12 Simple Tips To Hosting An EPIC Thanksgiving Dinner
So Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner, and this year you might be up for the challenge of hosting it at your place! Well, whether you're a newbie or this ain't your first rodeo, you'll wanna make sure to take note of my 12 tips to make the process as smooth as possible!
These tips truly come in handy whether you're a novice hosting your first Friendsgiving dinner or a seasoned vet who always ends up running on fumes, and every year swears it'll be the last time they assume the responsibility of hosting! Take from my tips what you will, and remember to have fun! We're shutting it down this Thanksgiving!!! Are you ready?!?
1.) Preparation is Key
I think this goes without saying, but if you are a habitual procrastinator, like myself, then this is something that you likely struggle a lot with. If so, you're usually guilty of always thinking you'll have time to get to all the things. You'll say things like "Oh, I'll get to it later," or "Oh, I'll just do it tomorrow," or "I'll just do a little bit each day, and I'll be done in no time!" Then, next thing you know, you have only 2 days to get all your ish together. Yeahhh...No. I've totally been there and done that, and it is no fun! Not to mention, you end up being disgruntled while doing whatever needs to be done, and regret taking on the responsibility of the role in the first place.
Obviously, with an event and meal as big as Thanksgiving, we can't do everything the day-of or even the day before for that matter. So it is critical that we prepare in advance, as much as possible. I'm talking...You should already know whether or not you're going to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner once November rolls around. And, even if it is a spur of the moment decision, make sure that you're at least 1.5 to 2 weeks out once you make that decision. By the way, even with all the preparation in the world, some things may not go as planned and that's ok! So be ok with unexpected things like you forgetting a key ingredient that you have to run back to the store to get, or running out of space in your oven to cook that tuna casserole at the same time as your butternut squash lasagna (which btw is a major hit every time I make it so maybe I'll share my recipe!!!), or leaving the gelatin outta the fridge on accident and then you come to realize this when the kids are asking for the Jell-O dessert. What I'm saying is don't let it ruin or distract you from the really important meaning of the day.
Finally, make sure you write out your game plan for what you want your Thanksgiving to be. What prompted you to host this year? And, what will make it special? It's much easier to plan and prepare for something when you have a why or main objective as to why. It could be as simple as you want to gather around with your friends for your first Friendsgiving, or simply because you love upholding the tradition of host cause you love the feeling of being surrounded with your family and friends.
2.) Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
No, that pun was totally not intended, but it's too good (!!!), so I'm gonna roll with it haha!! I'm going to quote my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Grocki, for this tip because it's the best way I can explain it. He taught us the concept of K-I-S-S, which was his way of saying "keep it simple stupid." Albeit may sound a bit harsh...It's some of the best advice I've received in my life. Particularly when, my brain starts to scatter and I've got too many tabs open and start thinking of too many ideas at once. I have to pause, regroup, and break things down in their simplest form. It is in that moment, where I'm able to make productive progress with whatever it is that I'm doing. So what does this all mean for your Thanksgiving dinner? It simply means to lessen the load of things you want to incorporate, and to scale the number of food & drink menu items that you'll be serving. Honestly, most people end up with too much food anyways and although leftovers are cool...Too many leftovers leave no room for storage in the fridge. So it just ends up being a huge waste, and isn't the whole point of Thanksgiving the opposite of that?
Take it from me...Even if you think you'll get to cooking the 10-15 items on your list, you most likely won't, unless you're that seasoned vet whose been adhering to the same formula year-after-year. But even Bobby Flay keeps this minimal and he's a world renowned chef! Listen, this ain't Chopped on the Food Network, so relax haha!!
3.) Make It Fun With A Unique Theme
If you've been following me for a while, then you know that I'm a sucker for a fun theme that evokes a certain aesthetic. This is in no way a major requirement, but I find that when you have somewhat of a vibe that you're going for, then you'll find that things come out a little bit easier when planning and gradually fall into place. And please don't get me wrong, it doesn't have to be a hardcore theme either. It could be something as simple as incorporating a pumpkin motif or apples, pears, or autumn leaves. Whatever direction you decide to go in, try to make it fun so that you're excited when putting everything together. Follow my Pinterest boards if you need some inspo Thanksgiving décor & Thanksgiving recipes.
4.) Decide On A Set Menu
Once you decide that you're hosting Thanksgiving the food and drink menu should be a part of your outline. You want to keep things as simple as possible with your menu. This means that this isn't exactly the time to try out that lobster dish you've been dying to try. Especially, if cooking isn't your forte. I know it's definitely an American tradition to have your major staples turkey, cranberry sauce, and potatoes. But also keep in mind that Thanksgiving dinner does not have to always have the standard turkey with mashed potatoes and a side of gravy. So don't be afraid to take a poll with your guests. That way you don't feel the need to make so many dishes especially if someone is a super picky eater. I recommend doing 1-2 dishes per course. Remember, this ain't the Cheesecake Factory, so your menu doesn't need to be neither!
5.) Thaw That Turkey
Ahh So this tip is one of those that seem to be the most obvious, but I feel like it's one of the most overlooked and forgotten steps while preparing for Thanksgiving. I mean for many, the turkey's the star of the show, or at least the dinner table. But would you believe that many people don't realize that it takes about a week to properly thaw out a turkey?! My recommendation is to take the turkey out of the freezer the Thursday before Thanksgiving for the turkey to thoroughly thaw out. Now this is something you definitely don't want to take chances with(!!!) (Especially, if it's the first time you're hosting) because you run the risk of your guests suffering from food poisoning, if any part of the turkey is raw. Therefore, it is crucial that you heed this step! But no worries, I don't want you to freak out, and you know that I wouldn't leave you hanging. So take a look at my reference steps below and use that as a guide for getting your own turkey all the way together.
6.) Learn How To Gladly Accept Help From Guests
Okay, so if you are a bona fide do-it-yourselfer, like myself, then you also suffer from not being able to gladly accept the help that people offer you. I don't know if it's my Taurus sun sign, my unrealistic need for perfectionism, or that I just have been disappointed with people in the past, which has caused major trust issues when I designate certain people for certain things. Whatever it is, it sucks, and I'll be the first to admit that, I, Stephanie Blanc, have a hard time accepting help with most things.
It's something that I'm currently still working on. But even I realize that I can't do everythinggg myself, and neither can you! No, it's not a jab, but rather a harsh truth that we have to come to terms with. We all need help with things. Especially, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. So if anyone offers you help whether that be bringing in cookies, buying the ice, vacuuming your apartment, washing the dishes, watching the kids while you're cooking, or even packing up everybody's to-go plates...Accept the help!
And don't be afraid to designate certain people for certain roles. If you're like me and have a hard time trusting folks and relinquishing control with this type of stuff, then try giving them smaller tasks that won't be so noticeable if they fall through like bringing a bottle of wine, or those extra store bought cookies.
7.) Try To Keep Things Light Hearted & Fun
Now this tip is more so for the actual day of Thanksgiving when everybody comes over and you guys start to mingle and catch up. I find that it is best to leave political/religious discussions or any other polarizing topic at the door (outside of the door just to be super clear).
Whether your with family or friends, you're going to discover that people may have varying beliefs and feelings on certain topics. The last thing you want to do is have tensions rise during dinner over some political figure who doesn't even know you exist. In other words, this probably isn't the best time to drop major bombshells. Like that you're divorcing after 15 years of marriage, or that you caught your significant other cheating (cue in the classic movie Soul Food...sighsss), or that you dropped outta college during 1st semester and have been living a lie and off-campus to become a nomad. And, this isn't to judge anyone going through these scenarios (Ok maybe we're judging the nomad haha!!), but maybe another forum would be best to discuss these situations.
And, listen I know this tip is easier said than done because we all have those family members who could give a flying you know what how anyone feels, however I do feel like it's a good idea to lay down the ground rules beforehand, especially, if dinner will be held in your home. Don't be afraid to tell people you want dinner to be fun and you don't want any tension or heaviness in the air. After all, the day is about gratitude and unity. There will be other times (or family group chats) to discuss politics. Lastly, a fun way to wrap things up is with fun group games. My all time favorite is Taboo(!!!), but of course there is UNO, Monopoly, and many others!
8.) Try To Keep Your Guest List Small Or At Least Manageable
Now I know everyone can't adhere to this tip because some of us have large families and feel bad leaving people out, however if you are able to keep the guest list small then definitely try. Even if it means breaking things up to a Friendsgiving dinner week and then an intimate, small family Thanksgiving dinner the next. I find that things are much more easier to manage when you have less people to manage and therefore less things to worry about.
9.) Make It A Point To Make Elders Feel Included
I don't know about you, but as I get older I feel the need to love on the elders even more. Maybe it's the fact that I'm coming more to terms with the fact that we're all becoming older. And I don't know about you, but I'm the type where I don't want anybody only worrying about if I can get from the front door to the sofa without my cane. I want to be as self-sufficient as possible (fingers crossed). Too often, I see that the older folk are treated like babies and get neglected during the hustle and bustle of getting dinner ready, kids running around, and the adults catching up about the price of milk, eggs, and gas. Maybe this doesn't apply to most, but I definitely want to make a point that we make the elders feel very much included in the festivities and in all the conversations.
10.) Start Cleaning Your Home 1-2 Weeks Prior
Listen, take it from me and start cleaning now. And don't try to clean the whole entire house top to bottom in one night. That would be too overwhelming and you got to save your energy for everything else. Clean the major zones with the most foot traffic and where people will spend the most time in. Obviously, that includes your kitchen, dining room, living room and the bathroom. If you have the energy to do more than by all means do it! And kudos to you, if you're one of those people whose house is tidy 24/7. I'll shamelessly admit that I am not. Listen, I'm just trying to get through each day without cracking under the pressure of life Haha!! So if you're anything like me and you're overwhelmed then don't hesitate to hire help to assist with the remaining rooms or to just do it all for you. I mean even the cleaning lady brings in one to two assistants, so stop trying to do the job of 3 people in an insane amount of time. Make sure to do the majority of the major cleaning at the very least 1-week out. That way you could just do some light dusting a few days before Thanksgiving.
11.) Make Room In Your Fridge
This tip is often overlooked, however it's trés important to clean out your fridge and remove anything that doesn't need to be in there. In other words, anything that's expired or anything that you could do without needs to be nixed! So that you are able to store your turkey and all the fresh ingredients that you're going to need to make your delicious Thanksgiving meal! I'm telling you take it from me, even when you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner with a few dishes, The kitchen counter gets cluttered so quickly with everything that's out that you're going to miss things that are right in front of you. So try to declutter and make as much space as much as possible to maintain your sanity!
12.) Start Gathering Your Groceries 1 Week Prior (At Least All the Dried Goods)
Now hopefully you've been designating 1-3 days for each tip and this last tip is no different. Since you would have already had your menu planned out you can start purchasing groceries even if it's a few things at a time. I understand that you can't get the fresh produce a week before, however you should at least try to get all the canned and dried goods and taking inventory of everything so that you don't overbuy or under buy ingredients. So make sure you thoroughly read and watch all the recipes that you plan on following so that you get the correct amount of each ingredient!