Just thinking about hosting Thanksgiving dinner (for the first time, none the less) makes me want a glass of wine while typing this! I have looked back on past holidays thinking about what worked and what didn’t to help me come up with some tips for you and let’s be honest here mostly for my sanity. So, I figured I’d share this with anyone else out there that’s going to host a family gathering of any size really this holiday season. Holidays can already be stressful enough with work, shopping for gifts, any traveling, then adding in hosting for a large group. EH! Lists for me are my best friends any time of the year, but I will be relying heavily on them for this gathering. I can have 5 lists at one time for anything throughout the year. I actually use the Cozi app on my phone for all of my lists and have been for years now that I think of it. I absolutely love it this app and no I’m not being paid to say this! If you log onto their Story and Mission page here, one of the first things it says in bold print is “We know every family is different, but we all have on thing in common: we’re crazy-busy.” and WE ARE! My husband and I don’t have kids yet but man, you guys life is crazy busy all the time! We have our work schedules, traveling, I now have my blog, we have nights out with friends, events, family dinners. Having the option to have everything in one place, they truly stand by their motto “Family Life. Simplified.” Do yourself a favor and download it, especially for this holiday season, you’ll thank me later! Now let’s get back into some of my must do tips for hosting a holiday gathering with as little stress as possible!
#1 – HAVE YOUR LISTS READY!
I can make a list for anything! As you see the picture to the left, that is just a few of my current lists you see from a recent screen shot on my phone. Like I said earlier, I can have minimum 5 list going at any time on my Cozi app, which I can share with my husband so I can remind him to pick up things for me when I need him to! He just really loves that feature (he’ll be rolling his eyes when he reads this, for sure!) Make lists to help make your life easier. You definitely want to make two separate lists for your grocery trips for Thanksgiving, one for what dishes you’ll be making and people might be bringing (this list will also help to know if you need additional platters or serving bowls for all the food you’ll have), you could even have one for your timeline if you want to be that detailed for the big day!
#2 – SEND OUT INVITES AND REMIND PEOPLE CLOSER TO THE BIG DAY
Make sure to send out your invites in advance. You might think you know who is coming but if you send out an invite using Punchbowl like I am, you can send it to them via their cell phone number and they receive it as a text or you can send it via their email address. They can respond, put in the potluck category if they want to bring anything or you can even assign people what they can bring (if you’ve already talked to them about it or know they always make that one thing each year). Not only can you see it, but so can all your guest. It will also ensure no one brings the same dish and no ones feelings get hurt if people only eat one of the dishes instead of the other. You can stay up to date with responses, it has a To-do Items list for each guest once they RSVP, (in my case) it will show the potluck page where they can type in what they want to bring or see what anyone else is bringing, send you a private note or view the message board option on there. These are just a few of the options you can turn on or off when creating the invites.
#3 – MAKE A PLAYLIST FOR BACKGROUND MUSIC
There is nothing I love more than having the fireplace place going (real or on your tv with the fireplace station thats on Netflix or most cable providers) and some good music in the background, while everyone is chatting away and sipping their drinks. I pay for Apple Music monthly, but others use Spotify or Pandora that also have the monthly subscriptions or free options to create your own stations, most of them now have even have playlists for the holidays that you can use if you don’t want to create your own. Make sure the music is tasteful, not too loud and everyone will enjoy it. You can leave it on from start to finish in one room while the Thanksgiving Day football game is going on in the other room!
#4 – DON’T DO IT ALL YOURSELF
It’s just that simple. Ask people to bring certain items if you know they make something every year for that holiday or if there is something they’ve made in the past and you loved it, ASK THEM TO HELP! Everyone is usually willing to pitch in since you’re hosting, they know you feel like you have a million things to do. This is something I have a hard time with hands down! I’ve talked to my girlfriends about this before because I know I can do it all but then how crazy is it going to make you and stress you out! It’s really not worth it, you want to enjoy this day. As I mentioned earlier, if you use the Punchbowl app for sending invites the guests can go right in the potluck section that you turn on when creating the event and put in and item they want to bring all on their own. If you have people in your family that aren’t so tech savy, just ask them and you can enter it in there for them so that all your guests know not to bring that same dish. Easy, peasy! Also, remember … ICE! It’s always needed at a party, so make sure you have plenty of it. Also, if you know there is someone that’s always late don’t ask them to bring an appetizer, it’s okay if your going to show up later but don’t bring an app when your about to sit down for dinner. Have them bring a dessert or a bottle of wine instead!
#5 – HAVE TWO DAYS IN MIND FOR GROCERY SHOPPING
Do not, I REPEAT- DO NOT do all your shopping in one day and please don’t do it all the day before Thanksgiving. Everyone will be at the grocery store the day before and it’s a madhouse! To make it less stressful on yourself do the first round of shopping a week before hand. You can get any non parish-able items at that time that won’t go bad within the week and can be easily stored or even left out so you know they are all together for easy access when your prepping. The second and hopefully the only other time you need to go shopping should be 2-3 days before Thanksgiving. Get all your fresh items to store and prep starting that night if you can. Make sure you have your list on you and you update it after your first shopping trip in case you forgot something or want to add something else on.
#6 – THAW YOUR TURKEY, IF IT’S FROZEN
Just like it says above, don’t forget about the main course! If you have a frozen turkey and depending on the size, it can take anywhere from 3-6 days to ensure its defrosted and ready to cook for Thanksgiving. It can really put a damper on things if it’s still a little frozen and you need to add cooking time to it and risk the chance of it not tasting its best aka getting dried out! You do not want to be like the Griswold family and have a turkey deflate as soon as you cut into it which is my worst nightmare hahah! When you go to cook it, make sure you know how long your particular turkey needs to cook for whether it’s stuffed and unstuffed and the size of it. Mine will probably be around a 20-25lb turkey, stuffed which will take 4-5 hours at 325°. Do not trust that little red stick to pop out either. Make sure you have a thermometer to check the thickest parts of the turkey (inside the thigh and the thickest part of the turkey breast) to get accurate readings.
#7 – CLEAN AND ORGANIZE BEFOREHAND
No one is telling you to deep clean your house and scrub every baseboard in it, but you want to ensure the floors are swept and washed. Any clutter should be put away in a closet where you can organize it at a later date and your items you might use for Thanksgiving are all in one spot. If you are having overnight guests, then make sure the guest room is freshened up a few days before they get in. Put clean sheets on, make sure you have towels for them for the next morning to use when they get ready for the day. Ensure the room isn’t messy and everything is put away in closets or drawers. If you have small toiletry items, you can have them in a little basket in the guest room for them to use in case they forgot anything. Friendly tip, don’t leave this for Thanksgiving morning either!
#8 – MAKE THINGS AHEAD OF TIME AND SET UP
Making things a few days or so ahead of time as you can will help you out the day of. No one wants to make every single dish the day of and not enjoy your own party, right? I guess unless you don’t like your family that’s coming over, you might want to stay busy in the kitchen but that just sounds like you shouldn’t have guests over then! I love to cook, but I also love to enjoy time with my family. This list is all about making things as easy as possible on yourself and have as little stress as possible for the big day. If you have to chop up some veggies, make your cranberry sauce and gravy after work one night just do it while your cooking dinner a few nights before. Most of the veggies I will use for Thanksgiving I use on a weekly basis, so I can just prep everything at once to make it easier on myself. The day before you can set up all of your tables and chairs, make sure the table clothes are on them with silverware and dinnerware placed on each of the tables with any decor you might want to use.
#9 – IF KIDS ARE IN ATTENDANCE, HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM DO
There are tons of printable coloring pages on Pinterest or Google if you search for them. Print out a handful of them to color, have some crayons and set up a kids table for them to be at or a space on the floor where they can color or play. You can bring out any board games you might have if they are age appropriate or set them up in a room with a tv if there is a show they like to watch. I can almost ensure the kids will be playing on their iPads half the time here at my house on Thanksgiving, but having something else for them to do and interact with each other is always a good option to have.
#10 – SHOWER, HAVE A GLASS OF WINE & ENJOY
Last, but most certainly not least. Make sure you, the host/hostess are ready to go for when your guest either decide to arrive early or start showing up at the time announced on your invite. Pour a glass of wine, because you have done everything and your ready to enjoy the day with the family that you’re thankful for! You have most definitely earned it. I wish you a holiday full of happiness, fun times with your family and as little stress as possible.
I’m including a free printable prep list I made for you all to make your life just a little easier! Just click on the image below and leave me a comment if you are planning on using it and it helps in your holiday prep.