This fall, I’m focusing hard on making Thanksgiving easy to pull off, and now, it’s just a few weeks away.
But maybe easy isn’t the right word…
Stress free? Yeah. That’s the one.
I want to have friends and family over for a big feast, but I don’t want to feel like I’m going to pull my hair out doing it.
And we all know the key to dumping stress while being on time is making a plan and executing it.
Admittedly, I’ve only served a grand total of two Thanksgiving dinners that weren’t pitch-in style with everyone bringing their own dish, so I don’t have a lot of experience under my belt, and I feel like planning is especially necessary for me in order to do it well.
So, I want to share some tips that I’ve learned, and that I’m using this year to get things done ahead of time, and make Thanksgiving Day (or Friendsgiving Day!), as fun and care-free as possible!
Eliminate last minute decisions.
If you haven’t done it already, find all the recipes you’re going to use, and save them either in a binder or a special board on Pinterest so you can access it easily when you need it.
For instance, don’t still be figuring out which turkey recipe to use the day before Thanksgiving! Find one now. For me, I’m going with a simple rub of spices, and my husband plans to smoke it, but if the weather’s bad, I have a back up plan to roast it in the oven.
- Which pies (and other desserts) you’re making
- What kind of stuffing you’re making
- Which mashed potatoes and gravy recipes you’re using
- which side dishes
Get your tableware and decor NOW.
If you’re buying or making special decorations, get them now. From experience, I can tell you that decor can be sold out as the holiday gets nearer, so save yourself some stress, and decide and execute now.
For me, this is just making sure I have enough tablecloths, themed paper plates, and a few leafy garlands.
Prep food ahead of time
This is HUGE! Not only can (and should) you decide exactly what you’re making and what recipes you’re using, but you can make and freeze a lot of things ahead of time.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- Dried all my bread odds and ends for stuffing. I really want to use homemade sourdough bread for my stuffing, so I’ve been drying and saving away any stale bread we have. In a week or two, I’ll need to make a batch of bread just for drying stuffing, but right now I have a pretty awesome head start!
- Made and frozen pumpkin pie filling. You can, of course, buy canned pumpkin pie filling, but since we grew our own pumpkins this year, we made them into frozen pumpkin pie filling, and it is SO fast and easy to put a pumpkin pie together using them – we’ve already done it several times.
- Made and frozen pie crusts. While you can easily buy regular pie crust, since we’re serving several people with gluten allergies, we’ve made and frozen gluten-free pie crust so we can pull them out and quickly make our pies the day before Thanksgiving. This cuts down the risk of cross-contamination by a lot.
- Bought frozen chopped onions and celery. I figured I could either chop and freeze my own, or buy them pre-chopped. Either way, we’re going to need them for making stuffing, and this is one less, rather big task to do on the day of.
- Make and freeze dinner roll dough. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my list, and that will keep me from serving sub-par rolls, and eliminate a huge task the day of Thanksgiving!
Get all your ingredients together
This is key! Go through the recipes you’ve chosen, and make a list of ingredients you need, then go buy them. It’s okay if you want to wait for some sales you know will be coming up the week of Thanksgiving, but make sure you have that list, and you’re ready to pull the trigger on it when the time comes.
This way you don’t end up making emergency trips to town for groceries you’re missing, and also, which might be impossible on the day of, since most stores are closed Thanksgiving Day.
Baking when you know you have all the right ingredients at your fingertips is so much more relaxed, and it’s so much easier to get started when you’re ready.
I keep all my (non-refrigerated) ingredients in a laundry basket on the floor of my closet. Maybe not the most elegant solution, but it gets the job done, and I can just pull the basket out and sit it on the table on baking day.
Tip: Get more turkey broth than you think you need, just in case. I don’t know about you, but the stuffing and gravy always take more than I bargain for.
Make a timeline
This is just a list of things you need to do, in order of prioritization.
It can be pretty loose, for instance on the day or two before thanksgiving with baking or cleaning that need doing, and it can be pretty specific, for instance, telling you exactly what time to put the turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.
This one is a must for me, because if I don’t, I will for sure forget something, like making tea, or serving drinks at all.
A time line for me might look something like:
The day before:
- Make all desserts
- clean bathrooms
- vacuum living room
- clean the kids’ rooms
- Bring the folding tables and chairs out of the barn and make sure they’re clean
On the day of:
- Mop kitchen floor
- Tidy my bedroom (just in case anyone sees it!)
- put turkey in oven at 9:15
- make salad
- Make gravy at 11:30
Be sure to list all the food and drinks you’re serving where you can check them off your list, so you don’t accidentally leave something out!
And don’t forget to make notes on things you can have your kids or husband do for you to help get things moving more quickly.
Lastly, I just want to say that being busy, and getting things done is NOT the same thing as stressing out.
While I am trying to make a lot of things ahead of time so I have less to do on the day, I fully expect to by busy.
But having all this planned out ahead of time, and putting them on a list where they can be check off as they get done, basically eliminates the stress because it’s not just rattling around in your head where you have to try to remember it, and you can plan ahead for about how long it will take, rather than rushing around at the last minutes.
With some prep ahead, Thanksgiving will be enjoyable, and virtually stere-free this year, and we’ll be able to focus on what we’re thankful for, rather than what we’re forgetting.