6 Prep Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

thanksgiving prep tipsYou know the holidays can be stressful, especially if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner. A solid plan and a timeline are always to best guarantee to pull off the perfect Thanksgiving feast. Follow these prep tips  to help ensure your holiday festivities are fantastic an stress-free.

1. Make your guests list and invite them right now:
To avoid uncertainty in planning and help your budget, invite your guests now, and set an RSVP date that allows you ample time to invite a few more guests, just in case. So sort out your guest list and make some great invitation cards to send by e-mail or regular mail!

2. Plan your menu well in advance:
Planning 3 weeks ahead of time (at least) will avoid you a lot of stress on Thanksgiving Day. Start with sorting out the recipes for your “must-haves,” and your family’s traditional dishes. Once you’ve decided on the dishes you know you will have, start thinking about what’s missing. Look for cookbooks, websites or blogs to fill in the gaps and introduce a few new dishes: sides, appetizers, bread rolls, drinks. You should also test new recipes in advance to avoid any mistakes or frustration on the big day. Print off all of the recipe you plan to use and place them in a binder or recipe folder. This is a good way to make every year from here on out much easier!

3. Plan your holiday table:
Whether you go for a formal dining experience or you will opt with a more casual dinner, plan your table linen, dinnerware, and serving ware now. After receiving RSVP acceptance from your guests, ensure there is enough space, tables, and chairs. Of course you can rent chairs or tables just for the night, without having to invest in furniture. Use place cards: Strategic seating allows for better conversation flow. Nobody wants to be stuck at the boring end of the table!

4. Prep your kitchen:
Once your menu is planned, stock your kitchen with plenty of serving utensils, and plan where the food will be served. This step maybe easy if you have a large kitchen, while those with smaller kitchens should make strategic food stations at different corner of the room for easy serving. Take inventory and make a list of items you are out of or running low on. Purchase non-perishable essentials as soon as possible to avoid sold-out merchandise and last minute shopping trips. Have plenty of tin foil and containers on hand and plan ahead for leftovers too. Plan to empty your refrigerator before the feast starts so you won’t have hard time squeezing in the leftovers after the big meal.

5. Cook in advance and freeze:
You can start three days out with dicing your onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Keep them in Ziploc bags or in airtight containers.  You can make many vegetable side dishes, and casseroles in advance and keep them in the freezer until ready to thaw. In fact, all of your side dishes should be done the day before because there is no reason to stress about cooking the big meal! Desserts are another dish that can be made ahead. Think about serving a couple of dishes that you know how to make perfectly, just in case the turkey turns bad. That way, you will still have something good to serve to your guests.

6. Plan entertainment:
Plan for alternate entertainment for guests to enjoy if you’re short on logistic. If small children are present, have something for them to do so they don’t get in the way (coloring books, building blocks…). For adults, consider having music and entertainment on hand for everyone to enjoy while mingling. That way, people won’t crowd the kitchen at the critical moment. During dinner, consider switching to piano or jazz to allow for more conversation. Create a subtle holiday aroma throughout your house with scented candles or by boiling  orange rind, cinnamon sticks, whole star anise and cloves in a pot of water.

While it’s important for the food prep and dinner to go well, what really matters is family. Express your thankfulness and have a good time!

(Image by Stacy Spensley)


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