Whether you’re a first time host or a seasoned veteran, whipping up a Thanksgiving dinner is no easy task. Add in a bit of forgetfulness, a touch of poor planning, and some overly eager houseguests, and you could quickly find yourself in the middle of a full-blown holiday disaster. But don’t fret! A little preparation and a few reminders, and you can be on your way to a totally stress-free Turkey Day.
Here are 10 tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving:
1. Planning is the name of the game
The best way to reduce stress on Thanksgiving Day is to have a plan made well in advance (we suggest preparing at least two weeks in advance). That includes knowing how many people you’re cooking for, writing a grocery shopping list (don’t forget the wine!), and a schedule of how you’ll actually manage your time on the big day.
2. plan out your cookware and tableware
Thanksgiving is a BIG meal, so it’s highly possible you may not have enough casserole dishes to cover everything you’re planning to cook. About 1-2 weeks out, make sure you have enough silverware, napkins, cups, plates, and cookware to cover the meal. Go shopping (or, let’s be honest, hop on Amazon Prime) and purchase anything you don’t have or consider buying disposable. Make a game plan on what dish is going to go in which dish, so when time comes to cook and things are getting hot in the kitchen, you won’t have to think about it.
Update your green bean casserole with fresh green beans and whole crispy onion rings.
3. Delegate tasks
Everyone loves hanging out in the kitchen anyway, so why not put them to work. Save a few small tasks for friends or family like beating the potatoes until smooth, chopping ends off of the green beans, or pouring glasses of ice water for everyone. Or if there are tasks you’re really not looking forward to — like carving the turkey — let a family expert know ahead of time you’ll be asking for their assistance.
Easy recipe alert: Mashed potatoes made easy in the slow cooker.
4. Declare Thanksgiving a potluck this year
Why should one person have to shoulder the weight (and the cost) of an entire meal? It’s nice if you can swing it, but don’t feel bad about asking some relatives to help save your sanity by each bringing a dish. If even two or three people are on board, you’ll be saving yourself a ton of stress. Cranberry sauce, pies, cookies, and appetizers are all easy candidate that can travel well without having to worry about staying warm.
5. Prepare some dishes ahead
There just isn’t enough time (or oven space!) in one afternoon to bake fresh pies, roast a turkey, and make all the other dishes guests come to expect. Prepare some dishes in advance or you’ll never get done in time. Dressing, for example, can be made in advance and frozen, to be thawed and baked on Thanksgiving Day. Likewise, pies can be made the day before or frozen weeks ahead of time. Other tasks like chopping vegetables can also be done in advance. And don’t forget to let the turkey thaw (depending on weight, you might need up to 48 hours!).
6. Don’t shy away from convenience items
Why stress yourself out over making homemade rolls or making sure you perfectly time the freshness of your corn? Pick up a few convenience items to help save time.
7. Let restaurants pitch in
You can still take credit for Thanksgiving even if you let a nearby restaurant prepare some dishes for you. Order or pies from a local bakery, or even let a nearby restaurant take care of the turkey. With a huge piece off of your plate, you can focus on mastering the other dishes.
Not feeling cooking at all? These 21 restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving.
8. Stock up on leftover containers
Leftover are half of the fun on Thanksgiving. Whether you keep them yourself or make enough to send home with guests, you’re going to need ways to pack up everything. Save recyclables in the weeks leading up, purchase some inexpensive to-go containers, or ask guests to bring their own.
9. Set your table ahead of time
You don’t want to be running all around your house looking for your leaf print cloth napkins, while you’re trying to keep an eye on rolls in the oven. Set your table at least the night before, so you only have food to worry about on Thanksgiving Day.
10. Get ready in the morning
This may sound like a personal choice, but in reality, if you don’t get ready in the morning, you’ll probably get too busy and let the day get away from you. You don’t really want to be greeting guests while still wearing the leggings you slept in. Prep yourself first thing in the morning, and you’re ready to flow with whatever the rest of the day brings.