Between family drama, holiday stress, and getting all the food on the table, hosting Thanksgiving can challenge any sane person. I have hosted Thanksgiving many years, and I do my best to keep it a low key affair. By lowering your expectations and doing what’s manageable, you will enjoy creating a memorable Thanksgiving for your friends and family.
Be mindful of your guest list
This time of year we want to include everyone in our invitation, but sometimes it’s best to leave certain people off to keep the peace. If particular guests tend to incite drama, see another time of the year. It is better to hurt a few people’s feelings than to have everyone fighting on Thanksgiving.
You also will want to consider how big of a party you want to take on. Keeping Thanksgiving intimate means fewer tables and chairs to get together and less cooking. By making my Thanksgivings smaller, I have been able to host year after year without burnout.
Don’t be afraid to take short cuts
Even if you’re a from scratch cook, consider using a few pre-made items to help you along for Thanksgiving. I recommend cooking the things that you cook best from your tried and true recipes. Thanksgiving is a time to show off your cooking strengths. Thanksgiving is not the time to test your limits or try new recipes you haven’t tested.
For everything you can’t cook easily and proficiently, consider going with packaged meals or even food from the grocery store that’s entirely cooked. If people are raving about your mashed potatoes and turkey, they won’t notice that your cranberry sauce comes from a can. Most packaged food mixes like stuffing and macaroni and cheese taste great, especially if you don’t buy the cheapest brand. If you want a more homemade taste, see what your grocery store has in the prepared meals section for sides.
Make as much as you can in advance
Many Thanksgiving items can be cooked days or weeks before Thanksgiving and refrigerated or frozen. The turkey and mashed potatoes need to be cooked on Thanksgiving, but almost everything else can be prepared ahead of time. Rolls, vegetable side dishes, sauces, and gravies can all be frozen for up to three months. Salads can be prepared and refrigerated without dressing.
Rest for an hour or two before guests arrive
Spend your morning doing last minute preparations for Thanksgiving, but make sure you can put your feet up for a couple hours before guests arrive. If you feel like this won’t be possible, enlist a friend or relative to help you during that time so you can at least get a bit of rest. I know that for me that it’s essential to get a bit of downtime before my house is full of guests. Any year that I have been on my feet all morning and afternoon, I tend to crash in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.
Have an exit strategy
After spending so much time and effort on Thanksgiving dinner, it can be stressful when guests linger longer than is appropriate. I recommend having something planned outside the house to help people get a move on. Early holiday sales are a great excuse to wrap things up, but going on a walk or bike ride work too.