You look forward to Thanksgiving each November. Your mom, aunt, or even your sister always seem to pull it off without a hitch. But now you have your own home, and you’ve been picking up some subtle vibes that maybe, just maybe, could you host this year? Well, don’t sweat it. You can do it – and make it look effortless.
The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is to plan early. Once you commit to hosting, the first thing you need to do is invite every single person you want to come. Even if your friends and family are spur-of-the-moment types, they very likely commit to Thanksgiving dinner plans by the first week of November, so start putting feelers out there ASAP. And don’t make assumptions, actually invite. Invite anyone you would want to have at dinner, and then let them tell you if they can make it or not.
Planning and organizing isn’t just nice, it’s imperative to make sure you don’t find yourself with missing ingredients, a house that’s a mess, and three hours of cooking still to be done when your guests arrive. That means making lists of everything you need to do for your dinner, preparing a schedule for the weeks leading up to dinner, and writing shopping lists before you head to the store for ingredients and supplies.
Plan your menu sooner rather than later
Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and you need a plan of attack. The first step? Figure out what’s on the menu. And decide if you’d like your guests to bring something. Chances are your guests will want to bring things… you just have to tell them what you need. And when your vegan friend asks what you’re going to be serving, you can show her the menu and ask if she would like to bring a vegan dish to share with the group.
Cook in advance
Don’t stress out by trying to cook everything on Thanksgiving day. Create a timeline, and figure out what can be made ahead of time. Casseroles can be premade. Vegetables can be chopped and ready to steam. Obviously some things can’t be cooked early, like the turkey, but almost everything else in the meal can be prepped and ready to just pop on the stovetop or into the oven.
Serve what you really love
Turkey and mashed potatoes are classic Thanksgiving dishes, but aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Why not start your own tasty tradition? If everyone loves Aunt Betty’s lasagna, then serve lasagna alongside the turkey!
Set the table(s) in advance
As long as you don’t have to worry about pets or small children destroying your dining room table, set it several days before the holiday. That way you won’t be scrambling to find the best china that’s somewhere in the basement; cleaning the dust off the wine glasses that are on that high shelf in the kitchen; and counting the flatware only to discover you don’t have enough right before the first guest rings the bell.
Offer snacks before dinner
Tasty appetizers benefit the cook as much as the guests. They stay busy munching while you finish up in the kitchen! Try nuts, crackers and cheese, crudité or hot apps.
Keep the kids busy
For children, it seems like Thanksgiving dinner takes foreveeeerto land on the table. Keep ’em occupied with cute and crafty projects they can assemble with a favorite relative.
Move the decorations off the table.
Free up prime dinner-table real estate by moving oversize arrangements to the buffet. And don’t bother with elaborate floral fantasies. Just go “shopping” in your backyard for branches of holly, crab apple, or bittersweet berries. Then bring in-demand items — butter, gravy, cranberry sauce — to the middle of the table.
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