If you’ve bought a home in the last 12-24 months, you might be considering if you’re ready — really ready — to host your own Thanksgiving meal. Maybe you skipped a get-together last year due to the pandemic, and perhaps this year you’re itching to create some of your very own turkey-day traditions.
Hosting this great American meal is a significant milestone for any cook. The entire meal, plus the decor, the music you play, the beverages you serve: it’s all on display. That can cause a lot of anxiety, especially for a new homeowner — even if it’s just your immediate family present.
9 tips for new homeowners hoping to host Thanksgiving without going crazy
1 – DIVIDE & CONQUER!
There’s no better Thanksgiving than a potluck Thanksgiving. That’s what makes the holiday so meaningful. Mix your traditional turkey and gravy dish with sides and desserts and apps from friends and family you invite over. Just make sure that any dishes that others bring don’t require a lot of prep upon arrival, as the oven will be off-limits with the main dish! Or, if you’re doing a nuclear Thanksgiving, mix traditional recipes from both sides of the family. The best part about delegating part of the menu is that as the host, you get to assign away the components of the meal that cause you the most stress!
2 – PLAN AHEAD
When planning a Thanksgiving Day menu, sit down weeks ahead of time and plot it all out. Focus on having a majority of the dishes be things that can be pre-prepped ahead of time — casseroles, pies and cranberry sauce come to mind. If a favorite dish can’t be made in advance, think about stuff you could get done without rushing around last-minute — like toasting nuts, homemade breadcrumbs, or croutons. Whatever you can get off your plate (no pun intended) early on will save you time and stress on the big day.
3 – GO TRIED & TRUE
When we think of Thanksgiving, we think about the tried-and-true classics: turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, cornbread, a simple salad and your favorite pie. Have some nuts to crack and some wine and leave it at that. It’s always easy to bite off more than you can chew and make too much. The fewer — and more familiar — dishes you have on your menu, the easier it will be to make it all shine and not mess any of it up.
4 – STRETCH OUT THE PRE-PREP
Early prepping isn’t just about the menu. A week or so before the big day, take stock of the equipment you’ll need. Do you have easy access to gravy boats, pie plates and serving dishes? Is everything washed and ready? Do you need additional silverware, clean napkins, a festive (unstained) table cloth and drinking glasses? Get all this lined up at least a week beforehand and you should be good to go. Do a little each day. Then a few days before Thanksgiving, do a deep cleaning of the kitchen, so there’s no stopping you on turkey day!
5 – DAY-OLD TURKEY IS NOT JUST FOR LEFTOVERS
Many people make pies and cranberry sauce days ahead of time, but here’s a more divisive tip: cook the turkey the day before. Really. There will be plenty of people who say this is blasphemy, but we say “go for it” as it makes everything much more manageable. Then on the morning of the big day, you can either place it whole in the oven or pre-carve it and place it (and some homemade stock from the bones and bits and pieces) in a crockpot to heat it up. With great gravy and lots of mouth watering sides, nobody will be the wiser and you’ll get to spend more time with your guests — which is what the day is all about anyway!
6 – SET THE TABLE THE NIGHT BEFORE
Having the Thanksgiving Day table already set can make you feel like you can tackle anything else that comes your way, so do it the day before and forget it. Sure, you’ll probably tweak the decore a bunch, but it’s better to do that with a glass of wine on the night before than scrambling to get it just right during the chaotic morning before guests arrive. And this way, you won’t be forced to search for an elusive serving spoon or gravy dish when guests are present.
7 – DRINKS & NIBBLES SHOULD BE SELF-SERVE
Whether you’re a beer, wine, cocktail or non-alcoholic household, it’s best to have something chilling in the fridge and ready to be poured. If everyone has some cheese and crackers to satiate them and their drink of choice nearby, they won’t notice (or care) that the main meal is a little late. And remember, appetizers are overkill! If people feel the need to nibble, celery, carrots and onion dip is a trustworthy (and simple) standby! Take tip #1 — Divide & Conquer — to heart and ask someone to bring the drinks, request that they drop it off the night before, so you have the opportunity to organize your bar set up just the way you like it. But, you’re not a cocktail waitress or a bartender — they can make their own!
8 – BUY IT, IF THAT HELPS
With all the meal-making services out there and the proliferation of Door-Dash, UberEats and other food delivery services, the idea of buying a few components of the meal, especially if it makes for a more relaxing day, makes sense to us. Making everything from scratch is no longer a ton of fun (unless that’s your thing), so don’t be afraid to buy salads, stuffing desserts, even the whole turkey. We won’t tell.
9 – CHILL OUT
Take a deep breath. Relax. And remember to embrace some self-care. Schedule some time for a quick pampering or at least a refreshing shower. Put on your most comfortable jeans, crank up some tunes that your guests will appreciate (although we’re firmly in the camp of too early for Christmas music), and get in the spirit of the holiday! Remember guests are there to gather. Ask for help, laugh a lot and give gratitude that you made it through a crazy, crazy year and that your new home is helping you create some fabulous new traditions and memories.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!