How to Host a Stress-Free Thanksgiving


For many families, Thanksgiving is a big deal. Especially if you’re the one hosting.

If you’re having the big dinner at your house this year, follow these tips to help make it a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Do your cleaning a week prior

If you start your cleaning a week ahead of time, you’ll have a lot less to do last minute.  Take care of your mopping and dusting a couple days in advance, and then the only thing you should have to do last minute might be a quick vacuum and wipe down.

If you’re going to be hosting any overnight guests, change the bed sheets in the guest rooms the week before. Guest bathrooms that aren’t normally used can be cleaned a week ahead, and you’ll be done.  If it is used regularly, go ahead and give it a thorough cleaning a week ahead of time, and then another quick wipe down the day before.

Take care of the place settings

If you serve on formal China and fancy silverware, wash these all ahead of time. Get all of your holiday dishes, serving trays, and platters out of storage and ready to go. If you’ve got kids, pick a room to store all this in, and then make it off-limits to them.

Put the extra leaves in your formal dining table (if you need them), and put out the place settings the day before.  It makes it so much easier when you don’t have to worry about this when you’re busy cooking and timing entrees.

If one of the tables you’ll be using is your main dining table, stage the dinnerware nearby.  That way, when it comes time for dinner, you can just ask someone to finish setting it for you without having to hunt everything down for them.

Also, get your candles ready and make sure you have matches.

Make Room in Your Refrigerator

Start cleaning out the fridge a week or two before. This is a good time to look at what’s beyond its expiration date or never used, and pitch it.

Every year, this is when I find once-used items like creamer or chicken broth hiding behind stuff.  You’re going to need all the fridge space you can get, so you might as well start cleaning things out now, including pitching items like these.

Stock up on beverages

Stock up on all of the drinks, and if you need to, hit the liquor store before the crowds do.  Make sure you have everyone’s favorite beverage, bottle of wine, or beer for watching the football games.  Grab some extra bottles of wine to serve with dinner.

Want to simplify things?  Ask everyone to bring their own beverages.  This is especially helpful the bigger the guest list, and takes the worry out of getting everyone what they want.

Make Dishes and Desserts Ahead of Time

Put your menu together and finalize it at least a week in advance.  Use a shopping app like Paprika to import recipes, and to easily export all of your ingredients to the grocery store list.

Start shopping for ingredients of non-perishable goods ahead of time.  Get through that big spice list for your pumpkin pies, and seasonings etcetera.  These items can be stacked out of the way until needed.

Prepare the items you can the day before. If you’re sticking with a traditional Thanksgiving menu, you can do this with things like deviled eggs, pies, cranberry salad, green bean casserole, and more.  Your only limitation may be fridge space, so plan accordingly.

Prep your turkey early.  This is usually the last thing I do the day before.  I make sure everything else is taken care of, and that I’ve got a spot in my fridge for it, and then I get to work cleaning and brining.

Create a plan

Write a schedule for the timing of prep work, serving drinks, appetizers, and cooking and serving each dish. Review it a couple times in the days leading up to the event, and then post it somewhere handy in the kitchen.

The timeline for the day works around the serving time of your turkey.  You’ll want to compute how long it is going to take to cook based on how many pounds the turkey weighs.  And based off of that- subtract from your desired serving time and you’ll know your cooking start time.

Buy a Fresh Not Frozen Turkey

Speaking of the turkey, don’t buy a frozen one.

Stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods sell fresh turkeys, and your local grocery may too. And these are often comparably priced per pound to the frozen name brand turkeys.

The biggest reason you don’t want a frozen turkey is you don’t to have to worry about thaw time. A frozen turkey can take days to thoroughly thaw out. And if it’s not completely thawed when you start cooking, the outside of the bird is going to cook much faster than the insides.

This is not a situation you want to be in, because either one part ends up over cooked, or worse, one part ends up undercooked.

Stage Appetizers & Drinks Away from Kitchen

No sense in having extra bodies traipse through the kitchen as your prepping, and putting dishes in and out of the oven, fridge and dishwater.  Set the appetizers up in another room, away from the kitchen action.

If you can, set up a small fridge or cooler for your drinks in another room.  If you live in a cooler climate, take advantage of a back porch or garage to help keep things cool.

Thanksgiving Day

Do some last-minute, quick cleaning.  Wash all your dishes, and clean up your work spaces.

Set up your appetizers table, put out any last-minute decorations, and make sure your driveway is set up for guest parking, moving some of your own vehicles if need be.

Use the schedule you created to help guide you through the day.  This will also help you to not forget to put out any appetizers, side dishes, or desserts.

Throw the bird in the oven when it’s time, and then go relax with your guests for a while.  Shortly before the turkey is done, you can start to warm up the side dishes.

Last but not least, once dinner is on the table, take a deep breath and relax, and enjoy the meal.

Once that’s done, you can start getting ready for Black Friday.

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