Take the pressure out of hosting the holiday with these 7 steps to a stress-free Thanksgiving!
I get it; hosting a major holiday meal can be daunting, especially when it’s Thanksgiving and food is the star of the show. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. I’ve had my share of missteps when it comes to holiday meals, but I’ve learned from each one, and now I absolutely LOVE entertaining large groups of family and friends. The keys to this success? It’s simple, really: planning and preparation. These 7 Steps to a Stress Free Thanksgiving is a compilation of the tips and tricks that I’ve come to rely on when hosting Thanksgiving with my family. I hope you find some inspiration here to help make your major holiday meals stress free, too.
Step 1: Plan your menu and guest list at least 3-4 weeks from Thanksgiving. Do you need to send invitations? If so, get on it.
Step 2: As your guests RSVP, they will ask what they can bring. Take them up on their offers. No one likes to show up on Thanksgiving empty handed, so assign them a portion of the meal that will not interfere with your much-needed oven space. Besides, the day is so much more fun when everyone contributes. If the main meal is taken care of, ask guests to bring their favorite appetizer, wine or bottle of liquor.
Step 3: Lists, lists, lists. Seriously, lists are your best friends when you entertain. Check your menu and make a list of all of the grocery items you’ll need. Separate the grocery list into dry goods and produce. Buy everything except for the produce as far ahead of time as you can.
Step 4: Drinks? Yup, you need ‘em. Sometimes all that family time requires a few extra sips. What cocktails are you serving? Get the liquor now. There are always sales in November, and the only risk you take in buying early is consuming it all before the holiday arrives. Plan accordingly.
Step 5: Here’s my nitty gritty breakdown of tasks for the week of Thanksgiving.
Sunday: Clean out the fridge. Make sure there is room for all of the prepped food and produce when you make your final grocery run. Find your linens, set the table and locate all of your serving pieces. Place the serving dishes on the table and label what you are serving on each piece.
Monday: Get your slow cookers out. In my mind, that’s the best way to save your precious oven space. We even reheat our make-ahead mashed potatoes in our slow cooker! Figure out the timing of all of your meal items for Thanksgiving day. Sometimes it helps to work backward from the time you actually plan to eat. Write down when everything needs to be taken out of the fridge and go in the oven. Don’t omit even the smallest detail. Trust me on this; it may seem like overkill, but this bit of preparation makes the day less stressful when you know what’s coming next.
Tuesday: Do your final grocery run. Don’t forget flowers for centerpieces. Then clean, peel, chop and dice away. Getting all of the food prepped ahead of time saves a ton of mess and clean up (not to mention time) on Thanksgiving day. Arrange your centerpieces on the tables to give the flowers a chance to open up.
Wednesday: This is cooking day, friends. Sauté the veg for stuffing. Clean the greens and prepare the salad dressing. Make the potatoes, the cranberries and the desserts. (I make three desserts….is that too much? We like variety.) Although we always have some seasonal favorites (bourbon pecan or pumpkin cheesecake anyone?), this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Roll is always the first dessert gone.
Thursday: Wake up, have a cup of coffee and a solid breakfast before you tackle the to-dos. Believe me, it will do a world of good (for everybody) if you start the day on the right foot. After breakfast, consult your well-prepared list and attack the day.
Step 6: Make sure you have containers ready to go for leftovers. I love these little disposable takeout boxes. No need to worry if you’ll get your dishes back.
Step 7: Don’t forget the ice. It’s inevitable; every time we have people over, we run out of ice and send someone to the gas station to more. Now my sweet sister just shows up with three bags. Repeat after me: You can never have too much ice.
Alright, all you seasoned entertainers out there; what am I missing? Did I forget something? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!