Does Thanksgiving excite or overwhelm you? If you’re like most of us, perhaps a little bit of both. I often joke that Friday night dinners at my house, when we celebrate the Sabbath, are basically weekly Thanksgiving feasts. Some meals and days are more challenging than others, but over the years I’ve come up with a formula for success that doesn’t stress me out.
Here are my secrets for hosting an extravagant meal (any time of the year) and not having to be in the kitchen all day. It’s possible to pull off a successful and stress-free Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the process (mostly). Read on to get my secrets for planning your best Thanksgiving ever.
1. Plan a Smart Menu
Plan your menu around your life; don’t plan your life around your menu. Think of how much time you have and what ingredients are accessible in your pantry. Grocery shop and make sure you balance more time-consuming dishes (like the turkey) with easier things, like sautéed green beans and salads.
2. Cook and Freeze Things Ahead of Time
Consider making your dessert in advance and freezing it. You can also make salad dressings a few days before the big day, and chop your veggies the day before! Sweet potato dishes and casseroles freeze nicely – get creative with doing as much as you can as early as you can.
3. Set Your Table the Night Before
Set your table at night when you have downtime. Lay out serving dishes for each dish and if you’re planning a big feast, label each bowl with what’s going in it (in case you’re like me and you forget things)! If you’re serving buffet style, arrange your table early with any decorations or food labels you might be using.
4. Brine Your Turkey
I never used to brine my turkey and once I started to it changed everything. There’s no better investment in your bird than marinating it for two days and infusing the meat with flavor. It’s actually not a big deal. Get some turkey bags and make your own brine – try my mom’s recipe here!
5. Carve Time in Your Schedule for a Workout
We just eat too much on Thanksgiving! Since you’ve done a good job cooking and planning ahead, you surely have time to squeeze in a workout. Think you still have no time? Schedule your workout or yoga class into your calendar as you would any regular meeting and commit to it. Your body will thank you later.
6. Set The Mood
Create a playlist of mood appropriate songs in advance, light candles, set out flowers, and get your house ready to greet your guests. If you don’t entertain a lot it can be daunting to have friends in our personal space. Get over it, though, because people are just happy to come over for a home cooked meal. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to feel special!
7. Plan Your Seating
I always find it stressful when I have a full house and haven’t thought about where everyone is going to sit – it can sometimes get awkward. Get creative with place cards for each guest. Personalizing their seat makes them feel welcome and at ease. Check out my Pinterest board for some placard and table setting ideas.
8. Invite Your Girlfriends Over Early to Help
Open a bottle of wine, pour yourselves a drink, and do last minute chopping, prepping, and chatting. Plus, after a glass of wine with friends, you’ll be far less stressed out when your guests arrive!
9. Don’t Stress the Little Things
Remember – almost nothing goes according to plan. So stay flexible!