Does planning the holidays feel stressful or overwhelming? Check these10 ways to make thanksgiving easy, and help you start the holiday season off on the right foot!
As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. This post may contain affiliate links. For more information see my full disclosure here.
Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year. It’s full of family, gratefulness, and good homemade food. It’s a holiday I love to celebrate thanksgiving and it always reminds me how much I have to be thankful for.
And while it might be one of my favorite times of the year. And I love all the cooking and the time I get to spend with my family. Thanksgiving as with most holidays seems to be one of the most stressful times of the year.
Not only is our thanksgiving, well thanksgiving, but it is also our family reunion. Which means more cooking, and more things to get done. With cooking from scratch, preparing a house for guests, and million and one odds and ends that need to be done. It’s a wonder we manage to pull it off. But somehow we always do.
Which got me thinking, how do we manage to pull this off? And what are some of the ways I can share with others? So I deiced to jot down all the tips and tricks we use in my house to help get everything done and thanksgiving dinner on the table. I can’t promise these tips will actually make your thanksgiving preparations a breeze. But they do help to reduce stress and help everything run a little smoother.
1. Go Shopping Ahead of Time
Every year I’m surprised by the number of people, who don’t go shopping till the week before or even the week of thanksgiving. Sure most of us know to buy a turkey ahead of time, but usually, that’s it. Leaving us trying to find ingredients for the same dishes that everyone else is cooking, with little to no time to think of something else if we can’t find them.
Needless to say, I’m not very fond of this, and neither was my mum. Over the years we worked on compiling a master thanksgiving shopping list. One that lists everything we needed to buy, and breaks down everything into categories, frozen, dried, fresh, etc. This makes it super easy to figure out what foods can be purchased ahead of time.
Once November hits we start buying items off the list while doing our usual weekly shopping. Things like canned green beans, flour, sugar, and more can all be bought ahead of time without any risk of them spoiling. Drinks like juice and coffee can also be purchased ahead of time. Even butter and cream cheese can be bought ahead of time and frozen.
Knowing that we only have to drop by the store and pick up a few fresh items, like onions, and Brussels sprouts, the week before Thanksgiving, makes things a lot less stressful. Shopping ahead of time also means we never have to worry about the shops being sold out of anything. And if they are we have plenty of time to find what we need somewhere else. It’s also a lot easier to buy things a little at a time rather than trying to do a huge shopping trip.
My mum was definitely ahead of the game with this one. She must have realized early on that if thanksgiving was going to double as our family reunion. Then there would be a lot of cooking to be done, way more cooking than one person could possibly handle by themselves.
So she decided to assign each of us a part of the thanksgiving menu that we are in charge of making each year. We each have a dish that we are in charge of making/bringing to dinner. My older brother makes pumpkin pie, my sister makes green bean casserole, I make cranberry bread, etc.
Not only did this help to reduce the stress of cooking and make sure that everything would be done on time. But it is also a great way to make everyone feel included in the holiday. Since eating is almost the most important part of thanksgiving, you feel special knowing that you helped put the meal on the table.
Whether it’s family, friends, or anyone else you might have come over this year. Don’t be afraid to ask them to make and bring one of the many side dishes. Most people are usually more than happy to help. And you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
3. Don’t Forget the Turkey
One would think since turkey is the centerpiece of this huge lovely meal, it wouldn’t be so easily forgotten. But I’m sure, you, me, and everyone would also agree that that isn’t always the case.
Firstly, don’t forget to take your turkey out of the freezer. Make you know how much your turkey weighs and roughly how long it should take to thaw. Most people will have to take their turkeys out of the freezer Monday or Tuesday. If you have a really large bird you may even want to take it out Sunday night. But whatever you do, make sure you take it with plenty of time for it to thaw.
Secondly, figure out ahead of time how long your turkey should take to cook and when you need to start it for it to be done in time for dinner. Another thing to keep in mind is that the turkey will need to rest for a few minutes before serving and you will likely have other dishes that will need the oven. In other words, You don’t want to be pulling your turkey out of the oven right at dinner time.
Thirdly. It is better to start the turkey early, rather than late. Since other items will likely need the oven, you want to allow yourself time for any unseen events. I know no one wants to get out of bed at 4 am on a holiday, but if that’s what needs to be done then I say do it.
After all, you can always go back to bed for a bit. Plus being a little tired is still better than having an undercooked turkey!
4. Don’t Cook On Thanksgiving
I’m not 100% how many people cook on thanksgiving day(aside from the turkey, and mashed potatoes, of course.) or if it’s just something they do on TV.
I know I’ve never cooked a whole thanksgiving meal on thanksgiving. And personally, I wouldn’t want to even if it is possible. Besides if you want to be eating at a reasonable time, it’s probably better to do most of the cooking ahead of time.
There are plenty of dishes that can be made or prepped ahead of time. Things like pies, bars, breads, and rolls can all be cooked beforehand. Green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and more can all be prepared the day before Thanksgiving.
We do a ton of cooking and prepping the day before Thanksgiving. This gives us more time to relax and enjoy time with our family on thanksgiving. Knowing that the most we have to do is heat up a few things, and make the stuffing makes the day a lot less stressful.
5. Make Breakfast The Day Before
And speaking of prepping food ahead of time, let’s not forget about breakfast. On a day dedicated to dinner, not many of us are spending much time thinking about breakfast.
But let’s face it, no matter how early you plan to eat dinner, breakfast will have to be eaten. Especially if you have young children.
My mum makes homemade cinnamon rolls for thanksgiving breakfast each year. And though I wouldn’t trade them for the world, I can understand that even if you make them the day before cinnamon rolls likely not are a very reasonable option for most people.
If you are looking for quick and simple breakfast things like cereal, and fruit with hard-boiled and instant oatmeal are all great options.
But if you would like to make something a little more special. There are plenty of great make-ahead options, yogurt cups, smoothies, muffins, and bread. Also, things like egg bakes, bread puddings, pancakes, french toast, and muffins, are also great. (follow the links to find some great breakfast recipes!) They can be reheated in little to no time, everyone will be happy and fed. And you’ll have one less thing to worry about on Thanksgiving!
6. Stay up late, a clean kitchen is worth it
I’m sure this is something we all already know, but it’s also probably something we wish we didn’t. After a long day of cooking, cleaning, and other holiday preparations. Let’s face it. the last thing anyone wants to do is stay up even later and make sure that the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean.
Personally, I’m exhausted come Wednesday night, and there are always a million excuses in my head for why I don’t need to stay up and help clean the kitchen. After all, there really aren’t that many dishes, we have to pick the house tomorrow anyway. Plus we have to get up early to put the turkey in the oven, so we might as well do the dishes then, right?
I’m sure you can relate to these and many other excuses for not cleaning up the kitchen after a long day of cooking. But it really is important, waking up to a clean kitchen and washed dishes, seems to get the day off on the right foot.
Staying up a little later to make sure it gets done means you’ll have one less thing to worry about tomorrow. Plus your future will always thank you!
7. Have A Food Schedule
I get this might sound a little strange, and I’m not saying you need to have everything you are planning to make scheduled down to the minute. I am saying that knowing exactly what needs to be cooked on thanksgiving day and for how long, is a great way to reduce stress and ensure nothing is forgotten about.
This can be done as simply or as detailed as you like. I would say for starters jot down everything that will need to be cooked, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. And everything that will be needed to reheat, sweet potato casserole, creamed vegetables, etc. Write down roughly how long each item will take.
For example, let’s say I know that our turkey will be done at noon. So I know the items that need to be reheated will go in the oven at noon. And I’ll probably wait 15-30 min before I make the mashed potatoes and stuffing. This way everything will be hot and ready at the same time.
Writing a schedule or to-list for what cooking needs to be done. Simply helps you keep track of everything, and when it needs to be done. This is extra helpful if more than one person is cooking, everyone will know what needs to be done and when without having to ask you.
8. Delegate, again
I wasn’t sure whether to include this tip or not, since it isn’t really cooking-related. But I decided it was just too good of a tip to not share!
Delegating is great when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner. But it shouldn’t stop there. Whether it’s picking up the house one last time, preparing guest bedrooms, setting out hors d’oeuvres, or setting the table for dinner. There always seem to be a million little things that need to get done, and way more than one or two people should be doing by themselves.
In my house, the last-minute and final preparations are divided among all of us that are there. Some of us finish cooking, some tidy the house, and so on and so forth.
This not only helps get everyone done and ready on time. But it also reduces stress and makes sure that everyone has something to do.
This is also a great way to include your kids in the holiday. Kids love to do simple jobs like putting olives and pickles out in dishes, setting butter on the table, and putting dinner rolls into baskets.
Whether you have a large family or it’s just you and your spouse this holiday season. Dividing up the tasks that need to be done, is a great way to ensure that the holiday runs smoother and no one gets overwhelmed.
9. Have a do-to list
To go along with what I was saying above. Making sure that everything gets done, and everyone knows what needs to be done, is probably the best way to make any holiday less stressful. And what better way to do that than to have a to-do list?
We make a master to-do for November. After all, we aren’t just getting things ready for thanksgiving, but making sure that the house is clean and ready to enjoy the full holiday season. Our to-do list starts pretty vague with things like clean the house, fix the faucet, go shopping. And because more detailed, as we get closer to Thanksgiving. The week leading up to it has certain things assigned to each day, Monday we clean the house, Tuesday we decorate, Wednesday we cook.
For Wednesday we list everything that needs to do, including what dishes need to be prepared, and who is in charge of doing what.
You can feel free to write and organize your to-do list to best suit your needs. But no matter how you do it, I would highly recommend having one.
Just like with the cooking, it helps you keep track of everything. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page, and knows what needs to be done and when. Which in turn makes your thanksgiving run a lot smoother and makes it a lot less stressful.
10. Don’t forget about crockpots(Instant pots, nesco, etc)
If you’re anything like me. Meaning you have to figure out every year how to make a whole thanksgiving dinner for over 10 people with one oven, and four stove lids, and your only prep table is also the table you’re serving dinner at. Then you understand the importance of finding ways to save space and get everything cooked and ready on time.
All three of these options are great ways to save space and ensure that everything can be cooked and hot at the same time. It might be a very simple tip but it is an awesome one nonetheless.