Ten Top Tips for a Low-stress Thanksgiving Holiday

Oct 19 15:23 2007 Joy Block Print This Article

Help ensure this year's Thanksgiving holiday is low on the  stress and high on the enjoyment and thanks-giving by using these  simple tips.

Help ensure this year's Thanksgiving holiday is low on the stress and high on the enjoyment and thanks-giving by using these simple tips.

Prepare early & plan ahead. Nothing can better ensure a stress-free holiday than planning early and doing as many of the preparation steps ahead of time. Read on for just what steps you can do before the big day.

Invites your guests early,Guest Posting and be clear on when they have to be at your home. There's no reason to not invite your guest as early as September or early October, especially if they have to travel to get to your home. And, very importantly, be sure to specify right up front when they need to arrive at your home, and build a little 'buffer' in. For instance, in our family we like to serve the Turkey dinner at 5:30 or 6:00 pm, but we ask all guests to arrive by 4:00 pm, the better to socialize, help and, importantly, keep the stress off you. The last thing you need to worry about as you baste the turkey is “what if Aunt Martha is an hour late?”

Accommodate your out of town guests. Plan early and don't be shy about being directive for your out-of-town guests. Don't leave them guessing whether they can stay with you at your house. Tell them clearly they can, or clearly tell them they can't. If they can't, do this graciously by saying you've reserved a room at a local, affordable motel or B&B – do they want you to hold the reservation for them or not?

Don't overshoot, keep it simple. Remember, the best times and memories at Thanksgiving come from the time spent together, not the show-off cooking and party hosting you might do. Show-off party hosting is a sure-fire recipe for stress and perhaps flame out. So keep your plans and aspirations for the meal, decorations and day simple, with an accent on making your guests comfortable, serving them honest but simple traditional fare and letting them enjoy the time with family and friends.

Encourage sharing. Plan a few activities that will help people share and bond. It can be as simple as telling people ahead of time that during dinner everyone who's willing, will have a chance to share what they are thankful for. Or perhaps have a group walk in a pretty local park for an hour in the afternoon while the turkey's cooking. This will sharpen their appetites and make everything taste better!

Pick the right menu, and make sure you can deliver. Plan your menu well in advance and, if there are any dishes you've never made before, don't make your Thanksgiving guests your guinea pigs! Instead, practice your new dishes ahead of time. I like to practice new turkey recipes in October. Everyone loves turkey and doesn't get it often enough during the rest of the year. Invite some friends over in October and cook a smaller turkey to get your technique and recipe down. You'll go into Thanksgiving week with unparalleled confidence.

Get the bird. Odds are, you can walk into almost any grocery store on Thanksgiving day and find a turkey. Fine. But why have the stress of worrying about this, and why take just whatever happens to be there. Talk to your local butcher a few weeks ahead of time. Get his advice as to the correct turkey size for your number of guests. Order your bird from him and arrange to pick it up on Wednesday or Thursday morning – depending on schedules and whether you have room in your fridge!

Lighten the load through 'potluck' delegation. In our family we lighten the load on the hosts by passing around an 'on line sign up sheet' and asking some of the guests to volunteer to make some of the dishes and bring them – potluck style! My sister usually brings several pies she bakes the day before and my Mother brings her famous string bean recipe. That's less work for me, and they like being able to contribute! See the below resources for on line tools to make potluck sign ups easy.

Get your gear in place. Now is the time to think through seating, tables, place settings etc. Do you need to arrange to borrow any extra equipment? Make arrangements ahead of time for what you need to borrow and be sure to get it 3-4 days ahead of time if possible, or arrange a posse for early Thursday so it just gets done and doesn't add to the stress. I always borrow two extra folding tables and 8 folding chair from my church hall and have my brother-in-law help me pick this stuff up in a van on Thursday morning. This allows us to seat 20+ guests! For you it might be getting 6 extra place settings by having some guests bring them.

Shop ahead of time. Do your final grocery shopping 3-4 days before Thanksgiving. Whatever you do, don't wait until Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Instead, go out the previous weekend to buy everything except the fresh fruits, vegetables and the turkey. You'll feel much better on Monday and Tuesday!

I know this is #11, but this is more about next year. When it's all over, write down your notes. Take a few minutes on Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving and write down some notes on what went well and how to improve. Write down any recipe adjustments and notes as well, as well as how long it took to cook the turkey (every oven is different!). It can be really valuable to know what the correct quantities of food are to serve so many guests. Next year, knowing that putting the bird in the oven at 1 pm worked perfectly for a 5 pm dinner will remove one more iota of stress. Then store your notes some place good – I use on line note & to do list software (see below) but you can also be as simple as putting your paper notes with the turkey pan!

That's all there is to it. You see the common themes: plan ahead, get as many tasks done as possible before Thanksgiving day, share some potluck tasks with your guests, and keep your ambitions in rein so the menu and plans are simple and surefire. Most important, don't forget to enjoy the stuffing!

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