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Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time or for the 50th can be stressful. Follow these 5 steps to make Hosting Thanksgiving stress free. Entertaining for Thanksgiving is one of my favorite things to do. The people you love, gathered around a Thanksgiving table breaking bread together is like the penultimate dinner party. I’ve put together How to Host a Stress Free Thanksgiving in 5 Steps.
Step 1: Know your guest list & decide on your theme
Invite all of your guests 4 weeks ahead of time and ask for an RSVP within a week. You need to have this information to plan accordingly. Here’s a hint – people will always want to bring something for Thanksgiving. Use this list to help you decide what is best for them to contribute.
Do you want a bright, festive look with reds and oranges? Are you looking to accent your home decor and want to use those colors with only pops of “fancier” items like a candle that has been decorated with glitter, or antique glass votives? Deciding the look that you’re going for will help guide the rest of your choices for the table. Do you want playful? Classic and elegant? Traditional?
Step 2: Gather what you have on hand for setting your table
Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you have to break the bank and buy all new everything. Clear off your table and start to place different pieces you love together. If that means grandma’s China – great. Some pretty pieces from your bridal shower, wonderful. If it’s dollar store plates that are super quirky and fun, awesome! The point is to put together what you love. I have gone so many different ways with this, and it all comes together every year. Here’s a tip: don’t get tricked into thinking that there’s a right way to do it. The right way is the way that puts a smile on your face.
Let’s talk about the table above. How simple is this table? And how beautiful? They simply used placemats in a neutral color, white plates, white candles (I have a steadfast rule about never using scented candles on a table with food), and greenery. The simple elegance of this table setting is beautiful.
Neutrals can be really beautiful.
The table above is a little bit more formal, but let me tell you how I did it. I used an inexpensive burlap runner, Dollar Store chargers I picked up years ago, and Thanksgiving serving pieces that I collected over the years. I used my everyday white plates that were set near the buffet. In the middle – I left an open vase, because I knew one special guest always brought me flowers, no matter the holiday. If he hadn’t brought flowers this year I was ready to replace the vase with small pumpkins I picked up at the grocery store. So very easy.
Setting that table….
Regardless of how you decide to set your table – do so officially the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. There is no reason that task should be left until the day of. Place post-it notes on each platter that will be filled the day of (rolls, for example) with what will go in each piece. This also helps you to make sure you aren’t missing anything before the big day. This is key to hosting a stress free Thanksgiving.
Planning your menu is a big part of planning a stress free Thanksgiving!
Step 3: Plan your menu
This step may seem silly. Of course you already know what you’re going to serve! However; this is a big holiday with lots of prep involved. Every year I write down exactly what I will be serving, and what I need for each dish. Sometimes, it depends on who is invited. Are there any food allergies or sensitivities you need to be aware of? Is there a dish you’d like to give a try that you haven’t made before? The day before Thanksgiving day is not the time to try it. Here’s what my menu looks like (I base everything on 6 people and adjust based on the number of guests I plan on having).
- Herb Roasted Turkey – 14 pound turkey (I’ve been known to go up to a 22 pound turkey even for 6 guests because I always make turkey soup the following weekend. Also, guests will love a bit of Thanksgiving leftovers as much as you!
What’s your favorite mashed potato recipe? Mine is right below!
- Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes. I make these every year and use the Yukon Gold Potatoes. My guests ALWAYS rave about this recipe, so I see absolutely no reason to change it. (see recipe)
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce – 1 bag of fresh cranberries (follow the recipe here)
- Mashed sweet potatoes – 6 sweet potatoes. I use the recipe on Delish. You can find it here.
- Dinner Rolls – 1 bag Pepperidge Farm Artisan Rolls (freezer)
- Roasted Carrots – 1 bag of multi-color carrots
Do you have traditional recipes you want to include? What are they?
- Roasted Beets & Brussels Sprouts –(see recipe here)
- Herbed Dressing – Pepperidge Farm stuffing cubes (I use the recipe on the back of the package, but I add a bit more turkey stock and add sausage).
- Thanksgiving Desserts – I usually pick three. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and a then a dessert that’s a bit more unexpected.
There are times that I add a dish because I’ve been experimenting ahead of time and know that it would compliment my meal, but generally, this is what I stick with.
Don’t forget the drinks! Pick up all of your alcohol the weekend prior. I always choose a red wine, a white wine, and a drink with a little more sass. You can get ideas for what you’d like to serve in this post on Thanksgiving Cocktails!
Step 4: Shop ahead of time & start preparing what can be made ahead
There are several dishes that you can make ahead on the weekend and have ready to go for turkey day. Here’s a list of dishes you can make the weekend before Thanksgiving:
- Pick up a turkey leg and some turkey stock and you don’t have to wait for the day of to make your gravy (if you’re choosing to go homemade). Freeze the gravy, use the turkey leg meat for a sandwich.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cook the sweet potatoes and whip them up. Put them into the dish you plan to serve them in and freeze. Top them with some freshly grated cinnamon the day of and bake off.
- You can prepare the stuffing all the way to the step before baking ahead of time. When you’ve got it all together in the dish you’re going to bake it in, simply cover and freeze. You’ll bake the stuffing the day of.
I’m getting hungry.
- Cranberry Sauce
- Make the cranberry sauce the weekend before, thaw in the fridge the night before and bake it and then simply nuke the dish for 30 seconds before serving.
- Roasted Carrots
- Roast your carrots ahead of time. Freeze. Defrost in the fridge the night before and warm up quickly in a skillet on the stovetop before serving.
I make my mashed potatoes two days in advance, but I don’t freeze them. I like them out of the fridge. Take the potatoes out an hour before the turkey is done to get to room temperature and then put into the oven when the turkey comes out. Another option is to put them into the slow cooker on low in the morning. Both options work out really well.
Step 5: Let guests help with cleanup
You don’t need to do this on your own, and your guests won’t want you to. Many hands make light work. Have storage and to-go containers on-hand. I always try to find cute, Thanksgiving containers for people to take leftovers home with. Here are some examples:
You’ll be happy you did this, because as your guests are helping to get everything cleaned up, you can set out your desserts!
So now you know how to host a stress free Thanksgiving in 5 steps! It’s easy. It’s a wonderful time to realize how very blessed you are with the people who join you around the table, and there isn’t any reason to worry about how you’ll get Thanksgiving dinner on the table!