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Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

15 Thanksgiving tips to save time and energy

Thanksgiving is a time to pause and give thanks. But as we all know, there’s more to it than that. It’s also a multitasking marathon for those planning, hosting, cooking and cleaning. The kitchen can be a high-stress area on Thanksgiving Day. Thanks, in part, to our tradition of a dozen dishes that all need to be served simultaneously mid-afternoon.

So why not take some time in advance to make the day easier? A stress-free Thanksgiving is possible. But it will take some forethought. Read on for our tips for a more peaceful holiday filled with thanks.

Planning is one of the most important aspects of a stress free Thanksgiving
Plan the Food

The star of the show on turkey day is, of course, the actual Thanksgiving meal. Traditionally it’s a day to be thankful for a bountiful harvest. These days we don’t typically hunt, gather and grow all the food ourselves. But the grocery store in the days leading up to Thanksgiving can be just as wild as the great outdoors. Here are some tips for stress-free food preparations.

1 Month Before:
  • Finalize the guest list before you plan the meal. There may always be last-minute additions or dropouts, but just plan the head count as best you can. From there, you can determine how much to buy.
  • Plan the menu. This may seem extreme to do so far in advance, but it’ll help you in the long run. While menu planning, be sure to consider your guests’ dietary needs, as well as menu items that can be made in advance.
  • Begin practicing recipes if you’ve never cooked them before. First-time dishes are always a bit stressful. And this can help you understand where you need to simplify.
2-3 weeks before:
  • Make a shopping list. Start to stagger your grocery trips so you don’t have to buy everything at once. Start with non-perishables like cans and beverages first, then frozen items, and finally the fresh foods.
  • Prepare food in advance. Make and freeze things like stock, pumpkin pie crusts and vegetable dishes in advance.
  • Place your orders. Order your turkey, and set a reminder to thaw it in advance if it comes frozen. Now is also a good time to order any specialty food items you may need.
The week of:
  • Prepare re-heatable dishes. Cut down on the amount of time you need to be in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Make side dishes in advance and plan to reheat them on the day.
  • Create a timetable that accounts for every element of your dinner. Group them by room temperature dishes, those that need reheating, or those that need to be cooked that day.

Don't wait until the last minute to clean your kitchen
Clean Clean Clean

Nothing is worse than waiting until the last minute to clean your entire house, while also trying to cook dinner for a crowd. Much like planning the food, if you stagger your to-clean list it will help ease the stress a bit. In addition to your usual household chores roster, here are the main items to consider:

  • Clean out your pantry, fridge and freezer. Estimate how much space you will need (hint: it’s always more than you think). If you have an extra fridge or chest freezer in the garage, this is their time to shine. If not, ask any guests who live nearby to store and bring an item with them. If you’re really in a pinch, you can use coolers stocked with ice.
  • Declutter the entertaining areas in your home. Think about where people will congregate, eat and socialize. Make sure tabletops are cleared for drinks and closet space is empty for extra coats.
  • Start prepping for day-of cleanup. It’s never too early to plan for post-dinner cleaning. If you wait until after dinner, you’ll be too exhausted from hosting (and turkey’s tryptophan) to do a proper job.
  • Stock up on the essentials. Remember to pick up extra dish soap, detergent, clean sponges, and tea towels.
  • Consider the leftovers. Start saving takeaway containers, or invest in some Tupperware, for your guests to take home. Otherwise you’ll be left with storing all the leftovers, too.

Make sure you have the right kitchen tools for the job
Buy the Equipment You’ll Need

Speaking of investing in things to make your life easier: how about kitchen equipment? Sure, you could use your grandmother’s manual food mill to make mashed potatoes the traditional way. Or you could invest in gadgets and accessories to make your life easier. Here are some stress-saving items to consider ahead of time:

  • Serving dishes and utensils. Don’t scramble at the last minute to realize you don’t have enough serveware. (Cranberry sauce is less festive when served from a paper bowl.) Have plenty of dedicated serving plates, spoons and ladles.
  • Ergonomic kitchen supplies. Self-care in the kitchen goes a long way. You don’t want to risk any repeat stress injuries from standing over a too-low sink. Discover ergonomic kitchen accessories to make your life easier all year round.
  • Stand mixer and food processor. Mix, blend, chop, fold and more. Give your wrists a break and leave it to these kitchen powerhouses.
  • Crock pots. Slow cookers are great for soups, gravy, and reheating green bean casseroles. A perfect tool in your multitasking arsenal.
  • Built-ins for your sink. Consider colanders designed to fit your sink, and attachments to keep your utensils within quick reach. It’s the little details like this that make your kitchen a happy place.

Organize everything the night before
Organize Your Kitchen & Dining Zones

Reconfigure your kitchen into special zones to help you plan the flow of an efficient dinner. You might group these zones into: prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning. And don’t let one zone get in the way of another.

Prepping and cooking will mostly be done on countertops. Cooking is in the oven and stove. And cleaning should revolve around your sink area. For serving, consider keeping appetizers and drinks out of the kitchen entirely, and serving them in the dining or sitting area instead. Here are some more things to consider when creating a stress-free dining space away from any kitchen chaos:

  • Set your Thanksgiving table the night before.
  • When decorating a table setting, think about practical things that are also beautiful. Such as matching serveware, your finest silverware, linen napkins, and the nice plates and glassware you already have.
  • Grab a bouquet from a local florist the night before and use it as a centerpiece.

After all these tips, the #1 tip we can provide for a stress-free Thanksgiving is to ask for help. No one should take on all the hosting duties themselves. Jobs to delegate could be: bartender, re-heater, server, carver, babysitter, last minute runner, and cleaner. Or, if you’re up for relinquishing even more duties, you could plan a potluck Thanksgiving where everyone cooks one dish. However you plan for it, just make sure you enjoy your Thanksgiving. It is a holiday after all!

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