely killing yourself. And I’ve even built in designated “assign-to” dishes that you can delegate to an eager beaver in the family who wants to feel as if they’re contributing.

Disclaimer: while I’m passionate about healthy eating and am currently on month three of a majority plant-based lifestyle, this menu is designed to please all palates and as such, isn’t as clean as my normal recipes and meal plans. I’ll be navigating my first Thanksgiving as a veganish eater, so perhaps next year, I will have a plant-based version of this.

The Playbook

This playbook serves 16-18 people


Complete Thanksgiving Feast for the Busy Bro/Bitch

This menu has a nice balance of handmade delicacies and quick, turnkey items (like plain-old corn out of the can). This way, you look like an all-star without completely killing yourself. Look for the "assign-to" dishes that you can delegate to others.

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Recipe Image


    Chex Mix
  • 3 cups each of Corn, Rice, and Wheat Chex
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5 tsp seasoned salt
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Apricot Bites
  • 40 dried apricots
  • 40 almonds
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Spinach Dip
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 packet Ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen spinach
  • 8 ounces water chestnuts
  • 1/2 chopped red pepper
  • Turkey
  • 18-20-pound turkey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Fresh herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, and sage)
  • 3 pounds onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 pounds apples, cut into wedges
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into chunks
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • 2.5 cups cranberries
  • 3/4 cup cane juice
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • Salt to taste
  • Gravy
  • 2 packets of McCormick brown gravy mix
  • Corn
  • 3-4 cans of low sodium corn
  • Mac N Cheese
  • 24 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 24 ounces shredded cheddar
  • 18 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 can Campbell's condensed cheddar soup
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1.5 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Carrots
  • 4 pounds carrots
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp dill
  • Stuffing
  • 2 6-ounce boxes of Stove Top stuffing mix
  • 6 cups water
  • 12 tbsp butter
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Assign this to someone, you're already making enough
  • Green Bean Casserole -OR- Brussels Sprouts
  • Assign this to someone, you're already making enough
  • Rolls
  • Assign this to someone, you're already making enough
  • Relish Tray
  • Assign this to someone, you're already making enough
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • 1 pre-made pie shell
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  • French Silk Pie
  • 1 pre-made pie shell
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups whipped cream
  • 1 Hershey bar
  • Bark
  • 1.5 sleeves saltines
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips


WEDNESDAY (Goal: prep turkey, spinach dip, and apricot bites; make pies, bark, and Chex Mix)

First, take the organs out of the butt hole. They should be in a bag. Throw it away, save it for a cousin who likes to make their own turkey organ jerky - whatever, just get rid of it. Then, thoroughly dry the bird. This will ensure the skin cooks up all crispy and keeps the juices contained in the meat. In a medium bowl, combine herbs, 4 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Place thawed turkey on a work surface and gently slip your fingers under the skin (not as gross as it sounds, I promise) to work in the herb mix, distributing evenly over the meat. Set, covered, in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange saltines in a single layer, covering entire surface of the foil. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Pour over the crackers and bake for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate chips over the crackers and bake for 3-4 more minutes, until shiny and beginning to melt. Using a spatula, spread melted chocolate over entire surface area, being gentle so as to not disturb the placement of the crackers. Stick that bitch in the fridge overnight or freezer for an hour. Yank it out and break the hardened bark into small, 2-3-bite pieces. Store in airtight container.

Keep oven at 350 F. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, eggs, and orange zest. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly blended. Pour into crust and bake about one hour. Fuckin' donezo.

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Enjoy while tackling the final items for Wednesday.

Basically, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until tomorrow. Bam! You are moving right along.

Turn that oven down to 250 F. In a large roasting pan, mix the cereals, nuts, and pretzels - set aside. Microwave the butter until melted and stir in the seasonings. Pour over the cereal mixture and stir with a spatula until evenly coated. Bake 50 minutes, stirring every 10. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Melt the chocolate and then let it cool for 10 minutes until room temperature. Cream together (with a hand mixer) the butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually add the chocolate to the butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add one egg and beat for 5 minutes (take a moment to snicker at "beat" or make a "that's what she said" joke). Repeat with remaining eggs. Pour the filling into the pie shell and refrigerate for 2 hours. Top with whipped cream and shavings from the Hershey bar.

Mix the cheese and milk until spreadable. Mix in the basil. Top each apricot with cheese, an almond, and a drizzle of honey. Go ahead and taste one. Delish, right? You are a damn wizard.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, combine all ingredients and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst (about 10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl or tupperware and chill overnight.

Sit your ass down with another glass of wine and burn through something indulgent on your Netflix queue. Congrats on making it through Prep Day! Rest up for tomorrow's shit storm.

THURSDAY (This timeline is based on a 4:00pm dinner time)

Bring turkey to room temperature. Chug coffee, you're gonna need it today, soldier.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Spray rack and roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add turkey and broth to pan and cover loosely with foil. Roast for one hour. Meanwhile, cut the turkey veggies and toss with olive oil in a bowl. Set aside. You now have a completely free hour before people start invading your house. Get your ass in the shower and make yourself presentable (besides, it's acceptable to drink before noon as long as you're dressed and groomed).

Remove foil, baste turkey with the broth in the pan. Arrange veggies in the pan around the turkey and re-cover with foil and put the pan back in to roast.

Cook the macaroni noodles and drain them. And for God's sake, pour yourself a cocktail already.

Baste the turkey. Then, for the macaroni, combine eggs, 20 ounces of cheddar, evaporated milk, soup, and milk in a large bowl. Spray a crockpot with nonstick spray and add the noodles and butter to said crockpot. Pour the milk/cheese mixture on top and cook on low for 4 hours.

Baste the turkey. Watch some football. You've totally got this under control.

Baste the turkey. Hey, how about another cocktail?

Baste the turkey. Set out the appetizers for when people arrive (I typically serve the spinach dip with crudites or Wheat Thins).

Baste the turkey. Peel and cut the carrots.

Baste the turkey. Check the temperature. It should be over 100 F by now. If not, crank the oven another 25 degrees.

Baste the turkey. Begin to slowly heat the canned corn in a saucepan. Place carrots, 2/3 cup water, salt and pepper in a pan and bring to a a boil. Cover and cook on medium for 30 minutes.

Start the gravy per instructions on the packages. Oh, and, refill your glass. (Trust me, it will make the last 45 minutes seem way less frenetic than it actually is)

Pull out the turkey to rest (make sure the temperature is at least 165 F). Turn the mac n cheese crockpot to "warm" and sprinkle remaining cheese on the top. Add butter to carrots and cook another 5-6 minutes. Toss with dill.

Begin carving the turkey (or make someone else do it). For the stuffing, bring water and butter to a boil. Stir in the stuffing mix, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand 5 minutes and then fluff it up.

Scarf! #blessed

The Shopping List

Or, if you’re old school, download this PDF to take to the store with you.

  • 18-20 pound turkey
  • Three of your favorite herbs: rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, etc.
  • Dill
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 3 lb onions
  • 2 lb applies
  • 5 lb carrots (some for the turkey, some for the side dish)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange (for zesting)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Allspice
  • Cornstarch
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Seasoned salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • 1 itty-bitty bottle of vanilla extract
  • Ginger (fresh, if you can find it in the produce section)
  • 16.9-ounce bottle extra virgin olive oil
  • 24 ounces macaroni
  • 24 ounces shredded cheddar
  • 1.5 cup milk
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 ounces Greek yogurt
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 7 sticks of butter (your arteries will need a Whole 30 cleanse after this!)
  • 3-4 cans corn
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 can (10.75 ounces) Campbell’s condensed cheddar soup
  • 8 ounces water chestnuts (canned)
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
  • 1 bottle Worcestershire sauce
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 30 ounces evaporated milk
  • Wheat Thins (for serving with the spinach dip)
  • 2 6-ounce boxes Stove Top stuffing
  • Saltine crackers
  • 1 small bag of pretzel sticks
  • 16 ounces low-sodium peanuts
  • 1 12-ounce box of rice, corn, and wheat Chex
  • 16 ounces dried apricots
  • 16 ounces unsalted almonds
  • 12 ounce bottle of honey
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chips (milk chocolate is fine, too)
  • Brown sugar
  • 6 ounces cane juice (or plain-old sugar if you can’t find the Goya brand juice)
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • Smallest box of Domino powdered sugar (also labeled as “confectioner’s sugar”)
  • 1 Hershey chocolate bar
  • 2 Pillsbury pre-made pie shells (typically in the frozen dough section)
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach
  • 1 tub of Cool Whip

The Playlist

Because you’re gonna need some entertainment while you’re toiling away in the kitchen. Personally, I believe that Thanksgiving is a tad early to break out the holiday tunes, so this is drawn from my “CTFO” playlist, with a few low-key Christmas numbers thrown in there for those of you counting down the days to Dec. 25.


Feedback? Thoughts? Questions? I’d love to hear if this is helpful, intimidating, omitting something key, etc. Talk to me!


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