How to Plan Thanksgiving Dinner for Two, Four or More

November 02, 2021 | Food Lion
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A celebration of home, harvest and hope, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and welcomes in the winter season.

For the host, it also means a lot of planning and strategizing. It doesn’t matter if your family’s traditions keep it classic — a glistening turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie for dessert — or go creatively off-script. Either way, there’s a lot to be done to pull off Thanksgiving dinner!

One important factor is determining your gathering’s size. The meal is just as special shared among a small group or several friends and family members, but how you approach the preparations will definitely need to shift depending on the number of guests you’re expecting.

Whether you’re hosting two, four or more guests this year, when you holiday the Food Lion way you’ll be ready for action when the big day finally comes. We’ve got three different game plans for you to follow for a super easy Thanksgiving — hopefully your best one ever!

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Famil having Thankshgiving dinner, grandmother pours gravy for grandson

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for two may seem like no big deal, but even a small holiday dinner deserves some extra thoughtful, festive touches.

First, decide on the time you plan to sit down; this may seem unnecessarily formal, but giving the Thanksgiving meal a start time helps you plan your cooking schedule. It also helps to give the meal a more ceremonious feeling, an important distinction from every-day dinners. Also, plan to use your good linens, tableware and glassware, set out candles and find a playlist to help create a holiday atmosphere. These little details really add up!

Pumpkin Hummus in bowl surrounded by cut vegetables on white wood table

For pre-dinner snacks, keep it simple, as there will be plenty of food at dinner. Pumpkin Hummus is a great seasonal snack that you can make ahead, and then serve with veggies, crackers or bread. For something a little more substantial, try French Onion Cheese Dip or Maple Bacon Baked Brie with a small wheel of cheese. If you enjoy a pre-dinner drink, mix up a batch of Autumn Harvest Punch with hard cider in place of sweet cider.

Sheet-Pan Turkey Dinner on wood table

For the main event, consider a turkey breast instead of a whole bird. Of course, if you love leftovers, a whole turkey will provide extras! Just look for a small one, as you’ll really only need between one and 1.5 pounds per person. If you opt for a turkey breast, a Sheet-Pan Turkey Dinner is a delicious, fuss-free way to prepare it.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

As far as sides go, pick just a few of your favorites. One of the best parts of a smaller gathering is that you can make exactly the kinds of foods you love without having to worry about pleasing a crowd. So, if you prefer Mashed Sweet Potatoes or even Potato Leek Soup to traditional mashed, go for it! Apple Sage Stuffing Cups are a great way to make single servings of this

beloved side (and they make great leftovers), and Roasted Green Beans or Roasted Brussels Sprouts are easy to buy in smaller portions to make just as much as you want.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

For dessert, a store bought pie, cake or pastries are wonderful timesavers. You can even skip the pie and serve something unconventional and fun as an end-of-meal treat, like pumpkin ice cream or Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Thanksgiving Dinner for Four

Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip surrounded by crackers on cutting board

Sitting down with a table of four on Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to create warm memories while having some fun in the kitchen. You’ll likely need to expand the offerings a bit further than when serving two, but there’s no need to go too over the top with dozens of sides and desserts! A tight menu of the tried-and-true classics are all that’s needed — the familiar, approachable flavors enhance the holiday feel, and can be helpful if there are picky kids at the table.

Kick the meal off with some casual snacks enjoyed in a comfy setting, like Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip and Pumpkin Bacon Dip. For the adults, try Pomegranate Apple Cocktails; for the kids, omit the vodka, or go with warmed sweet apple cider.

Citrus Brine Turkey

On the table, choose a classic Citrus Brine Turkey, which yields succulent, juicy meat. A 10 pound bird should be enough for all — with leftovers to boot! On the side, a nice spread of vegetable-based dishes keeps everyone happy. Of course, Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes are a must, as is homemade Cranberry Sauce. Sausage, Cranberry and Walnut Stuffing makes a hearty side, and for something green, you can’t go wrong with Green Bean Casserole.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

After the meal, brew a pot of coffee or tea to enjoy with your sweet treats. Instead of multiple pies, channel those great Thanksgiving flavors with pie-inspired desserts like Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites and Pecan Pie Cookies. This allows everyone to experience multiple flavors in easy to share, easy to store desserts.

Thanksgiving Dinner for More

Holiday Meat and Cheese Board

If you’re hosting a crowd, a feast is in order! The secret to success when adding numerous dishes to the table is to plan a menu that relies on some make-ahead dishes and some day-of dishes.

When everyone arrives, they’ll be hungry and in need of a snack! Lay out a sumptuous spread of appetizers to start the party off right. A Holiday Meat and Cheese Board is easy to assemble in advance; keep it wrapped tightly with plastic wrap in the fridge and don’t add crackers or bread until you’re ready to serve. Thanksgiving Deviled Eggs are also a snap to assemble the night before and are a real crowd-pleaser! To cut down on interlopers in the kitchen, set out a batch cocktail in a common gathering space, like the living room. Classic Margaritas are fun and unexpected!

Keto Brussels Sprouts with Bacon in cast iron skillet

For an impressive (but not too labor-intensive) centerpiece, try a Deep-Fried Turkey. The combination of super-crisp skin with perfectly cooked white and dark meat removes the stress of worrying about an under- or over-cooked bird.

Creating an array of side dishes is all about adding different flavors, textures and colors to the meal. Choose five or six vegetables, combining classics like Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Onion Gratin and Creamed Spinach with some recipes that take into consideration dietary restrictions, like Keto Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and vegan Wild Rice and Butternut Squash Casserole.

Pumpkin Cream Pie Trifles

Dessert is the perfect course to ask guests to contribute to with a homemade or professionally baked pie or treat. However, if you’re committed to baking, Mini Pumpkin Pies are achievable and adorable — plus, everyone can take a few home with them! Gorgeously-layered Pumpkin Cream Pie Trifles spin tradition in a whole new way and save time, too

Feeling inspired? If you’re excited to get going with your holiday meal planning and shopping, be sure to visit your neighborhood Food Lion for quality you can trust at prices you’ll love. All of our departments have everything you need to create a memorable, wonderful Thanksgiving meal, whether it’s a cozy affair or if everyone’s invited!

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