If you want to enjoy the holidays season more, these stress-free Thanksgiving tips will help. Nothing ruins a family holiday more than a mom who is frazzled and upset. Given the choice between a happy family and a perfectly-cooked turkey, which would you choose?
I say this a lot. A few extra minutes planning will always save you time later on. Plan as much as you can ahead of time. This Thanksgiving Prep Checklist is a great place to start.
What will the menu include? Don’t forget to include appetizers and snacks if guests will be hanging out several hours before or after dinner. Also remember to calculate beverages (how many and what types).
Don’t know how to figure out how much food you’ll need? Use this handy Thanksgiving Food Planning Calculator to figure it out.
Will you prepare the entire meal or will others bring food as well? I’m a big fan of sharing the work. And as someone who has also been the guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving feast, I can assure you that your guests want to help. Not only does it help them feel included in the celebration, it eliminates the need for them to find the perfect hostess gift. Beverages are the perfect item for a guest who doesn’t like to cook to contribute.
Make sure you have a plan for seating. Once you’ve made your guest list, figure out how many tables and chairs you will need. This way, you can make arrangements to borrow or rent what you need well in advance.
Do as much as you can ahead of time to reduce the amount of work you need to do on Thanksgiving Day.
Which of the dishes can be prepared in advance? Some things you might be able to do a few days or a week before the holiday include:
- Bake a cake and freeze the layers; you can take them out the day before to thaw and frost.
- Make a couple of pies and freeze them as far in advance as you can. On Thanksgiving morning, take the pie out to thaw. After dinner you can heat it in the oven.
- Casseroles can also be made 1-2 days in advance. Prepare the casserole(s) and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake in on Thanksgiving Day.
- Take your turkey out in plenty of time for it to defrost safely in the refrigerator.
Unless you need the space, tables, and chairs, try to set up your table(s) before Thanksgiving Day. Decorate the tables and then put all the place settings out. Put name tags at each seat so everyone knows where to sit.
One of my biggest stressors leading up to Thanksgiving is cleaning the house. Enlist your family members to help with this task not only because it will go faster, but also because if your kids are busy cleaning, they can’t be messing it up. Another thing I do is clean areas early in the week and restrict them from use so that we can clean gradually over several days rather than trying to block off several hours the day before our guests arrive.
During and After
Do reduce your stress during the Thanksgiving celebration, establish a clear system that lets your guests help you.
- Ask an early guest or family member to be in charge of greeting guests and collecting coats.
- Assign individual guests a specific dish to bring to the table.
- Have 2-3 individuals responsible for clearing the table after the meal.
- Plan some sort of entertainment to occupy guests during times you have “work” to do.
You can save yourself a lot of post-party stress if you take care of certain chores during the party. If you followed the last tip in the list above, you’ll have a football game or TV show on for guests to watch or a board game out for them to play. While your guests are occupied, you can take care of a few things.
- Pack up leftovers.
- Load dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher and run it right away.
- Soak dishes that need to be hand washed OR borrow one or two guests to help wash them.
- Throw the tablecloth and cloth napkins in the washing machine and run the load.