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A Classic Thanksgiving Menu Plan for First Timers

Happy November! Are you hosting your first Thanksgiving–or even playing a supporting role to someone hosting Friendsgiving?

You probably know that it’s go time for menu planning, which includes ordering your turkey and stocking your pantry. But did you know that you can even start preparing a few items in advance {hello pie}.

Here’s a classic Thanksgiving menu plan that covers all the bases–squash, beets, green beans, potatoes, whole grains and more–of seasonal eating.

Pasture-raised turkey cooks differently than conventional turkeys in the oven or off the grill.

Let’s Talk About Turkey

This is a big purchase. And you know here are Forage, pasture-raised birds rule. Got questions?

Here’s an article I wrote for Civil Eats 6 Questions to Ask Before Buying a ‘Humane’ Turkey

Once you find a source for a pasture-raised or heritage bird, here’s some advice on how to cook it I wrote for HuffPost.

If you’re into alternatives, I also like this article with 5 other whole birds to consider for your Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving Menu Plan

The key element of this Thanksgiving menu plan is that it’s designed to be doable. So, you’ll find loads of make-ahead recipes and professional how-tos.


Roasted squash soup, is an easy, make ahead starter.

Make this full-flavored and creamy roasted squash soup ahead and reheat for your a holiday appetizer to serve in tea cups.

Rosemary white bean dip is perfect to serve with cut-up fresh veggies.

This make-ahead white bean dip–flavored with fresh rosemary, balsamic and garlic–is great for dipping fresh-cut vegetables.

Side Dishes

This is what I’m here for, so let’s roll things out. All of these sides can be prepared ahead. {Hot tip: for the warm dishes, preheat a cooler with hot water and then slip them inside where they’ll stay warm for hours.}

Mashed Potatoes

Here’s a method for keeping them hot so you don’t have to be mashing at the last minute.

You don’t have to make your mashed potatoes way ahead or at the last minute with this simple technique for keeping them hot and ready to serve.


This is my how-to guide for stuffing with a recipe for a mushroom and fresh herb version.

Mushroom skillet stuffing at
Use good bread to make a spectacular stuffing like this mushroom and fresh herb you can bake ahead and keep warm in that preheated cooler.

Green Beans

They’re a must, and even if you use frozen green beans, you’ll get raves with this recipe.

caramelized green beans in cast iron pan
Slow cook frozen green beans until crispy and they satisfy like a French fry with the hit of green to balance out this holiday meal.

Grain Salad

No soggy greens in this farro-roasted beet side dish that’s also a great main for any guests who don’t go for turkey.

Farro roasted beet & feta salad recipe at
This whole-grain salad loaded with beets is an ideal vegetarian main dish or side dish salad.

Cranberry Sauce

Here’s my method for anyone to make cranberry sauce without a recipe flavored the way you like it best. You can make it right anytime and get ahead of your meal preparations.

Make the easiest “best ever” homemade cranberry sauce without a recipe in 15 minutes.


The benefit of getting so much done in advance is that once the turkey is done you can focus on making the all-important but easy-to-make gravy. Here’s a video how-to.


If it’s your first time making apple pie, go here first. This recipe walks you through the process to make an apple pie in advance that you can bake straight from the freezer.

This beginner’s apple pie recipe you can do assemble it weeks in advance and then bake it straight from the freezer.

Did I miss anything? Of course, I’ve got a pumpkin dessert for you in the form of a creamy tart next week.

Or, if you’re looking for other ideas, here are some out-of-the-ordinary holiday sides to mix things up this year.

I hope you have fun dreaming up your big Thanksgiving menu plan. I’ll be hosting a Friendsgiving again this year for No Kid Hungry, and you can join in as a donor or host your own!


and become a forager

What’s your best tip for Thanksgiving menu planning? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

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