The BEST Make Ahead Thanksgiving Foods to Keep You Stress-Free!

Nov 11, 2020 | Holidays, Meal Prep Made Easy

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to be grateful. It also can be very hectic when you're preparing all of the food. Start prepping these make ahead Thanksgiving foods and see how stress-free your day becomes!

Make ahead Thanksgiving foods on a table, from Fun Cheap or Free

Oh, Thanksgiving. It's a time to focus on thankfulness and to be grateful for all that you have. But do you ever find yourself dreading it, too? You want to have all of your family over and enjoy them. But let's be real, who can really enjoy anything when you're so busy stressing? When are you going to have time and space to make all of the delicious things?!

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Well, Freebs, you've come to the right place. We've got the ultimate list of the BEST make-ahead Thanksgiving foods, so you can be more productive and less stressed! Oh, and these aren't just for Thanksgiving, either. Use this list for Christmas, Easter, and any other holiday or get together, and you'll be a rock star! Just save us some rolls, and we'll call it even, mmkay? 😉


The freezer is about to become your best friend (if it's not already)! Start making these foods a few days (to a few weeks out) from Thanksgiving. Seriously, you'll never prep for a big meal the same again. Make sure that you follow these tips to prevent freezer burn so that you don't waste any food!


Rolls in a dish, from Fun Cheap or Free

Make these sides ahead of time and see what a difference it makes for Thanksgiving Day!

  • Homemade Turkey Stock – If your family eats a lot of turkey throughout the year, then try your hand at making your own turkey stock! Just freeze it in freezer bags or freezer containers until you're ready to use it.
  • Turkey GravyThis gravy recipe from Betty Crocker is so delicious and so easy to make! As long as you store it in the freezer properly, it'll taste as delicious as the day you made it.
  • Bread – If you love making homemade bread, banana bread, or even pumpkin bread, then you're in luck! Make them and let them cool completely. Then, wrap them really tightly and put them in a freezer bag before sticking them in the freezer.
  • Rolls – Dinner rolls are another one that's so easy to prep and freeze. However, they're best when you freeze the dough before cooking. You still have to cook them the day of, but they'll be so warm and delicious and totally worth it!
  • Soup – This is a great make ahead Thanksgiving food if you like to have it as an appetizer! You can easily make it for dinner a few weeks before, double (or triple!) the recipe, and freeze what you don't eat in preparation for Thanksgiving. Some favorites are butternut squash, loaded baked potato, and tomato basil.

Pro Tip: Be sure to have plenty of freezer bags and airtight containers ready to store any leftovers in after your Thanksgiving dinner!


Pecan pie on a counter, from Fun Cheap or Free

Try making these delicious desserts ahead of time. You'll really see a difference in your prep time on Thanksgiving. Streamlining for the win!

  • Homemade Pie Crust – If you love making pies, but don't love the hassle of making the crusts, then here is your answer! This pie crust recipe from AllRecipes is super simple to make. You can freeze the crusts until you're ready to use them.
  • Homemade Pie – You can also take it a step further and make your whole pie before freezing it! This works really well for fruit-filled pies. However, it's not recommended that you freeze pumpkin pies because the texture changes and the pie becomes watery.
  • Homemade Whipped Cream – Are you in the group of people who thinks that you can't have pumpkin pie without whipped cream? (If you're not, then you're crazy!) Make your own and freeze it until you're ready to use it. Just stick it in the fridge to thaw the day before.
  • Pumpkin Puree – You may be bummed that you can't freeze a pumpkin pie… But the good news is that you can freeze your homemade pumpkin puree! It's easy to make and it lasts a long time in the freezer. You can whip your pumpkin pie up in no time between this and your homemade pie dough that you froze!

Pro Tip: Be sure to figure out a thawing schedule for anything that you may freeze in advance! Write it all down so you won't forget.


Make ahead Thanksgiving cheesecake on a dish, from Fun Cheap or Free

While you may not be able to make ahead these Thanksgiving foods weeks in advance, you can still put them together up to three days before your feast! It will really help you to cut down on all of the chopping and prep time on the big day. Talk about a productivity and scheduling win!

  • Pumpkin Cheesecake and Other Desserts – Many desserts can be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer. Actual cheesecake pans are a MUST to have a perfect cheesecake every time!!
  • Salad Dressing – This recipe has 7 variations on a basic, easy vinaigrette that taste even better than store-bought! Use a salad dressing shaker to make it even easier to make and pour out.
  • Cranberry Sauce – Is it really Thanksgiving if there's not cranberry sauce? If you like to make your own, try making it a few days before and sticking it in the fridge!

If you're going to need lots of fridge space, be sure to meal plan for the week before Thanksgiving based on what you have in the fridge. That'll help to clear up some space for your more important Thanksgiving foods!


Jordan chopping celery on a cutting board, from Fun Cheap or Free

You may not be able to fully cook or complete these dishes before Thanksgiving day, but you can prep them so that minimal work is needed on the big day!

  • Turkey – Yep, you just read that right! No more stressing over your turkey being done in time! You can prep and make it the day before, then just reheat it on Turkey Day. Get all the tips you'll need from, along with 4 different ways to cook a turkey.
  • Stuffing – This is one of those Thanksgiving staples that's so delicious, but it also takes a lot of time to prep and put together. Help yourself out by putting it together the day before. Stick it in the fridge until you're ready to throw it in the oven the day of. Add an extra 10-15 minutes of cook time and it'll be ready to go!
  • Casseroles – Oh casseroles, you complete Thanksgiving! They are so easy to prep the day before. Put them in the fridge until they're ready to go into the oven. The biggest thing that you need to keep in mind is to not put any toppings on them that will get soggy (such as crackers or dried onions) until right before they go in the oven. Some favorites are green bean casserole, mashed potato casserole, and sweet potato casserole.
  • Vegetable Prep – A day or two before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to clean and chop any other veggies that you may need. Veggie platters or roasted veggies, like these roasted carrots, are great for Turkey Day. However you're eating them, make your day easier by prepping them ahead! Use one of these or a food processor to help with chopping veggies small.
  • Salad – You can wash and chop your salad ingredients the day before, then put them in your salad bowl. Just cover it with plastic wrap and it'll be good to go for the next day.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs – If you love deviled eggs, but you never seem to have enough time to boil and prep them, then here's your solution! Make your hard-boiled eggs a day or two before and leave them in the shell. (Bonus points for quickness if you use your Instant Pot!) On Thanksgiving, peel and work your magic to turn them into delicious deviled eggs that'll be gone in two blinks! 😉

All of that make ahead Thanksgiving food sounds great, right?! Start prepping and making that food ahead of time and you'll be stress-free and enjoying your day with the ones you love!

What's your favorite food to make ahead for Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments!

Image with text that reads "the best make ahead Thanksgiving dishes you love," from Fun Cheap or Free

Need more Thanksgiving ideas?

Stay prepared and enjoy your time with your loved ones!


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