Thanksgiving is just around the corner, one of the most special holidays of the season. It’s often a particular time for family and friends to get together, count our blessings, share our gratitude, and loosen our belts after a delicious, heavy meal.
Is everyone’s gathering at your house this year? It’s a special day and a fantastic way to get together after everything we have gone through. For some hosts, this is a joyous time, filled with lots of excitement and last-minute details. For others, this is a stressful time, filled with lots of excitement and last-minute information.
These helpful tips will help you plan so that you can enjoy your not-soon-forgotten day of thanks. Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner can be hectic but fun with some organization and preparation. And oh, the memories you’ll make.
Make a List
To ensure a Thanksgiving Day success, one simple but important thing you can do is make lists, including chores to do long before Thanksgiving, right before the day, and during the gathering. For instance, you’ll want task lists for getting your house ready, the autumn decor list, a menu, and ingredients list, a shopping list, a list of guests and seating arrangements, and a cooking timeline. When you accomplish a task, there’s no greater joy than crossing that off your list.
Getting Your House Ready
Since people will be in your home, you’ll want to present a most memorable, orderly home. So, you’ll want to clean and make needed repairs well before guests arrive. Clearing clutter and putting up festive fall decorations also are things you can do ahead of time.
Please make a list of any overnight houseguests and consider their needs. Make a note of any special accommodations guests will need and get those taken care of before the before-Thanksgiving time crunch.
Deep Clean Your Home
A week or two before Thanksgiving, deep clean your entire house. You can probably expect guests to wander all over your home during the day, so unless you’re prepared to block rooms off with police tape, make sure all rooms are clean. If you’re pressed for time, and your budget allows, hire a professional cleaner. While you’re sweeping, mopping, and dusting, pay attention to details like dirty or scuffed baseboards, pet odors, light fixtures, and dirty tile grout. Wash windows inside and out, and wipe down window sills. Take a good look at your decor: is it cluttered? Clear piles of newspapers, bills, and mail, and ensure you have enough seating for everyone.
Doing this deep clean ahead of time makes it easier to do a quick clean the day before the holiday. You don’t want the stress of cooking and cleaning at the same time.
If you have overnight guests, start getting those extra rooms clean and ready. Evict dust bunnies and cobwebs. Your “spring cleaning in fall” should include things like light covers, doorknobs, door frames, doors, and ceiling fan blades.
Make sure bedrooms and beds are comfortable with freshly laundered linens and blankets. Hang fresh bath towels for overnight guests. If you have more overnight guests than bedrooms, that’s not a problem—plan for people to stay on sofas or air mattresses.
Check Smoke Alarms
This may seem like a small detail, but check and test all of your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and change batteries if you haven’t done so within the last six months. Cooking food while you have a house full of people is not the time for a smoke alarm failure.
Repair Plumbing or Other Issues in Kitchen and Bathrooms
When you host guests for Thanksgiving, you’ll have higher use of your bathroom and kitchen. So, now is the time to take care of that “just jiggle the handle” toilet issue or the dripping sink faucet before it gets worse. Make a list of needed repairs. Whether you’re a DIY plumber or hire a professional, try to take care of these issues before your company arrives. Convenient, proactive repairs are much better than a Thanksgiving Day plumbing disaster.
Prepare Your Kitchen
Take a good survey of your kitchen. Does your oven or stovetop need repairs now? Do you need to unclog a slow kitchen drain? Are your microwave, dishwasher, food processor, mixer, and other appliances in good working order for the impending use? Don’t forget to sharpen your cutlery.
You’ll want to clean your oven about a week before Thanksgiving, giving enough time for the oven cleaner smell to dissipate.
Clear your countertops from clutter and appliances you won’t use for Thanksgiving. You’ll need lots of prep space for slicing and dicing, rolling, and baking.
Clean out your refrigerator and make room in your freezer for items you can make ahead of time and freeze. You’ll also want to have plenty of refrigerator and freezer space for leftovers after Thanksgiving.
Food, Glorious Food
Let’s get to one of the main points of Thanksgiving: food. What are you going to serve? Turkey, or Tofurkey? Ham or shrimp? Families and different cultures all have their Thanksgiving favorites, so keep that in mind when you plan your menu.
You may already have family favorites and recipes passed down for generations, but incorporating new dishes is a great way to start new traditions. You can find lots of great Thanksgiving recipes online to try. Or, you may want to stick with some traditional items, including turkey, stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and rolls.
While deciding what to serve, it’s time for another list. Write down the menu items, and on a separate list, write the ingredients you’ll need to buy. Tally how many people will be eating and how many servings of each main dish, side dish, or dessert you’ll need. It’s a great idea to offer appetizers to keep famished guests happy before dinner time.
Take note of any allergies or intolerances your guests may have. If Aunt Sally is allergic to onions, try to accommodate that by cooking a separate batch of stuffing or gravy. If Cousin Jeff has a peanut allergy, refrain from making your famous peanut butter pie. Have a vegetarian relative? Make alternative dishes that meet those needs. The internet is full of recipes that can meet their needs.
When you’re designing your tablescape, consider printing out labels of some of the dishes that are tailored to your guests with varying dietary needs. For instance, you can label gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, vegetarian, vegan, low sodium, or sugar-free dishes.
Make your menu selections a few weeks before your get-together, and keep an eye out for sales and coupons you can use while shopping. Make a grocery list of the ingredients you’ll need for your cooking frenzy.
Before you shop, take inventory of what you have at home first. Check your spices, like sage, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, to make sure they’re fresh.
Will Guests Bring Food?
Consider having a meal where guests bring a dish to share. Many guests like to bring a food item with them, and this also lessens your cooking load. Make a list of what people bring, or have suggestions ready for those who ask what they can bring.
Keep a Cooking Schedule
Create a cooking schedule for before Thanksgiving and hour by hour on the big day. Study the recipes and figure out which foods are in the oven at what times and whether more than one dish can cook at the same temperature at the same time, like stuffing, sweet potatoes, or a green bean casserole. Make sure you thaw the turkey for the appropriate amount of time if you’re cooking one.
Keep a timeline for side dishes and time-consuming additions like gravies and sauces. Make sure your cranberry sauce has enough time in the refrigerator to gel. If you can cook foods ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze, do that.
The day before the big day, prep what you can, like chopping vegetables, onions, garlic, and other common ingredients.
Setting the Scene for Thanksgiving
Take some time before the day arrives to make your home look festive, with a thankful, warm, and welcoming ambiance. You can make decorations yourself or scout thrift stores or other stores for many fall harvest decorations. Get your kids involved with making sweet craft decorations like hand turkeys.
For eco-friendly options, visit local thrift shops or decorate with locally-sold pumpkins, dried corn arrangements, and flowers. Browse crafting sites online for tutorials on how to make autumn-themed wreaths and table centerpieces. You can repurpose items you have at home for amazing decor.
For higher-up decorations that require a ladder, take Thanksgiving safety seriously and have a first aid kit nearby.
Before the big day, take stock of your dinnerware. Do you have enough plates, glasses, wine goblets, silverware, serving spoons, serving bowls, and platters? Take some time to plan out whether you’ll have food on the table for a smaller gathering or a buffet-style for a larger group.
Make a list (another list, yes) of last-minute items you may need to buy or gather for a picture-perfect table arrangement.
If you’re having more than a few over for Thanksgiving, you’ll want to make a seating arrangement. Seating people who get along with one another can go a long way toward having a drama-free Thanksgiving. If you need to buy or rent extra seating and tables, try to take care of that well before Thanksgiving to avoid surprises. Consider inviting neighbors or friends who may not have plans and might be lonely during Thanksgiving.
Spending Time at Home and With Family/Friends
Thanksgiving day will probably not unfold perfectly, with every dish ready at the expected time. And, that’s okay. Really. No meal or gathering is without a hitch or two, so don’t stress yourself out reaching for perfection. Instead, try to stay in the moment and enjoy the day.
Plan an activity or two for your family and friends to enjoy. It could be relaxing or exciting – you know your guests, so plan accordingly.
If you have a swimming pool and guests will use it, make sure there is someone observing children in the pool at all times, and make sure the chemicals are balanced and the pool pump is working well.
You can also give a portion of leftovers to your guests, a thank you note for coming, or a small detail that your family and friends will appreciate.
Day After Thanksgiving
Ah, leftovers! As you recuperate from all the excitement of hosting Thanksgiving Day, browse online for creative recipes for leftovers.
Take time for yourself, too, because you need it … and you deserve it. Schedule a night of peace where you can get lost in a book or binge-watching your favorite comedy. Let your family fend for themselves with a refrigerator full of leftovers. (Hopefully, they’ll clean up after themselves, too.
Give Thanks for Every Day
Before you know it, Thanksgiving Day will be a memory, with only dirty dishes and fond memories left behind. Before you start pondering a leftovers midnight snack, take some time to reflect on the blessings in your life. You can even make yet another list during this downtime: things for which you’re grateful.
Hosting Thanksgiving can be a lot of work. But following these guidelines will help you pull off the (nearly) perfect get-together to enjoy with your family and friends.