How to survive hosting Thanksgiving may seem like a daunting task, but this step-by-step guide will have you happily sitting at the thanksgiving table, enjoying the big day!
I love Thanksgiving! Hands down one of my favorite holidays. It’s all about the food, the family and friends gathered around the table, and the table setting.
Most of Thanksgiving is wonderful, but that one hour when everyone is arriving, people are bringing things you didn’t ask them to bring, everyone wants your attention, and you’re too busy whisking gravy like a mad woman?!?
Been there. Every single year, y’all! Seriously! It’s just how it goes!
You will love this post if it’s your first time hosting thanksgiving, or you’re hosting for the 35th time. You’ll learn the best way to manage your time leading up to the holiday season, snag a to-do list that will walk you through every step of prep work, and have your thanksgiving morning (and full day!) filled with happy memories.
No more sitting down at the table with a full glass of wine, wishing your people would LEAVE! ((Raise your hand if you’ve been there?! 🙋🏼♀️
How to Survive Hosting Thanksgiving
First, you can’t have Thanksgiving without a big dinner table filled with a gorgeous turkey, side dishes galore, and family members and friends gathered all around.
But, to get to that point, you’ve got some work to do!
Think back to last year, and your holiday season. Did you enjoy it? Did you make all those memories you see people making on Instagram??
Take everything you thought, everything you wanted to do, and forget about it.
Let’s start fresh with a Thanksgiving Checklist you’ll work your way through. Guiding yourself to the perfect Thanksgiving menu plan with make-ahead dishes, conversation sparks for when your entire family starts arguing, and the best tips to create a memorable holiday filled with too much food!
If this is your first thanksgiving dinner as the host, woo hoo! You’ve come to the right place, and you’re going to love these simple tips.
First Step: Plan Ahead
Planning ahead will help you create balance for yourself.
Snag my Thanksgiving Game Plan in the box below. Starting in mid-October you’ll get a weekly email with one thing you can do to prep your own home for Thanksgiving Day. The emails ramp up as we come closer to the Thanksgiving meal. But, know this: your holiday celebration will be completely different when you are ready, prepared, and have enough time to enjoy your people!
Create your menu at the beginning of the month. So, by November 10th, you’ve got the menu ready to go, and you can start prepping the casseroles ahead of time.
These are the casseroles and other side dishes you can make ahead of time:
Cranberry Sauce – you can make this at the beginning of the month, freeze it, and take it out the week of Thanksgiving to thaw!
Sweet Potato Casserole – such a classic recipe that is one of everyone’s favorite recipes! Mix this up and freeze the casserole without the topping. Then, add it on the day of.
Dinner Rolls – make this dinner rolls recipe from Half Baked Harvest, and thank me later. They are THE best! And even this non-baker can make them!
Green Bean Casserole – you’ll mix the green beans and sauce together, then freeze in the baking dish. When you’re ready to bake, you can top it with french-fried onions. So yummy!
Mashed Potatoes – these mashed potatoes are almost better frozen, and then baked! It happened as an accident, and turned into a very happy accident! You can freeze mashed potatoes and bake them later. They’re absolutely perfect.
Tips for Making Casserole Dishes Ahead of Time
Choose one a day. There is no need to be a hero and make all of these in one day! Unless you really want to!
Freeze in a freezer-safe casserole dish that also transfers to the oven. Personally, I have no issue with using aluminum pans on a Thanksgiving holiday. Yes, the gorgeous, fancy, festive baking dishes are cute. But, when you’re hosting and cooking for extended family, immediate family, and anyone in between, the simple things are best.
Good food doesn’t taste better if it’s in a pretty dish. Maybe… 😉
If you must put your casserole recipes in a pretty baking dish you can freeze the “parts” in Ziplock bags, labeled well. Then, you’ll thaw the bagged casserole out and plop it into your pretty casserole dish! This works well for sweet potatoes and green beans casserole. Also, mashed potatoes!
When using freezer bags, you can freeze them flat saving a LOT of room in your freezer!
The biggest tip when baking the casseroles for the big feast is to bring them to room temperature before putting them in the oven.
On Monday, remove all the casseroles from the freezer and put them in your fridge. You want to thaw these out completely. When you’ve got a fridge filled with frozen items, they’ll need plenty of time to thaw. You want to plan extra time for this, just in case!
Helpful Tips for Making a Grocery List
Grocery shopping for this time of year can be absolutely exhausting!
You get to the grocery store and either it’s filled with people, or they’re out of a few of the things you need, which means you’ll be back later, or need to find another store.
The last thing you want is to get home, halfway through a recipe, and find you needed another ingredient! ((Another tick in the box for making as much ahead of time as possible!))
Take the simple task of making your list seriously. Spending time going through every recipe and triple checking what you have on hand, what you need, how much you need, etc. Your shopping list should be meticulously planned to leave you a good chance to get in and out without any mishaps.
When you have a small space it doesn’t necessarily work to purchase a lot ahead of time.
But! If you’re planning to make a few dishes ahead of time, go ahead and get the ingredients. Make them all, and get them in the freezer.
This way, the extra counter space isn’t taken up by boxes and bags of extra food.
I’ll use a corner of an extra bedroom, or closet to start stockpiling non-perishable items. Such as crackers, cinnamon sticks, white wine, red wine, and anything else I think we’ll use.
This is a good time to corral other items you know you’ll use on Thanksgiving such as your favorite dishes. (Great time to count up and make sure you have enough plates!)
Survive the Week of Thanksgiving
A couple of days before the big meal, set your dining table if you’re able to.
This will help you know if you’ve got enough space or if you need to pull out a card table.
We used to add one of these plastic tables to my parent’s big table and absolutely pack a lot of people around it!
Inside The Hey, Ashley! Membership Collective members get a list of meals they can make the week of Thanksgiving — no one WANTS to cook during the week, but alas, we kind of have to!
Next, I like to pull out any items I’ll use the morning of Thanksgiving like the roasting pan, serving platters, and serving utensils. As much as I can gather that goes with the day, I’ll put it all together.
- Table Linens
Anything I can think of goes together. I save time when it’s all gathered together, as opposed to going around and finding each thing when I need it. Spend time gathering those things so you can power through when setting your table!
If you can’t preset your table, corralling all the things together in a bin or basket will help you last minute set the table. And! If you have family or friends staying with you, you can delegate this job and let them do it.
Do as much as you can ahead of time so you can focus on the last-minute, day of thanksgiving checklist.
When hosting one of the most annoying things guests can do is crowd you in the kitchen! Use your living room and set up some board games for the young children (and adults!) to play while you’re getting the dining room ready and the recipes out of the oven.
It’s a lot of work hosting Thanksgiving. It’s even more work to do it all yourself!
Ask your people to bring side dishes or new recipes they’d like to try! Pick up a pumpkin pie from the market and don’t worry about not making it homemade. Choose to take a few shortcuts along the way so you can relax and enjoy the day.