A stressed out hostess makes for a lousy shindig, and let’s face it, orchestrating a Thanksgiving dinner is no therapy. Our national feast typically features multiple different dishes that all require different cooking times and temperatures. If you’re making Thanksgiving dinner this year, relax, and remember there are plenty of dishes you can prepare ahead of time.

Planning will help eliminate the stress of holiday cooking. Plan out what days you’ll make what dishes in advance, and then make a “day-of” map so everything gets it’s proper time in the oven and arrives warm to the table. This list should help you spread out your workload and make the process a whole lot easier.

Fruit pies freeze well. Just wrap securely with plastic wrap and foil. Adobe stock

Pie dough or Fruit Pies

1 day to 4 weeks in advance

Whole fruit pies can go in the freezer up to a month before Thanksgiving. Wrap your pie in several layers of plastic wrap to minimize air exposure, then wrap in one layer of tin foil to help keep the plastic wrap in place as it freezes. Pies will be delicious, but will have a slightly jammier texture than those right from the oven. If that’s not something you can give up on, prepare just the pie crust ahead of time. Homemade pie crust can be formed into a medium-sized flattened disc, about an ice thick, and frozen up to 1 month ahead of the holiday. (Pumpkin, cream and pecan pies aren’t great candidates for freezing. Save these for day before/day of.)

Cranberry-apple- orange-cinnamon-sauce-spices-up-the-holidays.jpg
Cranberry sauce stays good in the refrigerator for more than a week. It’s also a good candidate for the freezer. Meghan Rodgers

Cranberry sauce

1 day to 3 weeks in advance

The high sugar content of cranberry sauce makes it a perfect make-ahead candidate. It’s essentially a quick jam that can be frozen or even kept in the refrigerator for a while without any change in consistency. Some people even say it’s better made a few days ahead since it gives the flavors a chance to mingle. If you choose to freeze it, just leave 24 hours for it to thaw in the fridge.

Casseroles can be made several weeks in advance and placed in the freezer. Adobe stock


2 days to 2 weeks in advance

Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash and corn are great options for freezing. Prepare in an oven-safe dish and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil, or use a baking dish with a lid. Defrost in refrigerator for 24 hours before reheating. Toppings like marshmallows and crispy onions don’t freeze well so add them when you take the dish while reheating.

Make breads ahead and be ready to roll on Thanksgiving day. Adobe stock

Dinner rolls and Biscuits

1 to 10 days in advance

Biscuits dough will typically hold up in the fridge for a few days without any problems. Homemade yeast rolls can be fully baked ahead of time and frozen. Thaw the morning of and pop in the oven last minute to serve warm with your meal.

Because we need way more stuffing than what fits in the turkey. Adobe stock


1 to 7 days in advance

Prepare stuffing as you usually would with celery, onions, walnuts, sausage, butter, milk, dried bread — or whatever recipe you like. Pro tip: Freeze this one in two to three smaller baking dishes to help speed up defrosting times.

Wash and prep your greens and toppings. Store them separately, and assemble on Thanksgiving afternoon.


1 day in advance 

The best way to prep for a salad is to have all your greens washed, dried and chopped and store in large salad serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or store in airtight container. Also, chop any veggies for the salad, but store them separately in the refrigerator. Thanksgiving day, you’ll just have to assemble your salad stuff.

Who doesn’t like a little Jell-O?

Cold dishes

Prep the night before

Consider adding a few cold dishes to your Thanksgiving table or appetizer bar that won’t require any cooking at all. Think: shrimp cocktail, stuffed olives or oysters on the half-shell. Jell-O salads can even have a place at the table. All of these can be prepped the night before and kept cold in the fridge.

If you’ve prepped ahead, you’ll have all of this without the stress. Adobe stock


  • Cook the turkey
  • Assemble the green salad
  • Make the mashed potatoes
  • Make pumpkin pie





Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.