These tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving will help you spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family and friends, while still enjoying an impressive, delicious holiday meal.
I have hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for over 20 years. From intimate gatherings to crowds of over 30 people to friends to extended family, to out-of-town guests, I have had tons of experience when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving.
While some things are simply out of your control, you can prepare and organize yourself so that the day goes as smoothly as possible. And I want to share the tips I have learned through the years with you so that you can enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal, with ease.
Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Tip #1: Make a Plan
When it comes to Thanksgiving, the further in advance you can start planning, the better. This gives you the time to prep your house and food in small increments, making the process of hosting Thanksgiving Dinner much less overwhelming! Ideally, I suggest beginning to plan 3 weeks in advance. Here is a detailed Thanksgiving Planner you can print out to help guide your timeline. Don't worry, even if you don't have 3 weeks to plan, these tips will still help!
Tip #2: Finalize your Guest List
This may sound obvious, but it is really important to know how many people you are hosting and if they will be bringing a guest and/or staying with you through the holiday weekend. As I have learned from experience, it is better to ask than to assume.
Tip #3: Plan the Menu
Gather your family's favorite must-have recipes or use my collection of Thanksgiving Recipes as inspiration to pick what you want to include on your menu. Remember, you do not have to have EVERYTHING and you can ask your guests to contribute something if you feel comfortable in doing so.
Tip #4: Shop Wisely
Once you have a guest list and the menu planned, it is time to prepare a shopping list and begin shopping. Enter every ingredient you need on a shopping list. Cross off the items you already have on hand and then divide the remaining list into perishables and non-perishables. Begin to shop early for as many nonperishable items as possible. Shopping early helps ensure your stores don't run out of what you need. It also gives you plenty of time to alter your menu if a key ingredient isn't available.
Tip #5: Create a Timeline
Make a detailed plan as to when you plan to thaw your turkey if needed, and a timeline for when you will prepare each dish. This may sound like an unnecessary step, but it will really help alleviate stress and make sure that your dishes are ready at the same time because there is nothing worse than having everything done and getting cold while you wait for Turkey to finish cooking.
Tip #6: Pay Attention to the Turkey
Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving dinner, so it is crucial to not overlook the details. I recommend ordering a fresh turkey, using a turkey brine, and roasting your turkey for the most spectacular results. And remember to plan on about 1 pound of turkey per person for a generous feast with leftovers.
Tip #7: Get a Jump Start on Side Dishes
Many side dishes also freeze well, so if you have the time now, invest in making things like Homemade Applesauce and Homemade Cranberry Sauce, and once cooled, freeze for Thanksgiving. You can get a jump start on Sweet Potato Casserole by preparing the filling and topping and then freezing them in separate freezer-safe bags. Then it is as easy as thawing and assembling the casserole for baking.
Tip #8: Bake and Freeze Desserts
Whether you plan to make pumpkin pie, apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, or a pumpkin roll, these classic Thanksgiving desserts lend themselves to being made in advance and freeze well. I highly suggest if you have the time make your dessert(s) of choice up to a month in advance and freeze to pull out the night before Thanksgiving.
Tip #9: Stock Up on Supplies
Ensure you have proper serving dishes, cups, plates, servingware, and flatware. Also be sure that you have toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, etc on hand for a smooth holiday.
Tip #10: Choose Your Baking Dishes Wisely
I recommend using square and/or rectangular bakeware, as opposed to round or oval dishes. Using these shapes for cooking and warming dishes maximizes oven space. It also makes fridge storage more efficient for prepped foods and leftovers.
Tip #11: Set the Table the Night Before
Save time on the day by setting the table the night before. It's a simple task that can involve the whole family and one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Tip #12: Don't Forget Appetizers & Beverages
Nothing is worse than hungry, impatient guests. Luckily, if you have a great appetizer or two and drinks ready to go, no one will complain if you are a bit behind schedule. I always have a Turkey Fruit Platter on hand along with Stuffed Mushrooms and cheese and crackers. For beverages, you may want to try Homemade Mulled Cider and/or Mulled Wine.
Tip #13: Don't be Afraid to Take a Few Shortcuts
While I love homemade, there is absolutely no shame in buying store-bought rolls or relying on a salad kit for a quick salad on Thanksgiving Day.
Tip #14: Have a Plan for Leftovers
Be sure to have storage bags and/or containers on hand for any leftovers. I recommend having containers on hand that you don't mind sending home with your guests. And don't forget to bookmark these recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers for delicious new creations.
Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes
When talking about the best Thanksgiving, we can't forget to include the best Thanksgiving Recipes.
- Roasted Turkey
- Turkey Brine
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast
- Turkey Gravy
- Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Potato Casserole
- Corn Casserole
- Green Bean Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole
- Instant Pot Applesauce
- Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
- Easy Pumpkin Pie
- Dutch Apple Pie
I hope these tips and recipes help you have the ultimate,stress-free Thanksgiving Holiday!