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 food list for the most commonly used (but sometimes forgotten!) groceries you'll need for your feast.
We know—you're probably not going to forget the turkey . But make sure you buy the right-sized bird for your gathering. A good rule of thumb is one and a half pounds 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 week in advance so there's enough time for it to thaw in your refrigerator . The turkey is truly 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. Extra sheet pans are nice to have too.
While on the topic of turkey, it's always helpful to have a meat thermometer. No one wants to sit down to the big meal only to carve into an undercooked bird. You can go high-tech with digital leave-in meat thermometers that can track the temperature of your turkey throughout cooking, but a classic instant-read thermometer will do the trick just as well.
Stock is the Thanksgiving cook's secret weapon. Whether you buy or make 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.
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 if 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, Carrots, Garlic, and Onions
These four 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. If you plan on doing a lot of baking, especially if making homemade pie crusts , it won't hurt to have an extra bag on hand.
A pint of heavy whipping cream is handy for everything from casseroles to making mashed potatoes extra creamy. Plus, it makes the best fresh whipped cream for pumpkin pie.
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!
Bacon is a delicious secret weapon to have on hand. Crisped up, it makes a tasty casserole topping, takes mac n' cheese to the next level, and adds tremendous flavor to any vegetable side.
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.
Don't leave your guests thirsty, make sure you have plenty of beverages for everyone. It's always good to have a few bottles of both red and white wine, as well as beer, hard cider, and some liquor, like whiskey, gin, and vodka. For non-alcoholic options, consider buying sparking water, sparkling apple cider, soda, coffee, and tea.
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.