Especially with this year being our second time around celebrating the holidays during the pandemic, we all know that Thanksgiving is about being grateful for our loved ones. But, when you’re in the thick of hosting a dinner party, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the logistics, planning, and running around the day of the event. Make this year the year that you keep things fun and — dare we say — stress-free with the following tips and tricks.
Plan your meal ahead of time.
Think about if your relatives or friends have any dietary restrictions. If you have half the party who doesn’t eat meat, then you can rule those people out from having any helpings of turkey. Look up recipes in advance that you’d like to make so you can plan your shopping list. Avoid ingredient waste by using an app like SuperCook where you can choose the ingredients you’d like to focus on and it’ll surf the web for recipes. Try to only do one or two new recipes — or at least consider giving them a test run before the actual day of Thanksgiving to make them turn out the way you want them to. Maximize oven space with hot foods that cook around the same temperature. Consider a mix of cold appetizers and sides (think: deviled eggs, quinoa salad, or antipasto skewers) that you can make in advance so you not only save room in the oven, but guests immediately have something to munch on if you’re still busy cooking. If you really want to keep things low key in the kitchen, look up local restaurants who might be offering catering menus to help support businesses that are still recovering from the pandemic and put your efforts into focusing on one or two homemade options, like the turkey.
Allow time to defrost your turkey.
Speaking of the turkey, for many families it’s the star of the show, and there’s no greater bummer than realizing too late that it needs to defrost for a longer time before it’s ready to cook. The rule of thumb? For every four pounds of frozen turkey, it needs 24 hours to defrost in the fridge (the best method of defrosting).
P.S. Don’t forget to remove the giblets for the turkey stock.
Prep ingredients and the table setting in advance.
Chop up veggies, create any sauces or dressing, or get your turkey brine together the day before so they’re ready to go on Thanksgiving morning. Plan out your serveware with Post-its, since there’s nothing more stressful than baking a 20 pound turkey and realizing you have nothing to put it on when it’s out of the oven. Set the table with dinnerware, glassware, and napkins so you’re sure to have a place for all your guests.
Start the day with “you time.”
It’s tempting to want to immediately dive into the cooking to-do list as soon as your alarm goes off. But, consider kicking off the day with a few minutes of self-care via your beauty routine to get in a calm state of mind. Slap on a cool face mask to depuff skin and use a jade roller or gua sha tool to gently massage in Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil to get your skin bright, glowy, and ready to face the day ahead. Use this time to get dressed or at least pick out your outfit for dinner, so you’re not rushing to shower and get changed when guests arrive.
Your loved ones will always want to do something to help you out, so plan on giving them some small assignments that help take something off your plate. Avoid large responsibilities like baking something from scratch and instead have them do things like chop herbs, cut bread slices, fill glasses on the table with water, or toss a salad with dressing. It’s also a nice way to get some one-on-one time with friends and family in the kitchen.
Make a sanitation station.
It can still be weird and uncomfortable to be indoors in confined spaces these days. If you’re worried about getting sick, set up plenty of hand sanitizers at key spots around the house (the kitchen, the main entrance, and the kids play areas) to encourage and remind guests that they should keep their hands clean.
Keep the tablescape simple.
In order to make a Thanksgiving tablescape a little more elevated than your everyday dining experience, think about the little touches you normally find at a restaurant. Swap out the tablecloth that’s been marked up with drawings from your kids, replace your usual paper napkins with cloth ones, and break out the fancy dinnerware.
In terms of color palette, you can’t go wrong with black, gold, and white with a few tea light candles with touches of greenery like a garland or a sprig of rosemary wrapped up with each napkin.
Don’t have enough place settings or don’t want to buy special decor that you’ll just use once a year? Use a company like Social Studies, where you can rent a full place setting for each guest, decorative items, and fun add-on options like florals and candles. Afterwards, all you have to do is pack it up (they’ll even do all the washing!) and send it back.
Create a kids table.
Your little ones probably don’t care much for your finest dinnerware and expensive tablecloth. Carving out a special space just for the kids will keep your stuff protected — and the kids entertained. Cover the kids table with kraft or butcher paper so that spills and stains aren’t a big deal, plus use plastic plates, utensils, and glasses so that it’s safer for them to dine on their own.
Don’t forget the drinks.
It’s easy to focus on the food for Thanksgiving and totally forget that you need to keep your guests hydrated. Get a mix of non-alcoholic beverages (flavored sparkling water is great) as well as a variety of beer and wine to keep things simple — as opposed to cocktails that you’d have to mix together.
A spiked, festive punch bowl or mulled wine with autumnal flavors like cinnamon or cranberry can be a fun thing to prepare beforehand and guests can help themselves.
Have plastic tupperware ready to go.
Leftovers are one of the best results of the typical Thanksgiving meal. Get a bulk supply of plastic containers so you not only have a way to store excess food in your own fridge, you can send guests home with leftovers or dessert that you won’t be able to eat.
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