10 Hacks for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving that Doesn't Break the Bank
Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is an enjoyable, rewarding experience, but it can also be a lot for many of us. The expenses can be sky-high, the to-do list seems endless, and the dinner itself can be a harried and breathless affair that puts a damper on any holiday cheer.
Here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be this way. Consider these 10 hosting hacks to help you enjoy a calm and stress-free Thanksgiving that doesn’t break the budget.
1. Start planning early - Start planning now instead of waiting for the overwhelm to hit a week before Thanksgiving. Look through your favorite recipe blogs and cookbooks to compile a list of dishes you want to serve.
Next, make a detailed menu and list the ingredients you’ll purchase. You can also jot down any other purchases you’ll need to make, such as decor items. Aside from making your prep easier, planning early will help you make more responsible money choices as you shop.
2. Create a detailed schedule - Next, start scheduling the tasks you’ve just listed into your weekly and daily schedules. For example, a few weeks before Turkey Day, you can shop for drinks and dry and frozen ingredients. You bake your desserts and prep your marinades, sauces, salad dressings a week before, appetizers and sides a few days before Thanksgiving, and the entrees on Thanksgiving Day. You may want to write everything down on a calendar to get a clear snapshot of what you need to do each day with just one glance.
Of course, if you prefer to marathon-cook for seven hours straight on the day before Thanksgiving, that can work, too. Ensure you’ve taken care of all the other to-dos, such as shopping and planning the decor, well in advance.
3. Consider a buffet - If you hate missing all the best parts of the conversation at the Thanksgiving table because you’re busy in the kitchen, you may want to consider a buffet-style meal. While it’s a departure from the traditional sit-down dinner, a serve-yourself meal can be a great way to make things easier for you. You can also get away with offering fewer dishes when it’s all served at once instead of a formal meal with staggered courses.
4. Delegate - If nobody has offered to help you cook, don’t be afraid to assign small jobs to your guests so they can be part of the prep. It doesn’t have to be anything too time-consuming on their part, but for you, just knowing that Cousin Jen is bringing the mashed potatoes and your mom will get her famous pecan pie for dessert means two menu items off your head.
5. Set up a kids’ corner - If you’re hosting families with children, create a kid-friendly area with games, coloring books, and activities to keep the little ones engaged. This way, the parents can enjoy the meal without worrying about bored and restless kids. You can also offer kid-friendly menu options like fries and chicken nuggets to keep guests of all ages happy and well-fed.
6. Use disposable dishes - Are you ready for a super-quick clean-up when the party’s over? With today’s robust dinnerware options, you can have convenience without compromising your conscience. There are many eco-friendly disposable options, from compostable cutlery to bamboo plates and much more.
7. Set up a self-serve drink station - Create a self-serve drink station with various beverages to cater to different preferences. Include water, non-alcoholic options, and a signature Thanksgiving cocktail to keep things festive - this will encourage guests to help themselves, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of hosting.
8. Keep the centerpiece simple - With so much going on at the table, there’s no need to overthink the centerpiece. A simple wooden board filled with seasonal gourds will add that festive touch to the table without breaking the budget. Add some pillar candles from a dollar store to complete the look.
9. Cook two small turkeys - If you’re hosting a crowd, consider cooking two small birds instead of one large one. You’ll save on defrosting time, freezer space, and the stress of choosing the perfect recipe. With this hack, you may even save money on your entree by splitting it into two.
10. If it’s stressing you out, let it go - The best part about being the host is that no one has to know what you’d planned to serve. So, if you’re finding that one dish is stressing you out and will cost more than it’s worth at your table, just let it go. Leave it out, and no one will know the difference.
Despite what personal experience may tell you, Thanksgiving does not have to be stressful or expensive. Use these hacks for a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.