Most people find that they either love the holidays or dread them. The excitement of seeing family and friends often gets lost in stress about preparing for such a large crowd. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reinvigorate your holiday routine so you can enjoy hosting, cooking and celebrating the season with your loved ones.
Plan for House Guests
Account for house guests in your holiday meal planning. Find some easy, make-ahead breakfast recipes that can be reheated in the oven for a fresh-baked taste in half the time. Let your guests know what time breakfast will be served so they can set their alarms accordingly. Put on a pot of fresh coffee to greet them each morning and help them prepare for the day.
Plan your menu at least one week in advance. Locate all of your favorite recipes and put them in one central location so you can refer back to them while planning your shopping trips. If possible, laminate your recipes or slip them into plastic paper protectors to keep them safe from any food that splatters while you are cooking. Take note of vegetarians or guests with food allergies when designing your menu so everyone can enjoy at least a few dishes tailored to their tastes.
Make a list of everything you need to create the perfect Thanksgiving meal, as well as any décor items you might want to add finishing touches to your home. Some items, like spices, can be purchased well in advance, while others, like fresh vegetables, should be bought closer to your celebration. Make a note of any grocery stores that have advertised sales or special deals so you can get the best prices for your favorite brands.
Prepare the Pantry
Make sure your pantry is properly organized for holiday baking. Invest in a pantry organization system that includes a slide-out spice rack to store small bottles and jars. These can be categorized either alphabetically or by flavor (sweet versus savory). Put flour, sugar and other baking staples at eye-level so you can easily access them when preparing cookies, pies and cakes. Pantry organizers are a great way to keep track of what you have and what still needs to be purchased throughout the holiday season.
Rather than putting off your grocery shopping until the last minute, schedule time in advance to complete the task. If the groceries you need involve trips to several stores, plan your route in advance. Bring your shopping list or digitize it and use your mobile phone for an easy, eco-friendly shopping experience. Leave the Wednesday before Thanksgiving open so you can jump on last-minute ideas or things you may have forgotten.
Prepare Food Ahead of Time
Do as much as possible in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to help make the day itself a little more relaxed. Wash and chop vegetables the day before and store them in the fridge for easy access. Similarly, bake pies and assemble desserts on Wednesday. Look for easy solutions to help prepare classic dishes. Mashed potatoes, for example, could be made in a crock pot. This saves space on the stove and ensures delicious results everyone will love!
Call for Backup
Potluck-style Thanksgiving meals are much easier on the host and allow everyone to have complete control over the dish they choose to bring. This is the best way to appease picky eaters of all ages. Make sure guests bring items that do not require use of your oven – or, if they do, make sure your guests get approval first so you can plan for space. Take your guests’ habits into consideration; someone who notoriously arrives early for events could bring appetizers, while someone who prefers not to cook could bring drinks, whipped cream or store-bought items.
Plan the Table
Count your linens, chairs, silverware, and dishes to make sure there are enough for everyone – with a few extras. Thanksgiving is about abundance, so prepare a few extra place settings to make sure unexpected visitors can also join in the festivities. This also gives guests a few more seats to choose from, in case the kiddie table is not their preferred spot.
Keep the décor simple for Thanksgiving; a clean, linen tablecloth and small centerpiece should be just fine. Most grocery stores carry small gourds this time of year that can be arranged on the table with nuts and leaves for a festive feel. This clean, simple décor will encourage everyone to focus on conversation. Arrange centerpieces and table settings the night before to avoid last-minute hustle and bustle.
Set up a drink station where people can grab water bottles or serve themselves sparkling punch from a bowl. Keep a cooler nearby with a selection of soda, cider and alcohol if you choose. You can even set up a cocktail bar with liqueur, limes and other mixers. Include a few cards with signature recipes printed on them for your guests’ convenience. Our preferred Thanksgiving cocktail is a vodka cranberry, which is simple to make and will pair well with most holiday flavors.
Plan the Timeline
Decide in advance what will happen when. You should know what time you will wake up, eat breakfast, serve appetizers, prepare any remaining Thanksgiving food, sit down for your meal, and then serve dessert. If you have any family traditions or games, plan time for those as well.
If you aren’t really the planning type, feel free to borrow our timeline below:
9 am: breakfast
1 pm: appetizers
3 pm: serve dinner
5 pm: serve dessert and coffee
This schedule leaves plenty of time for dinnertime conversation and a post-dinner walk to help aid with digestion. While you might plan to put little ones to bed at a certain time, allow plenty of time for guests to mingle and relax after dessert has finished.
Purchase some disposable tins to send leftovers home with your guests. This will help prevent food waste, and you still get to pick and choose which dishes stay and which go out the door. Plan to make some of your favorite Thanksgiving leftover meals throughout the week, like turkey sandwiches, shepherd’s pie or even turkey soup. Bon appétit!
Whether you are a first-time Thanksgiving host or a seasoned veteran, this guide may help you create an enjoyable experience for everyone who visits your home this year.
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