Create a Schedule in Excel

This weekend is our Canadian Thanksgiving, and we’ll have 16 people here for dinner. To make sure that all the dishes are ready on time, I’ll use Excel to schedule everything that has to be done. We’ve been using this meal planner for years now, and would be lost without it!

Excel Holiday Meal Scheduler

Start With the End

In some projects, you decide when to start, calculate how long each step will take, then estimate when the project will be finished. Since the goal of this project is to serve dinner at a specific time, we’ll plan the schedule backwards, instead of forwards.

So, the first thing you’ll do in this meal scheduler is to enter the time that you want to serve dinner. You don’t even have to type the time — there is a drop down list of times, that was created with Data Validation.


Enter the Tasks

Whether your project is preparing a holiday dinner, or a software release, or anything else, you need to know what steps are involved.

For this dinner schedule, you’ll enter all the preparation steps for the menu items, and an estimated time for each step. You can enter the time in minutes or hours, whichever you prefer.


The Item and Location columns have drop down lists too. You can add or remove items on the Lists sheet.

For example, I have an electric pressure cooker now, so maybe I’ll make something in that this year. Or maybe I’ll stick with the appliances that I know more about!


Print the Schedule

There are formulas in the first column, to calculate the start times. After you enter everything, sort by the Start time column, and you’re ready to start cooking.

You can print the schedule in a worksheet list, and cross off the items as you complete them.


Or, if you like to see a timeline, print a Gantt chart that shows the schedule.

holiday dinner planner

Download the Workbook

If you’d like a copy of the workbook, go to the Excel Holiday Dinner Planner. page on my Contextures website. On that page, scroll down the  Download section, and click the workbook link.

And Happy Thanksgiving, if you’re celebrating!