Five tips for planning a stress-free Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the biggest meal of the year, and with turkey to cook, sides to make, and vegetables to prepare, it’s easy to get stressed. But if you plan ahead of time, you can enjoy the holiday as much as your guests will, and make sure that Thanksgiving goes smoothly. Here are our five top tips for making the big day as stress-free as possible, so you can focus on what matters most – spending time with your family and loved ones.
Prepare as much as you can ahead of time
The number one tip for a stress-free Thanksgiving is to get as much done as possible before the big day, which might seem obvious. But you might not realize just how much you can prepare ahead of time. Here are some of the Thanksgiving classics that you can prep days or weeks in advance.
You can make your classic green bean casserole ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator. This also gives the dish chance to marinate, and the green beans will become even more flavorful. Then on the day, all you’ll need to do is top the casserole with any fried onions or extras just before it goes into the oven.
You might be used to making gravy from the roasting turkey, but making it on the day will just add to the stress. Save yourself from being stuck in the kitchen until the very last minute and make it ahead of time by roasting some turkey thighs. The gravy will freeze well in a Ziploc bag, and you can even keep any excess meat to serve as leftovers (just in case your guests eat more of the turkey than you anticipated).
Since cranberry sauce contains plenty of sugar, it’s almost like creating a jam – so it’s an ideal pick to make ahead of time and save you stress on the day. Pick a recipe with some spices so the flavors can mature and develop, and keep jarred in the fridge or freezer.
Organize your refrigerator and freezer
If you do decide to prepare some dishes early, chances are your fridge and freezer will be filling up fast. Prepare for an easy Thanksgiving by making sure your shelves are well-organized.
- Make sure you’ve got enough room for your turkey, whether you’re buying fresh or if it will be thawing in the refrigerator. This might mean that you need to adjust shelves, so plan accordingly.
- Keep dishes arranged in the order that they’ll need to be cooked, so it’s just a case of pulling items out and moving them straight to the oven.
- Consider labelling your refrigerated dishes. If you’re lucky enough to have someone helping you out with the cooking, it will make it a lot easier to say ‘pass me the stuffing’ if it’s clearly labelled.
- If you’re prepping things well ahead of time, make sure anything frozen is labelled with what it is and when it was prepared.
Plan your timings for the day
The biggest concern on the day for most people is getting the main on the table. Whether you’re roasting a traditional Thanksgiving turkey or cooking a veggie alternative for any vegetarians at your table, getting the timing right so that everything can be served at dinner time is the most complicated part of the day. That’s why it’s important to plan your timings for the day.
Work backwards from when you want to serve dinner, and write down when everything needs to be started, prepped, or placed in the oven. The dishes that you’ve prepared ahead of time will help – but having exact timings written down in a clear list will make your day so much easier.
Not got enough space in your oven to cook everything? Use warming drawers to keep side dishes warm ahead of serving time. Anything roasted like vegetable sides or casseroles will keep well, and will be more forgiving than things like mashed potatoes which could dry out – and no-one wants dry potatoes.
Set your ideal table (and set it early)
Thanksgiving is a great excuse to get out your ‘best’ tableware. If you have heirloom china and linens or even just your favourite silver cutlery, make sure you lay out your Thanksgiving table ahead of time. That way, if you notice that you’re missing a fork or that there’s a stain on your fabric napkins, you can fix things ahead of time instead of panicking on the day. It also means that you don’t have to worry about accidentally using serving dishes or cutlery in the kitchen that you’ll need later on at the dinner table.
Don’t feel pressured into making your table setting too elaborate. While it’s easy to get caught up in Instagram-perfect pictures of Thanksgiving table settings, sometimes simple is best. If you want to make things pretty, consider using some seasonal fall decorations like acorns, pine cones, small pumpkins and candles – they’ll look lovely on a table, they’re not too costly and they can be recycled or composted once dinner is done.
Decide where you want people on the day
If you’re easily stressed out while cooking, the last thing you need is trying to entertain guests or placate bored kids while you’re juggling hot plates and trying to prepare the biggest meal of the year! So, before the meal prep begins, set up snacks and a drinks station at your kitchen island or in another room to discourage people from going into the fridge.
Even if you’re keeping people out of the kitchen, chances are, your friends and family are going to want to help. Plan some family-friendly tasks ahead of time that your loved ones can help with, like letting the kids mix the stuffing together, or arranging snacks and dips or chopping vegetables – that way if someone wants to help, you can point them to exactly how they can lend a hand.
At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about just that – giving thanks for time spent with your family and loved ones. Follow these tips for a stress-free day, and you can enjoy more time with your family, making precious memories together.
If you’re dreaming of a fully-equipped kitchen that would make your Thanksgiving prep even easier, request a brochure or book a showroom appointment. For more tips and suggestions on ways you can make your life even easier with a Wren kitchen, head to the Wren blog.