Thanksgiving Menu for 4

Not planning to attend a large Thanksgiving party this year? Maybe it will just be you and your immediate family.

Or maybe you are planning to spend Thanksgiving with a small group of friends.

If you’re in need of a smaller meal plan this year, check out my step-by-step guide to making a small scale Thanksgiving meal for 4-6 people.

Thanksgiving Menu
Thanksgiving Shopping List
Thanksgiving Prep Schedule

family traditions

Do you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving? What are some of your favorite memories or traditions?

My parents only learned of Thanksgiving after coming to the United States. My mom worked as a nurse and often collected recipes from her co-workers.

One year she came home with a menu plan from her friends for the perfect Thanksgiving meal. The suggestions included Stove Top stuffing, canned cranberry jelly, Marie Callender’s pies, instant mashed potatoes, and packaged gravy.

We were in awe the first time we had it and it became a family tradition: the same meal, prepared the same way every year!

As my siblings and I got older, we realized making homemade mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce wasn’t too difficult.

I also started making my own desserts, a strawberry cheesecake being one of the first.

Eventually we started making everything from scratch, each of us being responsible for different sides. We also started trying out different dishes and recipes, one more elaborate than the next.

But I have to say, nothing ever came close to those first Thanksgiving meals. They were simple, comforting, and delicious. To me, they were perfect!

A Thanksgiving meal of roast turkey and gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and green beans on a white plate.

This Thanksgiving I want to keep it simple and go back to the basics. There are no fancy recipes or hard-to-find ingredients.

Though everything will be homemade, it will still be reminiscent of those meals from my childhood.

My stress-free meal plan includes a simple menu, detailed shopping list, and an easy-to-follow schedule. Click on the links below to see the recipes. Most of them are perfect for a family of four (with leftovers!) or up to 6-8 people.

Whether you’re planning a smaller gathering this year or spending it alone, whether you wish to create new memories and traditions or relive old ones, I hope this meal plan helps alleviate some stress and allows you to relax and enjoy the day!

Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy 

Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Garlicky Green Beans

Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Apple Pie for Four

thanksgiving Shopping List

As soon as I’ve decided on a menu, my next step in meal planning is to create a shopping list. I write out everything I’ll need, including staples that I probably already have. It’s a good idea to check your fridge and pantry and make sure you have most of the ingredients.

I also try to include the amounts of ingredients need for the dishes. Some amounts are small like “1 carrot.” Obviously you can’t buy just 1 carrot! But it’s good to know in advance how much of something you’ll need.

Occasionally, I hear people say “I’m don’t want to buy a whole thing of _____ when the recipe only calls for such a small amount.”

Here are tips on how to use the extras you end up with:

  • Carrot: My recipe calls for 1 carrot. So extra carrots can be eaten for a snack, used in muffins, added to salads, or sautéed with onions for a soup.
  • Celery: I only need 1 cup for my stuffing. The rest will get minced and frozen in 1 cup portions to be used in soups, casseroles, or stews.
  • Sausage: My stuffing only uses 1-2 links but the sausages are sold in a pack of 5. I freeze the rest and use in soups, pastas, breakfast burritos, or on pizza.
  • Heavy Cream: This is to top the pie, but I only need 1/2 cup for the four of us. I will freeze the rest in an ice-cube tray which will give me tablespoon portions that can be added to pasta sauces, mashed potatoes, or curries. Or I can whip the whole amount and freeze it that way.

As long as you have a plan on what to do with the extras, nothing will go to waste. Not only will this provide you with additional food for the next few months, it will force you to come up with some creative meal ideas!

NOTE: I use my own bread and corn muffins for the stuffing, as well as homemade pie dough. If you’d rather not make your own, add to your shopping list:

  • 1 loaf thick-sliced loaf of wheat or white bread
  • 1 small box cornbread mix or 4 store-bought corn muffins
  • 1 refrigerated/frozen pie dough

Click on the Shopping List below to print the PDF version:

Thanksgiving Schedule

The final step in my meal planning is working on the meal prep schedule!

Creating a schedule is so important in helping you reduce stress and ensuring the day runs smoothly. Cooking from scratch does not have to be daunting when you give yourself plenty of time.

Here are my tips:

1. make some recipes in advance

  • Cranberry Sauce: Lasts in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a few months.
  • Stuffing: Prep the night before and bake on the actual day.
  • Sweet Potatoes & Green Beans: Wash and cut/prep them early. Measure out all the spices, oil, or garlic you’ll need, and set aside for later.
  • Pie: Pie dough needs to be made early so it has time to chill. Store in the fridge for a few days or freeze for a few weeks. Pie fillings can also be made the night before, whether it’s pumpkin or apple. Not only does this save time, it develops better flavor!
  • Bread: Bread, rolls, and muffins can be made ahead and frozen for a few months.

2. Make dishes simultaneously and use the oven as much as possible

Make gravy and reheat dishes while the turkey is resting. Sweet potatoes can be roasted at the same time and temp as the turkey, so put them both in the oven together.

If you want to save even more time, instead of sautéing the green beans as listed in the recipe, consider putting them alongside the sweet potatoes at the last 20-30 minutes to roast them.

By using smaller baking dishes/pans for the turkey, sweet potatoes, and stuffing you will be able to fit everything in the oven at the same time.

3. Finally, write out a timeline for the big day!

Work backwards, starting with when you want to eat. The turkey needs to rest for about 15 minutes before carving, it will cook for about 1 hour, and you might need 10-15 minutes to prep it before roasting.

So start making it 1 1/2 hours before eating time. Also, cook the dishes that take the longest, first. For example in this order: turkey, sweet potato, stuffing, and lastly green beans and gravy.

Whether you’re hosting a big gathering or a small one, you will want to spend most of the day with your guests or family, not stuck in the kitchen!

Click on Prep Schedule below to print the PDF version