Even if you’re an old pro at grocery shopping, buying food for Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenge—there’s just so much to remember! So think of this as your holiday cheat sheet: we’ve put together a Thanksgiving grocery list for the most commonly used (but sometimes forgotten!) items you’ll need for your feast.
We know—you’re probably not going to forget the turkey. But make sure you buy the right size bird for your gathering. A good rule of thumb is one pound of turkey per person. If you love a lot of leftovers, add an extra half pound per person. If you buy a frozen bird, make sure to purchase it at least a day in advance so there’s enough time for it to thaw in your refrigerator. The turkey is trully the centerpiece to any Thanksgiving meal.
Make sure your roasting pan is large enough to accommodate your turkey, or pick up a disposable roasting pan at the supermarket.
Stock is the Thanksgiving cook’s secret weapon. Whether you buy chicken, vegetable, or turkey stock, it’s essential to have on hand for making gravy, adding moisture to dry dressing, and basting a turkey if you don’t have quite enough drippings.
Speaking of basting, if you don’t have a turkey baster at home, be sure to pick up one at the supermarket. This handy tool will help you spoon hot fat over the turkey as it cooks and keep the skin from drying out, which often happens if you’re roasting a very large bird.
Save some valuable time in the kitchen by buying pre-cubed bread or cornbread for your Thanksgiving dressing. You want the bread to be fully dried, so it is still soft, spread it out on a sheet pan and leave it out on the kitchen counter overnight. Need some recipe inspiration? Check out our best Thanksgiving dressings and stuffings.
You can always turn to your spice rack, but if those little jars have a fine layer of dust on them, the dried herbs inside probably won’t taste like anything. Fresh herbs pack a ton of flavor and can be used in almost every recipe. Traditionally, Thanksgiving recipes call for woody herbs like rosemary and thyme, as well as sage, bay leaves, and parsley. Fresh chives are also a nice addition to mashed potatoes. You can never have enough fresh herbs on Thanksgiving. And if you do, they can be stuffed inside the turkey cavity to infuse the meat and drippings, or arranged around the cooked turkey on a platter for a pretty presentation.
Like fresh herbs, you can never have too much butter on hand for Thanksgiving. Unsalted butter is best for cooking and baking because it allows you to control the amount of salt in a recipe. But nothing goes better with a soft, warm dinner roll than salted butter. So be sure to buy both kinds.
Whether you like them mashed, topped with a layer of marshmallows in a casserole, or roasted, sweet potatoes are a Southern staple year-round, and especially at Thanksgiving. Look for potatoes that are a uniform size and shape (they are easier to cut and cook) with smooth, unblemished skins.
Celery, Garlic, and Onions
These three ingredients are the backbone of many Thanksgiving recipes including the turkey, dressing, and most casseroles. Make sure you’re well stocked up.
You probably have flour in your pantry, but double check to make sure you have enough to thicken the gravy. Our classic recipe calls for 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour.
Thanksgiving isn’t the time for instant spuds. You want the real deal: velvety, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes mash up light and smooth and have more flavor than Russet potatoes. We add cream cheese, butter, and half and half for the creamiest potatoes ever. It is Thanksgiving, after all!
No Thanksgiving feast is complete without cranberries, so be sure to pick up a bag of the fresh berries, or a can of your favorite jelly—whatever your family’s tradition dictates.
The South’s favorite nut has many roles on Thanksgiving: as a casserole topper, pre-dinner snack, and of course, in pecan pie. If you have any extra nuts after the holiday is over, store them in the freezer—they’ll stay fresh and flavorful for two years.
Fill up those ice cube trays, or better yet, buy a bag of ice cubes to keep drinks nice and cold.
Salt and Pepper
Double check your salt and pepper shakers to make sure they are full for the table.
Don’t forget a bag or two of fresh rolls from your supermarket bakery. Or better yet, try your hand at making your own this year.
Aluminum Foil and Plastic Zip-Top Bags
You can’t send everyone home with leftovers if you don’t have anything in which to wrap the food. Even better, pick up some disposable plastic containers so you can easily portion out individual to-go meals.