5 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Preparation Less Stressful

Thanksgiving Prep 1

While everyone thinks the "big game" on the last Thursday in November is related to football, it actually refers to Thanksgiving dinner. If you happen to be hosting — aka cooking — then you're the star quarterback. The success of the day lands squarely on your shoulders.

But, hey, you've got this — and we'll share a few tips and tricks from the ol' playbook to ensure there are no meltdowns or blow-ups. Consider this your locker-room pep talk for how to make Thanksgiving preparation less stressful.

Making Thanksgiving Prep Less Stressful

1. Start Planning At Least Two Weeks in Advance

If your game plan was to strategize Thanksgiving the week of... time to rethink that. A couple weeks in advance should suffice, but if you want to be extra on top of it, start right as Halloween wraps up. This may seem like an excessive amount of lead time, but for a dinner this big, overpreparation is far better than under.

Things to take into consideration include:

  • When you want to eat
  • Your guest list
  • Menu
  • Dishes you will make vs dishes you will delegate
  • Drinks
  • Table setting
  • Home cleaning and preparation
  • A list of things to purchase

2. Test New Recipes Ahead of Time

Some may debate whether the most beloved meal of the year is really the time to "mix it up" or "try something new." But even in classic favorites, there is always room for at least a little experimentation and modification. You never know when you might stumble upon a new tradition.

Either way, if you want to go for that new green bean casserole recipe, try to test it at least twice. Make it as a dinner side dish or cook a big batch to share with neighbors and friends. Get feedback and honestly assess your work. That way you can tweak the recipe to your specifications and avoid major disasters.

Thanksgiving Prep 2

3. Delegate — Really!

Type A folks might find this tip a little hard to swallow, but it's the key to making the day go smoothly without affecting your mental health.

First, when making your menu, consider your strengths. Maybe you've never made a pie from scratch before — and maybe this isn't the year to start. Pick one up from your favorite local bakery or farmstand or assign the task to a family member. Do you really need appetizers? Get a veggie tray and some chips from the grocery store and call it a day; trust us — everyone loves veggie trays and chips.

If you can't fathom someone else cooking, list out some non-cooking tasks you need handled, like grabbing ice from the grocery store, bringing a few bottles of wine, setting the table, or planning activities to keep people out of the kitchen.

Overall, the goal is to take a little off your shoulders so you don't get crushed trying to handle everything.

4. Cook Ahead

It's impossible to cook 6-10 intensive dishes in one day without commercial equipment. So, decide which menu items can be made beforehand and refrigerated or frozen 'til the big day. Stuffings, casseroles, and pies are great dishes to consider, as well as prep work like chopping vegetables. Things like turkey and mashed potatoes that aren't as amenable to the cooling and reheating process are best left for Thanksgiving Day.

5. Make a Day-Of Schedule

This is the type of thing type A people love and type B people can really benefit from.

Plan out the flow of Thanksgiving Day with specific time markers to keep you on track. Start with when you want the meal to be served and work your way back from there. Consider baking times, space (you probably only have one oven and one stove), and freshness (lukewarm potatoes are sad). Go back a bit further for your "Cook Ahead" schedule and other tasks like defrosting the turkey and going to the grocery store — in fact, make this a Week-Of Schedule.

Hosting, and cooking, for Thanksgiving, can be a real headache — but it doesn't have to be! Just remember these steps to make Thanksgiving Preparation less stressful and keep this in the front of your mind; today is about friends and loved ones most of all.

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