In my last post, I shared our best tips for planning a calm, cool and collected Thanksgiving – the kind of sit-down family meal that you can pull off without any headaches. I focused on delegating and on mapping out a meal you can feel good about.
Today, we’re going further. I’ll talk about how to keep it all under control as the big day approaches.
Are you with us? Here we go!
SHOP LIKE A STRATEGIST
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.
Do a cost-benefit analysis on grocery delivery. 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.
PULL IT ALL TOGETHER
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. 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…
MANAGE YOUR STRESS!
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.
While planning, take a few moments to remember your past hosting successes and failures. What went well? What didn’t? Why? Were there particular moments where you thought you would lose your mind?
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.
It’s just a short window of time, but when I think of hosting, I think of those moments. It’s a pattern I need to break.
If this sounds familiar, here’s what I propose:
- Make the kitchen a no-go zone. (Alright, not really friendly, is it?)
- 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 and gently steer them clear of the kitchen.
- Decide which tasks you can delegate to those guests who are determined to lend a hand at the last minute. Make it something that requires little explanation from you.
These are just three easy ideas, simple to execute, but I had to make a bit of a mental shift to get there. I had to think, ‘Alright, what can I do to make things different this year?”
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.