7 Simple Steps to Planning a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Often times we’ll find ourselves up before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, rushing around to knock items off a mile long to-do list, with company coming in 5 hours and a turkey that’s still half-frozen. Sound familiar? It’s no secret that Thanksgiving can be a great big hassle, full of unnecessary stress and less-than-stellar moods for all those hosting. It’s a shame, because in those instances, the true meaning of the day gets lost and you can’t savor that special time with your loved ones.

To help ease the stress and make this day a bit more manageable, we’ve created a list of 7 simple planning steps to do ahead of time. That way, when your guests arrive, you can pull up a seat right along with them, and enjoy a day full of relaxation and the company of those most important to you.

  1. When the first thoughts of Thanksgiving begin to cross your mind, start picking your recipes. Make a binder full of torn-out magazine pages, or create a file on your computer so that all of your recipe inspiration is in one easy to access location. Mark your favorites so you can find them when it comes time to narrow down your final menu.
  2. One to two weeks ahead of time, make your final guest list, so you know how many mouths you’re going to be feeding. Once you have that list, you’ll be able to make a more accurate shopping list including all of the necessary ingredients for each of your dishes. This is also a great time to delegate specific dishes to family and friends, if you’re having a pot luck style gathering!
  3. Consider your table setting, and any interior and exterior decorations you’d like to have. Getting dinnerware, flatware, and glassware picked out early on leaves you ample time to procure any table dressing and/or decorative items you may be missing.
  4. A few days before Thanksgiving, shop for all of your ingredients, and clear out your fridge so that you’ve got space to put your turkey and assorted side dishes. This is also a good time to take out your frozen turkey, if you're preparing one. On average, you should plan for 5 hours of thawing time per pound of meat. For example, a 15 pound turkey will need 75 hours in the refrigerator - so plan accordingly!
  5. Prepare a cooking schedule, so you know what dishes will be made at what time, taking special care to note how much time they’ll each need in the oven. Keep in mind, your turkey will hang out in the oven for several hours on Thanksgiving day, so it’s important to plan your appetizers and side dishes accordingly. Many dishes can be made ahead of time, including stuffing and appetizers, so you may choose to find make-ahead suitable recipes.
  6. Prepare your house for guests, and set your dinner table the evening before. That will give you some precious extra minutes on Thanksgiving day, and will also ensure your house is looking fit for guests long before they arrive. You can also set out baking dishes and utensils the night before, so you aren’t frantically looking for them when you actually need them to assemble your meal.
  7. Set our simple appetizers and beverages about a half-hour ahead of when you expect guests to arrive, so when your first guests show up and you’re still finishing up the meal, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy.

And finally, when all is said and done, pour yourself a nice big mug full of mulled cider or a glass of wine, and enjoy the day right along with everyone else. You earned it!