Wouldn’t you love to have a stress-free Thanksgiving? It can be so hard as a Thanksgiving host to enjoy the day without stressing about taking care of every little detail. We’re trying to give our friends and family a fantastic day of celebration, but we end up running ourselves ragged while we’re at it. You can learn how to simplify your Thanksgiving here with just a few steps.
Thanksgiving comes so quickly. First, you’re getting the kids into school, chauffeuring to football, soccer, or volleyball and unpacking all your sweaters – then suddenly – it’s time to start planning a huge family Thanksgiving dinner.
It can be so stressful, but it is possible to make a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Plan. Thanksgiving is a holiday that you don’t want to wait ’til the last minute to make a plan – but, boy does it sneak up on you. The steps below will help you do your Thanksgiving planning, even if you’re late to the game.
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Steps for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Plan
#1. Make Your Thanksgiving Menu
Here’s what a typical menu looks like for one of our Thanksgivings. Remember, this is your menu – you get to put what’s important to you on the list.
It makes the most sense for the host to make the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. I’ve actually traveled with a cooked turkey, just once, and it was not pretty … keep that bird at home! All the other foods are much more portable.
#2. Don’t Do It Alone – Make Your Guest List
Since putting together the entire meal is quite a daunting endeavor – and a costly one, too, – I suggest that you delegate some of the menu items. In order to do that, you have to come up with your guest list.
After that, it’s time to start assigning tasks. It doesn’t work very well to just suggest that your guests, “bring something.” It’s going to be better to ask for a specific item (rolls, salad, vegetables, appetizer, sides, drinks, etc.) for each guest to bring. If you don’t specify this, you may end up with 3 jello salads and no vegetables, or lots of dessert, and no rolls.
Keep in mind that sometimes it’s just not Thanksgiving without a specific recipe – like Grandma’s Candied Sweet Potatoes – and if that’s the case make sure you assign that to someone willing and able or plan to make it yourself. If asking others to help is a new concept to you, look at this holiday as a community effort.
You will actually enjoy your day much more if you’re not trying to do it all alone. This is probably the most important step of your stress-free Thanksgiving plan. If you have out-of-towners staying with you, they can still be assigned parts of the meal to be responsible for.
And, definitely, enlist their help with setting the table and decorating. Even if a guest doesn’t have access to a kitchen, or can’t cook, they can still be in charge of the olives, rolls, butter, jam, cranberries, etc. – all those things that don’t have to be made at home.
#3. Grocery Shopping
Once you have decided what you’re going to be cooking, make a list of every single item in your recipes. Come up with the quantities for each item and put them on a grocery list. Remember, you may need an item for multiple recipes (like butter for your turkey and your stuffing), so add them together.
If you know some recipes that you’ll be using your leftovers in, then get those ingredients on your list, too (things like carrots, celery, and onions for turkey noodle soup). Only after your list is complete, should you go to the grocery store.
Check your local ads for which store will have the best deals on most of the things you need.
Avoid shopping the weekend before Thanksgiving. The stores will be crazy and it won’t give enough time for your turkey to thaw in the fridge. That usually takes a week for me.
#4. Make-Ahead What You Can
There are many things you can prepare ahead of time so Thanksgiving Day is stress-free. Make sure and plan out your serving dishes, and table settings, make your side dishes and desserts.
There are many make-ahead side dishes that can easily be warmed up while your turkey is cooking … everything from Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, and green bean casserole to cranberries and sweet potatoes.
You can even make your cold dishes like jello salad and desserts ahead of time.
Heat up the things that need heating and then transfer them into serving dishes on Thanksgiving Day.
Using your time beforehand, when you’re not rushed, will help keep your stress level down.
Check out these Make-Ahead Options:
- Delicious Make-Ahead Salads
- Make-Ahead Side Dishes for Thanksgiving
- Make-Ahead Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Maple Ginger Glazed Carrots
#5. The Main Event
On Thanksgiving Day, make sure you get up and going early enough so that you’re not feeling pressured. Once you get the turkey in the oven, you’ll have plenty of time to get the other dishes ready to serve.
Have guests come a little early so they can help get everything on the table. You know how awkward it is to show up at someone’s house for dinner and they won’t let you help with anything? You just stand there and watch them jumping around trying to get everything done?
Well, yes, your guests will feel awkward, too, if you don’t let them pitch in. If they haven’t offered, just simply say,
- Can you put the butter on the table?
- Will you put the rolls in the basket?
- Would you grab the punch from the fridge?
Believe it or not, people like to be helpful and want to be involved.
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#6. After the Thanksgiving Meal is Over
It’s funny, well kind of funny, how we spend days and hours upon hours preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then it’s over in about 13.9 seconds. Have you ever noticed that?
Well, the cleanup certainly isn’t over as fast as the meal. And, guess what. You don’t have to do the clean-up all by yourself.
Here’s another opportunity for you to enlist the help of your guests. I’ve always found that there are a couple of people that just naturally pitch in and start clearing the table and working on the dishes. Sometimes that’s not the case, though.
Here are some tasks you can ask for help with.
- Clearing the Table
- Wiping Down the Table – make it easy with these wipes
- Putting Food Away (have food storage containers or storage bags set aside and ready for this)
- Washing Dishes – look at these scrubbing rubber gloves
- Drying and Putting Dishes Away
When the dinner is over, the kitchen is cleaned up and the last guest has left, breathe a deep sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back for doing such a great job. You deserve it!
Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner is probably the biggest meal you’ll ever have to host at home. Well Done!