I am always fascinated when people say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. While I enjoy Thanksgiving, something about it just feels so stressful. You work the first day or two in the week, cook a ton of heavy food, spend a few hours with family and then have one weekend to clean up and plunge right into the Christmas holiday season.
Don’t get me wrong, I love any chance to get together with my family and friends. But for years, Thanksgiving was more stressful than enjoyable. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to help ease the stress and leave more time to enjoy with loved ones.
10 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
1. Establish a plan several weeks in advance. Who is invited? What will you be serving? How do you plan to decorate? Having a good plan in place reduces stress during the entire process. There are also plenty of planning printables available to help make this critical step easier.
2. Take advantage of make-ahead recipes. Look for recipes that can be prepared in advance and then reheated on Thanksgiving Day. In the past I’ve used a make-ahead mashed potato recipe, an this year we’ll be using frozen bread dough to spruce up for freshly baked dinner rolls. Easy and tasty!
3. Delegate. Decide what dishes you most want to make and then ask guests to bring the rest (or even outsource). Be realistic about what you can actually handle without driving yourself crazy.
4. Hire a cleaning service. I know this may not be in everybody’s budget, but if you can, hire someone to come in a couple days in advance to mop the floors and clean the bathrooms. Bonus: it’s a great motivator to get your house picked up early!
5. Set up the dining table the day before. If you’re like me, you don’t like to rush the decorating process. Last time we hosted Thanksgiving, I had everything decorated the day before; which meant that I had time on Thanksgiving day to focus on other things, and even to make a few changes and corrections to the design.10 #Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free #Thanksgiving #TurkeyTime #ThanksgivingCountdownClick To Tweet
6. Do all the prep work the day before. Wash and chop all of your vegetables; grouping ingredients together by recipe. For example, if I’m making brussels sprouts, I’ll chop the sprouts and put them in a gallon size bag with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Inside that bag will also be a smaller bag with shallots and garlic and another bag with chopped bacon. That way I know everything is already measured and put together for each step in the cooking process.
7. Set up prep stations. This is a genius idea from Morgan over at Pepper Design Blog. I could spill the beans, but instead I’ll suggest you go check
8. Use disposables or hand wash breakfast and lunch dishes. Run your dishwasher the night before and empty it in the morning. Take short breaks during the day to clear the sink of dirty dishes and run a load in advance. That way you’ll have as much room as possible after dinner is over. Even better…designate a dishwasher (hello Husband or oldest child) during the preparation process.
9. Get the kids involved. One of my favorite childhood Thanksgiving memories is when the adults let me make one of the side dishes. I only made a simple batch of applesauce, but I was proud to have contributed. Thankfully, T inherited a love for entertaining and has already started making party planning lists. This year she will be completely in charge of decorating the kids table for her and her sister. (Update: See what our kids are cooking these days)
10. Eat early. The Husband’s family (and my parents) are late diners…but I have fantasies of having Thanksgiving dinner in the early afternoon. Why? After spending so much time preparing such a big meal, I don’t like the rush to get everything cleaned up at the same time as getting kids ready for bed and saying goodbye to our guests. Eating at 3 or 4pm means you can enjoy your time together both before and after your meal.
Do you like to eat early or late?
What are your tips for reducing Thanksgiving day stress?