Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It celebrates tradition, family togetherness and good food! It gives the cooks in a family the chance to pull out some of their favorite old and new recipes. But Thanksgiving can also be a very stressful time. There's a lot of work associated with pulling off this feast, and with pulling together distant family and friends.
That's why I've prepared this list of strategies you can follow to reduce the potential stress you may run into as you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast. Let's bring back the celebration and lose the tension from this great American tradition.
Make a Plan
All great feasts begin with a great plan. Let it cover everything including:
- the guest list
- the menu
- when you will decorate
- when you will shop for supplies
- when you will cook
- when you will clean
Make this year's meal an assigned potluck.
Thanksgiving, by it's family nature, is often a pot luck affair. Be more forthcoming about what you'd like each guest to contribute in order to ease your own work. And by keeping track of everyone's intended contributions to the meal, you'll avoid serving three gelatin molds.
Give recipes a trial run.
If you plan to cook a new recipe, give it a test run a week or two before Thanksgiving so that you have time to prepare an alternative if it doesn't work out.
Don't leave seat assignments to chance if you have family members who always argue and cause indigestion for the rest of your guests. Seat them as far apart as possible and next to other guests who will keep them too busily engaged in conversation to think about their nemesis on the other end of the table.
Prioritize your cleaning.
Clean the clutter before everything else, and clean your kids' rooms last, if at all. Your aim is to clear and clean the areas that are most likely to be used by your guests, not every little corner of your home. There will be enough time for that in January.
Better than that, hire a cleaning service...
Ideally, both before and after your Thanksgiving feast, hire a cleaning service to take care of your home, so you can focus more on taking care of your family and guests.
Use disposable pans.
Especially for the turkey, you'll want to use a disposable pan. Turkey drippings make for very greasy pans. Better to toss it away, then to soak and scrub. But make sure you avoid any accidents by placing a large pan or cookie sheet under your fully loaded disposable pan for safe carrying.
Set your table the day before.
However, cover it with a clean table cloth if you have pets that are likely to walk on it.
Cook as far ahead as possible.
Don't save everything for Thanksgiving Day. Unless you have a commercial kitchen, it's likely your dishes would have to be cooked in stages and reheated anyway. So a week before the big day, review all of your recipes and decide which can be prepared in advance and reheated without losing flavor or texture.
Choose a few throw-away recipes.
By throw away, I don't mean food that will be tossed away. What you need is a few recipes saved for preparing at the end, that if they don't get cooked because of time constraints, nobody will even notice.
Plan desserts that can be made well in advance.
Save souffles for another dinner. There are plenty of pies, cakes and puddings that can be made days in advance, saving you time on Thanksgiving for all of your other work.
Pull out your serving pieces as soon as possible.
Along with your serving pieces, pull out your linens, tableware, glasses, flatware and other special holiday items for your table. As long as you won't need your dining room table before Thanksgiving, lay everything out there so you can assess your needs for this year and whether you'll need to buy or borrow more dishes, glasses, linens etc. You'll also see whether anything needs special polishing or ironing before the day.