Hosting Thanksgiving is exciting for some, and stressful for others. I’ve found that the key to keeping it low-stress (regardless of the size of the gathering or how many dishes you’re preparing), is having a plan! Doing the things that can be done ahead of time prior to Thanksgiving day will go a long way towards lightening the load! Here are my 5 tips to help you dominate Thanksgiving dinner!
Tip 1 – Decide What Kind of Gathering You’ll Host
– Size: Small and intimate or large and feisty?
– How Formal: Will you be eating on paper plates or the special China?
– Who’s Cooking: Is it a pot-luck or are you preparing the whole meal?
Asking yourself these questions weeks in advance will help you adequately plan for the day. It will determine if you need more seating, plates, if you need to design a tablescape, and how many dishes you need to prepare.
Tip 2 – Decide on Your Menu 1 to 2 Weeks Out
Specifically here, what you plan to make. Go ahead and print off your recipes and start your grocery list. Make sure you have the kitchen tools you need: enough casserole dishes, roasting pan, a meat thermometer, plenty of measuring spoons and cups, etc.
I’m from the south, so my menu is pretty large regardless of my number of guests. My favorite recipes can be found HERE. Below is my typical lineup, however sane and rational people can have a lovely Thanksgiving meal with just a few side dishes (I am clearly not sane or rational!!)
Sample Southern Menu:
Roasted Turkey and Gravy
4 – 5 Casseroles (broccoli, green bean, squash, sweet potatoes, corn, creamed spinach, cauliflower, etc.)
Macaroni and Cheese
Pies (pumpkin, pecan, buttermilk or cherry)
Tip 3 – Buy Your Turkey a Week in Advance
There’s nothing worse than doing your Thanksgiving grocery trip a day or two in advance only to realize the store only has frozen turkeys. This may or may not have happened to me before – ha! Turkeys take a very long time to defrost, so buy it early and rid yourself the stress!
Tip 4 – Create a Food Prep Schedule
No matter how many dishes you’re preparing, it can be helpful to make a schedule for what you’re cooking and when. Here’s my tried and true formula for the week of Thanksgiving:
– Monday: Grocery shop (for everything but the turkey – you already got that!)
– Tuesday: Make the desserts, chop the onions
– Wednesday: Assemble the casseroles (do not bake them though!), peel and cut the potatoes (keep them in water)
– Thanksgiving Day: Roast the turkey, bake the casseroles, make the gravy, cook and mash the potatoes, make the mac and cheese (in the crockpot or InstantPot), bake the rolls
Tip 5 – Plan Out Your Oven Usage
If you only have one oven, it is super important to plan out when you will bake each of your items. Having done your desserts ahead of time, they shouldn’t be in the way! I suggest roasting your turkey first! It’s likely to take 4 hours (cooking times depend on the size of the bird and whether or not it’s stuffed), so what time you want to eat will determine how early you need to start the roasting! Next, I bake my casseroles. You can bake a lot of casseroles at one time (I typically bake 4 at a time). This will increase the cooking time, but they will all be hot and ready to serve at the same time. I would not double bake with your turkey. Lastly, bake your rolls.
If you are unable to bake all of your casseroles together, place the fresh-out-of-the-oven casseroles IN A COOLER until ready to serve. Turns out, a cooler doesn’t just keep things cold, it also keeps them hot!
Sample baking schedule:
8am – Start roasting turkey
12pm – Turkey done, start your casseroles
1:15/1:30 – Casseroles done (place in cooler), start your rolls
1:45 – Rolls done
2pm – Time to eat!
Wishing you all a delicious and stress-free Thanksgiving!