For me, Thanksgiving always stands as a beacon of warmth and togetherness as the aroma of turkey, sweet potatoes, and freshly baked pies flows through the house. But before you get to all the merriment — planning a big feast can be stressful.
However, with some planning and preparation, you can turn Thanksgiving from a chaotic event into a peaceful celebration of gratitude. For a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday, follow these tips.
1. Plan your menu in advance.
Consider your menu carefully, considering dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences. Doing this allows you to create a comprehensive shopping list and avoid scrambling at the last minute.
You may also want to incorporate some make-ahead dishes into your menu. As a result, you can spend more time with your family on Thanksgiving Day.
Another advantage of planning your menu in advance? It can save you money.
The impact of inflation on Thanksgiving is evident in 2023 when only 26% of Americans expected to host the holiday. Getting a head start on meal planning will give you time to compare prices and look for sales.
2. Delegate tasks.
Even if you pride yourself on being the host with the most, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Remember that Thanksgiving is about sharing, so don’t hesitate to assign tasks to your guests. The tasks could range from setting the table to assisting with food preparation.
If you’re hosting a large event, assign each guest a specific role. As an example, one person could be responsible for appetizers, another for dessert, etc.
3. Set realistic expectations.
Don’t forget that Thanksgiving isn’t about perfection. Put your focus on creating a warm and inviting environment where everyone feels comfortable.
If things don’t work out the way you expected, don’t worry. The most important thing is to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
4. Take breaks.
Getting ready for Thanksgiving can be a bit hectic — to say the least. In order to avoid burnout, it is essential to take breaks throughout the day.
Enjoy some quiet time away from the kitchen by taking a walk, listening to music, or simply relaxing. By taking breaks, you will be able to recharge and return to your tasks charged with fresh energy.
5. Focus on the positive.
Reflecting on the blessings in our lives during Thanksgiving is a perfect time to be thankful. Take some time to reflect on what you are grateful for as you prepare for the holiday.
When we focus on the positive, we reduce stress and create a more joyful environment.
6. Embrace imperfection
It is impossible to have a perfect Thanksgiving. There will be spills, burned dishes, and unexpected mishaps. However, these imperfections are part of what makes the holiday so unique and special.
Consider embracing imperfections instead of getting stressed over minor setbacks and embracing the laughter they create.
7. Let go of control.
Despite our best efforts, we cannot control everything. Things beyond your control will happen unexpectedly, so don’t get stressed about them.
However, you can control your attitude, response to unexpected situations, and other things instead of focusing on things you can’t.
8. Be present in the moment.
We tend to get caught up in the whirlwind of Thanksgiving preparations. Remember, though, to stop and appreciate the beauty of this holiday.
Spend a few minutes smelling the food cooking, listening to your loved ones laughing, and feeling the warmth of the gathering.
9. Express gratitude.
During Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude for what we have. Don’t forget to thank your loved ones for being there for you.
Your gratitude can be expressed verbally, through written notes, or through simple acts of kindness.
10. Enjoy the moment.
As we gather with our loved ones to celebrate our blessings on Thanksgiving, it is a special time to reflect on all the things we are grateful for. So take a few deep breaths, relax, and enjoy this moment.
Ultimately, Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food, decorations, or perfect table settings. Sharing love, laughter, and gratitude with those we hold dear is what it is about.
Here are a few additional tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving:
- Make a timeline. Make a timeline of when each dish must be prepared once you have your menu. By doing this, you’ll be able to stay on track and avoid feeling rushed on the day of the event.
- Set up a staging area. You’ll find all the ingredients and equipment needed to prepare each dish here. It will allow you to stay organized and avoid rushing around at the last minute to find things.
- Clean as you go. Keeping things clean throughout the day may seem obvious, but it’s important to do so. If you do this, the kitchen will be less likely to become a disaster zone.
- Put on some music. You can relax and de-stress by listening to music. During Thanksgiving, make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen to them while you cook.
- Be flexible. There are a lot of things that don’t go as planned, especially on Thanksgiving Day. Be prepared to make adjustments as necessary. For example, don’t panic if your turkey takes longer to cook than expected. You can just move dinner back a bit.
- Take a deep breath. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, breathe deeply and remind yourself that it’s only one day. Do not let stress ruin your Thanksgiving celebration; it should be a time of joy and celebration.
How far in advance should I start planning my Thanksgiving feast?
Planning your menu and guest list at least three weeks before the event is a good rule of thumb. As a result, you will have plenty of time to make any necessary purchases, assign tasks, and prepare dishes in advance.
What are some dishes that can be made ahead of time?
You can prepare many Thanksgiving dishes ahead of time, saving you time and stress on Thanksgiving day. Here are a few good options:
- Appetizers: dips, spreads, crudités, mixed nuts, stuffed mushrooms
- Sides: green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing
- Desserts: pies, cookies
What should I do if I run out of time?
Do not be afraid to ask for help on Thanksgiving Day if you run out of time. They will be happy to help, relieving some of your stress. Alternatively, you can buy some items from a grocery store or restaurant.
How can I set realistic expectations?
It is important to remember that Thanksgiving is a holiday, not a competition. You don’t have to make everything perfect. Spending time with loved ones and enjoying the holiday are the most important things.
What are some common Thanksgiving mistakes to avoid?
- Trying to do too much. Being realistic about what you can accomplish in a day is important. Everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch.
- Not planning ahead. The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is planning ahead. Make sure you plan your menu and guest list ahead of time.
- Not asking for help. It’s okay to ask your family or guests for help. You can delegate various tasks, from setting the table to cleaning dishes.
- Forgetting to relax. It is a time for family gatherings and enjoying the holiday with loved ones. As such, having fun shouldn’t be hampered by stress.
Image Credit: RDNE Stock Project; Pexels; Thank you!