A Complete Guide to (Surviving)
Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner
Without Having Major Meltdown
Written by an Admitted Type-A Person
If you’ve volunteered to have the whole family at your house this year you may be starting to freak out. But don’t! With Thanksgiving still one week away, there’s plenty of time to get things in sync.
Making a List, Checking it Twice
I know, I know, it’s not time for Santa just yet, but lists are super important. While you may still be browsing Pinterest in search of a new amazing dish, decide on your basic menu staples now and get your menu down on paper. Next, find all of your recipes and refresh your recollection on the time and ingredients that go into each dish, and create a full written list of ingredients (including exactly how much to buy of each item).
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Yes, this year Thanksgiving may be at your house, but that doesn’t mean that you have to do every single thing. Ask your guests to bring along dishes, drinks, napkins, you name it. Thanksgiving day is all about friends, family, and coming together. Asking for help makes things a little bit easier, and it is a good feeling for your guests to be a part of putting the meal together. Plus, it’s a fun way to try some new dishes you may not have had before. (On a side note, my friend Lisa needs to come clean with her dinner roll recipe that she won’t share – I’m still obsessed with them a year later!)
Go shopping DAYS in advance. The grocery store becomes a madhouse as Thanksgiving Day approaches – stores run out of certain ingredients and foods, the checkout lines get longer, and fellow shoppers are grumpy. Avoid the frustration and go shopping early. Buy yourself the sanity of knowing you have what you need, and if one store doesn’t have it, you have plenty of time to find it somewhere else.
Prep in Advance
Make a game day plan early in the week. Evaluate your prep and cooking time for each dish to determine when you have to start cooking each item. Calculate how long it should take the turkey to cook, and what makes sense to start first. Also, don’t wait until Thanksgiving day to begin preparing your meal. Look through your recipes and figure out what you can start making on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. There are lots of dishes that you can start making in advance. I make my pie crust in days ahead of time and freeze it. I also think the sugars in my cranberry relish are even more delicious after it’s had a chance to marinate for a day or two (click here for the recipe).
Keep Decorations Simple
You may be Martha Stewart 2.0. If table decor, elaborate centerpieces and beautifully monogrammed name cards are your thing, go for it! If that’s not, don’t be a prisoner to the perfection of Pinterest. Sit out your tableware the night before to help get organized. If you want decorations pick up a bouquet or two of flowers. Family, friends, and food should be the show stoppers anyway.
Embrace the Imperfect
Mistakes are OK. Your dog may knock the bowl of mashed potatos off the table only to shatter on the on the floor. You may have a moment or two where you lose your cool. Life isn’t perfect, and Thanksgiving Day won’t be perfect either. In the grand scheme of things, if your football team loses, the turkey gets burnt and your uncle sets your tablecloth of fire for 5 seconds, worse things have happened. These crazy things will make for great stories long after folks have forgotten how your pumpkin pie tasted. In the event of CDF (catastrophic dinner failure), simply open some wine, order pizza, and turn on Christmas Vacation and be grateful that Cousin Eddie isn’t parked in front of your house emptying his toilet. (Unless you have a Cousin Eddie who is parked in front of your house emptying his toilet, in which case, open a second bottle of wine, quickly.)
I’ve included a link to my cranberry relish recipe here.