If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, it’s easy for a day set aside for gratitude and family to turn into hours running around your house frantically instead of relaxing and enjoying the time with loved ones. It’s time to change things up, reduce your stress, and actually enjoy yourself. All you need to do is start prepping for your gathering in advance.
While it takes a bit of time and work, the following tips will help you prepare both your home and the meal for a memorable day that everyone – including you – will be able to enjoy.
Tip #1 – Invite Guests Early
Instead of having an ‘open door’ Thanksgiving policy for friends and family members to simply drop by if they can, invite guests early and ask for an RSVP. While you always want to welcome loved ones, an uncertain guest list makes it difficult to plan and increases holiday anxiety if you suddenly have more people stop in than you planned for. Come up with your guest list, start inviting guests, and have an RSVP date. This way you know who’s coming and you’ll be able to determine the amount of food you’ll need, place settings for guests, and the time required to prepare.
Tip #2 – Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time
Whether you’re planning a potluck, a casual buffet, or a more formal, plated dinner, come up with your menu in advance. Enjoy flipping through old family recipes, look through cookbooks, and check out your favorite blogs to get menu ideas. As you plan your menu, keep your time and your nerves in mind. Don’t choose recipes that take hours of prep time. While you want to plan a special holiday meal, remember that the best dinner is one that’s shared with love and thankfulness – not one that took hours of prep and cooking to create.
Tip #3 – Decide on Your Thanksgiving Table
Choose how you’ll set up your Thanksgiving table in advance, whether you’re going for a casual or formal gathering. Decide on your dinnerware, seats, table linens, and serving ware now. The last thing you want is to suddenly realize on Thanksgiving morning that you forgot to shine the silver flatware.
Tip #4 – Let Your Guests Lend a Hand
It’s an honor to host Thanksgiving but allowing your guests to lend a hand can make the day less stressful for you. Don’t be a control freak. If your aunt makes a legendary apple pie, let her bring one. If your mom makes perfect Thanksgiving gravy every time, ask her to make it. Your loved ones will appreciate feeling like they’re needed. And remember, the first Thanksgiving was all about everyone bringing something and creating a special meal of gratitude together. When people offer to help out, let them.
Tip #5 – Cook What You Can in Advance
One of the biggest stressors on Thanksgiving Day is trying to figure out how to get a turkey, seven side dishes, and three desserts all cooked by dinner time on one stove. Save yourself from this holiday chaos by cooking what you can in advance. Many side dishes are easy to make ahead of time and then simply reheat on the big day. Blanched vegetables, gratins, and pies can all be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
Tip #6 – Clean the Fridge Before Turkey Day
There’s nothing worse than trying to fit everything in the fridge and realizing you can’t get the door shut. The last thing you want to do is have to clean and rearrange your fridge in the middle of your meal preparations. A couple days before Thanksgiving, empty your refrigerator of everything but the essentials. Toss those expired condiments, unidentifiable leftovers, and cheese growing mold so you free up as much room as possible. Store sodas, bottles of water, and other drinks in a cooler full of ice instead of in your fridge.
Tip #7 – Prepare Your Home for Guests
If you are having overnight guests for the holiday, get their guest quarters ready weeks in advance if that area isn’t being used. Beyond changing sheets and airing out linens, think about offering space for suitcases, open wall plugs for phone chargers, and clearing out space in the closet if necessary. Make sure the bathroom they use is clean, offers space for their toiletries, and has plenty of towels for everyone. Tackling these chores ahead of time means you won’t be rushing around the night before your guests arrive trying to do it all at once. (Related: Fall is the Perfect Time for Home Repairs and Maintenance)
Tip #8 – Plan Some Holiday Entertainment
You probably already know that Thanksgiving Day football is sure to be a main attraction, but it’s great to plan some alternative entertainment options for your guests. Not everyone loves football (shocker). Put together some fun games for all ages and an ensure there’s an open area where they can be played. Have a playroom, children’s activities, and some children’s shows available if you’ll have children at your holiday gathering. Music, movies, and other entertainment can be perfect for guests to enjoy while they mingle and enjoy time together.
Tip #9 – Leave Plenty of Time for Relaxing and Enjoying Loved Ones
Sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner should be the only break you have in your day. Plan to do as much as possible in advance so you have time to take breaks, relax, and enjoy spending time with your loved ones. Let your guests help you with cleanup along the way throughout the day so you have more time to spend celebrating and cherishing that time you have with people you love. And most importantly, don’t forget to take a moment to pause and give thanks – after all, that’s what the holiday is all about. (Related: Five Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality)