Thanksgiving In 5 Hours, From Shopping to Serving

Last-minute guests are no problem with our how-to guide

Here is a complete timeline and shopping list of what you need to know to prepare a Thanksgiving meal in less than five hours.

It’s Thanksgiving morning and you’ve just settled in with your pumpkin latte to watch the parade when your phone rings. "Aunt Jane has gotten sick and won’t be able to host this year," says the voice on the other end. "You have a big dining room, would it be too much trouble if everyone came to you?" After almost choking on your coffee, you agree. How hard could hosting 18 people in your home in five hours be? Don’t worry – we have you covered with a way to manage your time so you can have dinner on the table by the time guests arrive.

Click here to see the Best Store-Bought Stuffing Taste Test (Slideshow)

10 a.m.

First stop, the market.

No time to make a whole turkey, so pick up two 3-pound boneless turkey breasts. They feed about 10 people each and cook in about 1.5 hours. Grab 2 pounds of butter, a pint of whipping cream, and 1 pint of whole milk. 

Next stop, the disposables aisle, you are NOT going to want to scrub pans when this day is over! You’ll need four (one large one for the turkey breasts, one for the stuffing, one for the mashed potatoes,  and one for the sweet potatoes).  Get one roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil — you’re totally screwed if you run out! 

Grab two bags of cubed stuffing mix, poultry seasoning, cinnamon, maple syrup, powdered sugar, 2 quarts of chicken stock, and three cans of whole-berry cranberry sauce (hey, don’t judge)!

Next stop is the bakery department. Pick up two bags of rolls and a couple of pumpkin pies — you’ll doctor it when you get home.

Finally, you careen into the produce aisle where you grab two big bags of Brussels sprouts, two bags of peeled and cubed white and sweet potatoes (thank God someone else did the legwork), two lemons, one package of sliced button mushrooms, and two of those blessed pre-chopped mixes of carrots, celery, and onions. Grab some hummus, a bag of baby carrots, and some pita chips.

That should have taken you one hour if you didn’t stop for the extra shot of espresso at the Starbucks café in the market. 

Print out this Shopping List:

  • Two 3-pound boneless turkey breasts
  • 2 pounds of unsalted butter (8 sticks)
  • 1 pint of whipping cream
  • 1 pint of whole milk
  • 1 pint orange juice
  • 4 disposable aluminum tins: 1 large, 3 deep 12-by-10-inch rectangular tins
  • 1 roll heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • 1 pound mixed salted nuts
  • 1 container hummus
  • 1 bag pita chips
  • 2 bags cubed stuffing mix
  • 1 small container poultry seasoning
  • 1 small container cinnamon
  • 8 ounces maple syrup
  • Small container powdered sugar
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 cans whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 bags of good bread rolls
  • 1-2 pumpkin pies
  • 1 bag baby carrots
  • 3 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 2 bags each peeled and diced sweet AND white potatoes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 package sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 cups fresh diced carrots, celery, and onion mixture

Clik the next page to see the timeline for your next four hours.