True maybe for your guests, but if you’re orchestrating a multi-course meal, Thanksgiving can feel pretty stressful.
No matter how grateful you are for friends and family, there are those moments where it all seems like too much. Too much shopping, too many dishes and way too many last-minute pressures.
Does it need to be so stressful?
When the dishes are cleared and you’ve had a glass of wine, you realize, ok, maybe some of that pressure was self-imposed. Maybe it didn’t need to feel so crazy.
So how can you skip the stress and get straight to the cheer?
Well, of course, before you pull on your apron, prep yourself a nice bubbly cup of Natural Calm – the anti-stress drink. Breathe deep, and take what tips you may from this guide to calmful dinner planning. Here’s part one – stay tuned for part two.
Delegate the Work Involved in Hosting Thanksgiving
You might be tempted to do it all yourself, but that would be unnecessarily stressful.
Accept any offers from your guests to bring anything, and resist the urge to say, ‘Oh, just bring anything at all. Maybe an appetizer?’
Appetizers are fabulous, for cocktail parties, but you are about to feed your guests in a substantial way. They don’t need hot cheese dip, or phyllo-wrapped brie.
Your best bet is to ask your volunteering guests to bring a salad or dessert. These are time-intensive, but keep well and don’t generally need to be served at a perfect temperature.
What you don’t want are last-minute contributions that require your attention or appliances. That’s just too stressful.
And you may be in charge of the meal, but you shouldn’t have to do everything else. If you share your home, get very clear on what roles your partner or kids can play.
Here are a number of tasks that you should be able to delegate well in advance of the main event:
- Grocery shopping
- Cleaning the house
- Washing the dishes made during meal prep
- Making a music playlist
- Spot-checking (or polishing) silverware, dinnerware, and all glassware or crystal
- Setting the table
- Garbage duty, before and during the party
- Greeting guest, taking coats, getting drinks
- Lighting candles
- Setting out hot dishes
- Carving the turkey
- Keeping drinks filled
- Making and serving coffee and tea
My stress always peaks in the half-hour before the meal is served. At that point, it’s no longer just me in the kitchen, unobserved, silent, master of my domain. It’s me crushed into a corner of the kitchen fielding a lot of questions and well-intentioned offers of help.
Am I alone on this one? I think not.
One way to solve it is to ask someone else at the party to keep people out of the kitchen.
Enlist a partner to take on the host role, even if that partner is another guest. Ask them to arrive early to get the lay of the land. Their role should be to get guests what they need, grab the dishes guests prepared, and gently steer them clear of the kitchen.
Plan Thanksgiving Dinner Ahead
If the majority of the food prep is up to you, you’ll want to approach it strategically. Here are a few ways to tame the madness:
- Go with what you know – at least for 50% of the dishes. Trying new recipes can fire up your creative juices, so we get it if you want to mix things up a bit. Just choose a few tried-and-true dishes that you can pull off in your sleep. Save your mental energy for the uncharted recipe territory.
- Plan the menu when you’re full. If you’ve ever made the mistake of opening Pinterest on an empty stomach, you know why. A hungry stomach will create a mad, mad menu that no reasonable human could comfortably consume.
- Think make-ahead. The biggest challenge with holiday meal prep is around oven logistics. What with all of the gorgeous casseroles and roast veggies, it can be easy to forget that we’re not working in a studio kitchen. In the resources section below you will find links to make-ahead recipe compilations.
- Avoid crazy-making ingredients. Before you add a recipe to your menu, check to see whether sourcing the ingredients is going to be difficult. Avoid rare ingredients or see if they can be bought well in advance.
- Buy pre-made. Is baking your own rolls really adding value? Unless it’s a labour of love, let the professionals take care of breads and buns. It’s so easy – and inexpensive – to buy really excellent bread, there’s little reason to DIY. You can also buy things like squash, turnip, and beets pre-chopped.
Here are some Thanksgiving recipe and planning resources to help:
Next, let’ll tackle strategic shopping, including how to keep it all under control as the big day approaches, plus how to keep the mayhem in check on Thanksgiving day.
Are you with us? Here we go!
Take the Stress out of Grocery Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner
Divide and conquer. This takes a few extra minutes, but as you plan your menu, divide your shopping list into non-perishables, slow-perishables and fast-perishables.
Get the non-perishables as soon as possible; pick up slow-perishables (things like meat, dairy, squashes, turnips and potatoes) several days before the big event, and leave only the very perishable items for the day before: fresh bread, for example.
It is such a time-saver to order online, skip the crowded aisles, the parking lot, and the struggle with bags. Once you get the hang of it, you can do a big grocery shop in 10 or so minutes – compared to an hour in-person.
Sound like a luxury? Look for low-fee or no-fee delivery offers from the grocers near you. You may get free delivery over a certain purchase amount, or on certain days. Even if there is a fee involved – say, $10 – you might find that the price of gas plus your time, makes this rate a real bargain.
Block Out & Schedule Your Thanksgiving Hosting Tasks
By a few days before the big event, you have a good idea of what needs to be done. Get it out of your head and down on paper. Or on your digital calendar.
Go so far as to list tasks out in sequence, with a timeline. If you’re working as a team, create a separate list for everyone who has a role (hint: partner, kids).
You’ll hear a lot of advice around setting up your kitchen equipment in advance; arranging your tools, your ingredients in a logical fashion. It sounds good, but of course, everyone has their own system in the kitchen. When it comes to the actual mechanics of whipping it all together, you know what you need to do.
I will say that true calm starts with taking care of yourself, and so…
Make Time for Self-Care When Hosting Thanksgiving
Stress peaks when we’re physically drained. Make sure you have what you need to keep up your energy and stay calm. For example:
- Fill up a few bottles of water to have on hand. It’s amazing how many hours can pass in the kitchen, within easy reach of the tap, without taking the time to rehydrate.
- Better yet, dissolve some Natural Calm in a small amount of hot water, then add that solution to your cold water. You’ll have a naturally calming drink to sip all day!
- Prepare small, healthy foods to grab on the go during meal prep. Don’t leave your own nourishment to chance – even if you are saving room for the big meal. It’s better to keep your blood sugar level and come to the table with a reasonable – not a ravenous – appetite.
- Block out some time out for a walk or a quick workout during the day. Ask a partner to watch the oven, if necessary, but do get out. You won’t feel like a truly gracious host if you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all day.
Notice a theme here? It’s all about pre-empting stress.
These are just a few simple ways to make hosting Thanksgiving feel a little calmer.
What about you? What trips you up, and what are your best strategies for a stress-less Thanksgiving? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.