Easy Dinner Ideas for Before Thanksgiving Day help you prepare for the big Thanksgiving meal, but keep your people fed and satiated with these easy recipes!
When you’re elbows deep in mashed sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, homemade cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls the last thing you want to think about are the 12-13 other meals you and your people need to eat before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
You will love this post if you are stressed about Thanksgiving Day, and preparing all the Thanksgiving sides, and don’t know what to serve the other days of the week!
This post will help you cook easy and delicious recipes that won’t take away from the big day, but will keep the hangry people out of your kitchen!
It’s that time of the year when every mother replies “We’re eating on Thursday!” when someone asks what’s for dinner…
Not this year, though! You’re going to have a plan and prep list for a week filled with delicious eating, in the best way possible.
Thanksgiving prep is hard, there’s no denying it! Toss in hosting extended family or out-of-town guests, and your dinner table quickly fills up!
Easy Dinner Ideas Before Thanksgiving
First, your air fryer might be your best friend!
Using your air fryer on the days leading up to the main event frees up oven space to make ahead the Thanksgiving side dishes you can. We’ll talk about your Thanksgiving Week Cooking Game Plan later in this post!
Try tossing in Frozen Chicken Wings in the Air Fryer, and letting your people sauce them with a sauce bar! You won’t believe how the gets crispy skin, even from a frozen chicken wing. But, it’s a fantastic main course to serve on Monday night!
Quick and Easy Pulled Pork Chalupa is a great way to serve multiple meals!! Toss all these ingredients into your slow cooker on Monday morning, and enjoy a taco-salad-like dinner later in the evening. The leftovers are fantastic, which means lunch the next day is covered, too!
If you have more chalupa leftover, roll it up inside tortillas, cover in melted queso and salsa, and bake for a quick and easy enchilada casserole dish. With very little planning, you can have three meals from one recipe. Depending on how many are in your family!
You could also make these Sheet Pan Chicken Quesadillas, even using the leftover chalupa!
Soups, a baking sheet of roasted root vegetables, and a loaf of bread make a lovely supper.
Choose light meals the entire extended family can enjoy!
When you’ve got your meal plans, stick to them. This isn’t the week for tossing caution to the wind! Unless it means going out to eat, but even that is hectic during the week of Holiday cooking!
A Brussels Sprouts Salad is a great way to pack in some veggies before the turkey dinner. This salad is filled with dried blueberries, tangy goat cheese, and a poppyseed dressing. While the recipe calls for coconut-covered cashews, and sweet and salty nuts will do! Since it’s the fall, glazed pecans would be amazing in this salad.
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup is a classic dinner combination that would be devoured!
Thanksgiving Week Meal Plan
Alright, if you’re reading this, go ahead and download this printable meal plan. Tape it up somewhere, and get going!
With a little prep the weekend before Thanksgiving day, you’ll be ready and making your favorite recipes without too much time in the kitchen.
Let’s chat about your Thanksgiving Week Cooking Game Plan.
You can make the majority of your Thanksgiving menu ahead of time, y’all! Yep! You read that correctly!!
I’m sure you have delicious side dish recipes that you’ve been making for years and years. Go through those recipe cards and see what you can make ahead of time. Even a couple of weeks ahead of time!
The best part of taking time to plan ahead and preparing as much as you?! That dedicated cook time ahead of that busy Thanksgiving week will make your life so much easier!!
I like to have my recipes and shopping lists ready to go at the beginning of November — I know, crazy right?! But having almost the entire Thanksgiving dinner prepped ahead of time has made me love the holiday again.
Your holiday dinner doesn’t magically improve by making all the food on the same day… I promise you will not regret making a few things ahead of time.
Of course, the Thanksgiving turkey is something you’ll make the day of. Walking into a roast turkey cooking is a Thanksgiving smell everyone wants to smell!
However, Ina Garten has an excellent recipe for making the whole turkey ahead of time. She includes simple steps for reheating the whole bird, and it’s wonderful.
If you’re finding this post before November 1st, you can sign up for the Thanksgiving Prep Email Challenge! Every day I send one thing you can do for yourself, your home, and your menu to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. The goal is to be completely calm, cool and collected the week of Thanksgiving. Soaking up time and memories with your family and friends.
Here’s a quick recap of the cooking game plan:
Two Weeks Before Make the mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce.
One Week Before Make the pie crusts, and freeze it for later.
The Week Of Thaw your casseroles from the freezer, and make the rolls and pies.
Classic Thanksgiving Recipes You Can Make Ahead
These are some of the make-ahead dishes you can do:
Making sweet potato casserole?? Leave off the topping, whether that’s the marshmallows or streusel topping. That’s something you’ll do on the day of.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes! Yes!! I make mine the week before and freeze them. In the recipe card in that post, there are instructions on how to reheat the premade mashed potatoes. This recipe has sour cream and cream cheese, and it freezes, thaws, and reheats beautifully!
Your Cornbread Stuffing can also be made a few days ahead of time, and the cornbread you use can be made the weekend before. If you think you have to make this the day of, go ahead and make the cornbread, cook the sausage, and get as much as you can be done ahead of time. It’s the holiday season and you want to enjoy it!
I love this recipe for Southern Jiffy Cornbread and Sausage Dressing! And it includes instructions for making ahead of time.
Speaking of stuffing recipes, if you make stuffing with wild rice, go ahead and cook your wild rice.
Green Bean Casserole Recipe — it’s easy enough to throw together the morning of, but why bother. Just make it a few nights before, leave off the crunchy, crispy onions, and do that the morning of Thanksgiving. If you’re someone who enjoys making your green bean casserole recipe from scratch with tender green beans, look at your recipe and see if you can make the whole thing, or part ahead of time.
Cranberry Sauce — fresh cranberries make the best homemade cranberry sauce. With a little lemon zest, maple syrup, and brown sugar this is a Thanksgiving condiment that can be made a couple of weeks ahead!
Traveling for Turkey Day
If you’re like me, you live in the same town as your family, but you’re bringing several items for the meal.
It’s always easier when you can use your host’s (a.k.a. your mother’s!) baking dishes. Fewer things to remember coming home after you leave!
For the mashed potatoes, I make them according to the recipe, cool them completely and then spoon them into a freeze-safe ziplock bag. Make sure to label your bag! Press it out flat, and store it in your freezer.
Then, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, remove the bag from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator.
Take the bag with you in a cooler, and when you arrive at your host’s home, plop it out into the baking dish, and bake according to the recipe.
For something like sweet potato casserole or green bean casserole, that has a topping, here’s what you’ll do. Make the casserole and freeze just the mashed potatoes. Leave the toppings separate. When I label these bags, I’ll write “Sweet Potato Casserole — without topping!” and then add the topping ingredients in a checklist format on the front of the bag.
When I go to pack my cooler, I can look at each thawed bag and double check I have everything that goes with it.
Now, this method only works if your host knows you’re bringing unbaked side dishes! Be sure to connect with them and triple-check!
While beautiful baking dishes make an Insta-worthy photo, don’t rule out using aluminum foil pans!! You can make your dishes, freeze them in the foil pans, and pop them right into the oven after thawing. This makes life so much easier!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good pre Thanksgiving dinner? Something easy, simple, and satiating. Crispy smashed potatoes and hot dogs are yummy!
What should I eat the week before Thanksgiving? Easy meals you can either toss into a crock pot and enjoy, or the easy meals that take less a half an hour.
In conclusion, the week of Thanksgiving is stressful as it is, but adding in the other meals you and your family have to eat… Yikes! This post is meant to help you create your own game plan for the week, make a few of the side dishes ahead of time, and create life-long memories of a happy Thanksgiving week.
When you have easy dinner ideas for before thanksgiving day, you’ll be ready for a week of fun! Enjoying new recipes and playing games with the people you love!