Stress-Free Thanksgiving Part One: Planning the Meal

Everyone loves Thanksgiving. And everyone hates all the work. So, this year for Thanksgiving let’s try a new approach. Let’s go into this holiday with a plan for the work to be minimal. We’ll apply six simple principles to maximize holiday enjoyment for everyone.

1. Make a plan.
Don’t think I’m crazy, but I make a list for everything. The second I put something on paper, it frees my mind to think of other important things. My Thanksgiving plan lists will include a guest list including their contributions, family assignments, a menu plan, a three week plan, and a shopping list for each store.

2. Potluck.
How much easier can Thanksgiving dinner be if you don’t have to make everything? When you are planning the menu and making out the guest list, recruit the great cooks in your family to make some of the traditional holiday dishes you enjoy. Even the young ones can contribute drinks, paper goods, flowers, or even rolls from the local bakery.

3. Shop early.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. It’s Thanksgiving Day and everything is going well getting ready for dinner. Getting the ingredients out for the pumpkin pie you realize you are out of pumpkin pie spice! So you rush out to ‘grab’ some only to be gone an hour and a half. Spare yourself. Shop at LEAST a week ahead, if not two. This also saves you the agony of the store being sold out of something you need last minute.

4. Advance preparation.
Desserts can be made ahead and frozen. Vegetables for stuffing and dressing can be pre-chopped. Casseroles can be pre-made and refrigerated. The turkey can be made ahead of time and frozen. Homemade crafts for decorations can be made weeks ahead. You can start making extra ice and storing it in freezer bags. Get the idea?

5. Enlist help.
There is no reason everyone can’t work together to make the day a success. Put the men on trash duty. Have them empty uneaten food off of plates, stack and carry all the dishes to the kitchen. Then take out all the trash bags when clean up is done. Before everyone leaves they help load cars with leftovers, dishes and any borrowed tables, chairs and games. Young men can be in charge of games and entertainment. The older women can keep the little ones busy. The younger women can wash linens, load the dishwasher and wash pots and pans.

6. Serve buffet style.
I love a beautiful setting. There is something about fancy ambiance that gets the girly part of me going. But at my house for Thanksgiving this year, I am using my kitchen bar as a buffet and decorating the table with a homemade craft by the kids and that’s all. I’m not putting out all the glassware, a formal place setting and messing up every service piece on my hutch. I will use casserole dishes to pre-make, cook and serve dishes in.

Use a little forethought, enlist a little help, and reap the relaxing rewards of a simple, stress-free Thanksgiving.

Be sure to print this free Holiday Hosting Planner. What ideas are you implementing to make Thanksgiving a breeze this year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Simple Things series is written by April Patel, contributing writer to April is a freelance writer, single mom, homeschooler and pseudo urban homesteader and she blogs at An Apple a Day Wisdom.  Like her Facebook page today so you don’t miss any of her daily doses of apple!

  1. Great idea about preparing and freezing ahead of time! I might try that with a few of my dishes that I know will freeze well. Thanks for the tip. I’m a big time planner too and for me it really removes all the stress to plan ahead. Personally, I don’t think Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday or event should be stressful at all. What’s the point? These days are meant to enjoy, so if that means writing a list and doing things ahead of time so I can enjoy them and live in the moment instead of frantically rushing around my kitchen or a store, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

    I just wrote out my menu the other night and have been going through some old and new recipes making my shopping list. I will start buying the ingredients I don’t have yet as they go on sale/coupon, and whatever I haven’t purchased by the 16th I will buy at best price I know. I have the day before Thanksgiving off so I will do the majority of the cooking then and brine the turkey. My husband always gets up early to put the turkey in the oven for me so I can sleep in :). There shouldn’t be much to do on Thanksgiving day itself, just cook the turkey, make the gravy, and heat everything else up. Then I can eat and relax looking at the Black Friday ads and maybe even have a nap before I go to work at 3:00 p.m. Luckily I work at home so I’m just a few steps away from the feast when it’s dinner time!

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