How big of a turkey should you buy for Thanksgiving?

You bought the best looking turkey in your grocery store's freezer section, lugged it home and cleared out your fridge to make room for the 15-pound bird. After hours of prepping and stuffing and cooking and roasting and carving and suddenly you've served the 17th guest around the table and what, the platter is so light ... you're out of turkey?! How is that even possible?

It's a Thanksgiving nightmare. Let's keep it a fictional one and go through the proper steps to finding the perfect amount of Turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner.

How big of a turkey should you buy and how much turkey breast per person at Thanksgiving?

How hungry are your guests?

Source: Giphy

How to pick the right size turkey

When choosing a Thanksgiving turkey, you'll want to buy per pound, not by just how large a turkey looks! If you don't have room for a 20-pounder in your fridge or oven, buy some turkey drumsticks or breasts to supplement the whole turkey.

Queen of Thanksgiving Martha Stewart recommends one and a half pounds of turkey per guest, meaning a turkey to serve 20 people should weigh 30 pounds, which is about the weight of two miniature poodles, three infants, or six five-pound hand weights.

So yes, heavy. Turkeys also have a bunch of parts you won't eat (the carcass and giblets, to start) so consider going for two fifteen pound birds if you're serving a big crowd.

How big of a turkey should you buy and how much turkey breast per person at Thanksgiving?

Pick the right turkey

Source: Giphy

How much turkey breast per person should you serve?

Because it loses plenty of liquid while cooking, a pound of raw turkey shrinks up to be much less than a pound on your plate, so don't mistakenly think that every guest is chowing down on a whole pound of turkey.

A healthy serving size of turkey should be about the size of a deck of cards or 4 oz., which is a third of a pound.

If you're in charge of carving, try to cut pieces that are about this size or smaller to encourage guests to enjoy a healthy portion (and maybe to keep over zealous guests from loading up half their plate with far more than their allotted turkey portion...)

How big of a turkey should you buy and how much turkey breast per person at Thanksgiving?

Eat up!

Source: Giphy

A serving of turkey has about 291 calories, 39 grams of protein and 13.6 grams of fat, which is 21% of your daily recommended value. With so many tasty (read: buttery) sides and desserts waiting, who wants to fill up on turkey anyway?

Stick with a pound and a half of raw turkey per person, and everyone will be stuffed with their fair share of the Thanksgiving staple.

Scroll through to see all the presidential turkey pardons:

A history of presidential turkey pardons
See Gallery
A history of presidential turkey pardons
President Nixon Giving Annual Pardon to Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Pres. Ronald Reagan and the annual Pardong of the Thanksgiving Turkey. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton stands with the annual Thanksgiving turkey as his handler Walter Gislason (L) looks on during presentation ceremonies 24 November at the White House in Washington, DC. The bird, presented to the President by the National Turkey Federation was given an official pardon from becoming dinner and sent to a local petting zoo. AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President George W. Bush, with Chairman of the National Turkey Federation Ron Prestige (L) and President of the National Turkey Federation Dr. Alice Johnson (C), looks at Katie the turkey 26 November 2002 after he granted the turkey a presidential pardon in a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Shawn THEW (Photo credit should read SHAWN THEW/AFP/Getty Images)
ST/PARDON 11/17/2004 Robert A. Reeder TWP Annual event at the White House where the President pardons a turkey, this one named Biscuits, a West Virginia bird. Ceremony took place in the Rose Garden. Here, Bush holds Biscuit by the neck. Behind the turkey is Daniel Karunakaren.
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama pats a turkey named 'Courage' as daughter Sasha (2nd R) looks on during an event to pardon the 20-week-old and 45-pound turkey at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Presidential pardon of a turkey has been a long time Thanksgiving tradition that dates back to the Harry Truman administration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (2nd L) gestures with his daughters Sasha (2nd R) and Malia (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon November 21, 2012 in Washington, DC, as National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen holds Cobbler. Obama pardoned turkeys Cobbler and Gobbler, both raised in Rockingham County, Virginia. The turkeys will then spend the rest of the holiday season on display at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The turkeys were raised by Craig and Nancy Miller in Rockingham County, Virginia. AFP Photo/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: At two feet tall and about 38 pounds, two full-grown Broad Breasted White domesticated turkeys are paraded before members of the news media in the Crystal Ballroom of the Willard InterContinental November 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The birds were raised by the National Turkey Federation Chairman John Burkel of Badger, Minnesota, and one of the turkeys will be pardoned Wednesday by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: President Barack Obama with his daughters by his side, Sasha and malia, ceremoniously pardon Popcorn the turkey during the annual 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony on the north portico of the White House on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. The turkey, and turkey alternate, will be driven to George Washingtons Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. And will be on display for visitors during Christmas at Mount Vernon, through January 6. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 06: A Nicholas White turkey, one of two presidential turkey candidates, sits in an enclosure during a press conference at the InterContinental Hotel on November 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Two presidential turkey candidates, known as Tom 1 and Tom 2, are contending for the honor of being named the 2015 National Thanksgiving turkey and being pardoned by U.S. president Barack Obama during a pardoning ceremony at the White House before Thanksgiving. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) 'pardons' Abe, a 42-pound male turkey during a ceremony with National Turkey Federation Chairman Jihad Douglas (R) and turkey farmer Joe Hedden in the Rose Garden at the White House November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. In a tradition dating back to 1947, the president pardons a turkey, sparing the tom -- and his alternate -- from becoming a Thanksgiving Day feast. This year, Americans were asked to choose which of two turkeys would be pardoned and to cast their votes on Twitter. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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