Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather, but it can also be stressful to host. Here are our tips to make this holiday super special and super fun!
How can you host a Thanksgiving dinner without fuss, stress and disasters? First, remember that while the day centers around the shared meal with family and friends, the holiday should be about spending time with your family and friends and giving thanks for what you are grateful for in your life. No one will notice whether you used homemade chicken stock to make the gravy. So take a deep breath, and follow these tips for making this fun holiday stress-free.
Make a Plan
Get organized a couple of weeks before by planning the menu, guest list and shopping list. Create a timeline for shopping and cooking.
Let your guests contribute to the meal. If you have a guest who doesn’t know his or her way around the kitchen, ask them to bring wine or dessert from a local bakery.
Almost all popular Thanksgiving desserts, like pumpkin pie, and many side dishes, like green bean casseroles, can be made ahead of time. You can also do prep work early in the day, like peeling potatoes for the mashed potatoes.
Set the Table
If you don’t use your dining room table for everyday meals, set it on Wednesday. Put out all the plates, napkins, silverware and crystal glasses. If you’re using placecards, set them out. Make the centerpiece simple by using gourds, fall leaves and candles.
Let Kids Help
Some of the best conversations and memories with your grandchildren are made while stirring gravy and mashing potatoes. When kids get involved, don’t worry about the mess. This is a holiday about family and thankfulness, not an episode on the Food Network channel. Make it extra fun by setting up a kids’ baking station and letting them get imaginative with cookie dough you’ve picked up in the refrigerator aisle of the grocery store.
Make It Semi-Homemade
Think about using pre-cooked/pre-packaged food. If you have a favorite bakery, buy the dinner rolls and desserts there. Many grocery stores prepare delicious side dishes — in fact, unless you’re 100 percent committed to making a homemade meal, many grocery stores can prepare every dish, including the turkey.
Plan the Cleanup
Line the turkey roasting pan and baking dishes with aluminum foil, which will really make cleanup easier. Use a large bowl or jar filled with hot, soapy water for all the dirty utensils and stack all dishes to make loading the dishwasher faster. Make sure you have plenty of leftover containers and Ziploc bags — buy the reusable plastic containers that have “compartments” and send your guests home with “TV dinners” of the leftovers.
Plan the After-Dinner Entertainment
A lot of families like to watch football on Thanksgiving, but make sure you’ve planned some other fun things to do. Organize a game of flag football, play Pictionary, Apples to Apples or Charades. Watch a great holiday movie like Elf, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually or Home Alone.
Relax a Little!
The turkey, side dishes and desserts you make for Thanksgiving this year is just one meal out of the hundreds you make the rest of the year. The friends and family you share it with? They are what make the day special.