The week before Thanksgiving is always hectic for those of us who are hosting the holiday meal.
There is always so much to do – the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking. It’s a time when my stress level definitely jumps up.
But stress isn’t invited to my Thanksgiving holiday, and it shouldn’t be invited to yours. With a little organizing, you can pull off a great, worry-free feast.
I usually host approximately 15-20 people at Thanksgiving dinner. I also have a full-time job in addition to my writing, so I’ve had to learn how to juggle a bit. Here is a system that I’ve developed and tweaked to ensure happy guests and a happy me.
Make a plan. Put a plan together for a menu, grocery shopping, housecleaning, cooking and dining set-up. Use a calendar to help you make a realistic timeline. Some people have smaller meals that they can put together in a couple days. Others host an army and need weeks of preparation. Whatever works for you, do that. And be flexible enough to have a Plan B if Plan A goes sour.
Write it down. Get your plan out of your head and on paper or your electronic device. You will be calmer if you are crossing things off a checklist as you do them instead of worrying about the big picture.
Delegate, delegate, delegate! Don’t let your pride talk you into doing everything yourself, especially if your time is limited by an outside job, small children to care for, or any of life’s surprises that are thrown at you at the last minute (illness, oven won’t work, etc.) My daughter, Carolyn, will make my mother’s signature mashed potatoes this year. My daughter, Stephanie, will bake a dessert and my son-in-law, Adam, will be our “yam man,” preparing a few side dishes. Family members can also help set the table, carve the turkey, plate the food and clean up the mess. The holiday will mean more if the whole family helps to make it special.
Do as much as possible ahead of time. Some side dishes and desserts can be whipped up and refrigerated the day before Thanksgiving, or even frozen before that. I also get the vegetable chopping for my stuffing out of the way the day before. It makes life so much easier on the big day, and it helps to keep my oven free for the main event.
Don’t save your housecleaning for the last minute. You can do most of it the weekend before Thanksgiving and freshen up the house the day before or early on Turkey Day.
Stick to your schedule on Thanksgiving Day. Since our Thanksgiving dinner is at 5 or 6 p.m., I have time in early morning to make my stuffing or another side dish before the turkey goes into the oven. I have a schedule for cooking, setting the table and even showering and getting dressed. Chances are you have more big kids in your house than usual for the holiday so it really helps to be organized. Don’t forget to eat breakfast, and lunch if your dinner is later. Your body will thank you.
Enjoy! Dig in, and enjoy the results of your efforts. Keep the meal conversation light and loving. No controversial subjects on family topics or national politics. This is your time to see people you don’t get to see too often, but they mean a lot to you. Enjoy the food, enjoy the company, and enjoy yourself! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Teri Lyon is a mom, grandmom and freelance writer who lives in Glenburn Township with her cat.