Friday, November 8, 2013

Tips and Tricks for Hosting Thanksgiving

 So, now that we finally have confirmed that we will be hosting Thanksgiving, I wanted to document the crazy process I go through when I host an event.  Even though I talk a big talk about stressing out for planning and hosting an event, I really really do love it.

  • Consider this the start of a "How to Host Thanksgiving Series"

Forewarning:  I am an anal retentive planner. I tend to go overboard (it's that mentality that it is better to be over dressed than underdressed). I have a weird obsession with making lists. I pretend to have super organization skills.

And to top that off, I am my mother's daughter (who is my grandmother's daughter). And if you know my mother or grandmother, you would know that they are the epitome of Jewish matriarch when it comes to this sort of stuff. So..... some may find my planning process to be a bit neurotic, and it probably is. Hey, what can I say, I learned from my mom and grandmother!

I learned a lot when I hosted Thanksgiving last year.  Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stress inducing. I mean, it's a huge undertaking and people look forward to this meal and the day all year long. It ranks pretty high on the pedestal.

So, not only did I host Thanksgiving but I hosted it for my first time. Add to that, the fact that I hosted for my boyfriend's family. Yeah, I was feeling the pressure. (All internal pressure though, Ryan's family is amazing and so laid-back. I probably could have served frozen pizzas if I really fucked it up and they wouldn’t have judged at all)

But my anal-retentiveness organization paid off and everything came out great and I was extremely satisfied and proud of myself.  I'm sure my mom and grandma would be proud of me too.

So, I thought I would share some tips and tricks from what I learned from hosting my first Thanksgiving:

  • Organization really pays off. I made lists and lists, so I could refer back to them. 
  • Planning ahead can and will be the biggest stress reliever. Plan out your menu, your cooking timeline, what pots/pans you will be using and when they will be available, etc.   
  • Prep as MUCH AS YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME!!!!!  
  • Read through each recipe ahead of time and figure out what you can do in advance.  You would be amazed at how much time adds up from chopping vegetables.  
  • Become best friends with your freezer. Lots of recipes that I use can be frozen (butternut squash soup, twice stuffed potatoes, pumpkin loaf, etc....)  
  • When prepping for a dish-especially for the foods that need to be cooked the day of- put all the ingredients in the serving dish.  For example, I make the stuffing the day of the Thanksgiving....but.....I chopped up all the vegetables and measured out the specific amounts and store in plastic bags. The plastic bags go right in the casserole dish. This way, it's all together and all measured out for quick assembly.  
  • Make a time line for other things too, like cleaning the house, setting the table, etc.   
  • Double check, triple check and cross reference your menu plan, recipe's, and grocery list. There is NOTHING worse than having to run out to the store again because you didn't have everything you need when you needed it!   
  • Plan out where each item is actually going! I like to put the index card with my recipe on it in the actual dish where it is going to be made in! Don't forget to account for serving ware as well. I usually do this a few weeks in advance so that I can get more things as needed.   
  • Figure out what items will be cooking at what times and where they will be cooking. For instance, when I made the turnkey last year, I had to take into account that I only had one oven. I couldn't plan to use the oven for anything else. Same thing goes with the stove. With only four burners, I needed to account for that. I invested in an electric cook top and it was a great purchase because it added another cooking space (and is great when we go to potluck dinners and I can use that to warm up/cook something without interrupting the host)  
  • Try out new recipes in advance. Last year, I even went as far as doing a mini-practice Thanksgiving, where I cooked a turnkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. (on a much smaller scale) just to see how it would all play out. I had never cooked a turkey before, and I definitely didn't want Thanksgiving Day to be my first. This year, I am adding twice-baked sweet potatoes to our meal plan, which I made for the first time a few weeks ago to test it out. (P.S. I also tested out freezing them, and turned out, they tasted even better the second time. Score!)

I just noticed a theme as I was typing these all up: The word "advance" came up multiple times. Do as much as you can in advance.

OK, I think that is the general gist of it all.
It's not as scary of an undertaking as it sounds. Actually, it turns out to be a boatload of fun for me. 

I'm going to do a whole series on this and document the what goes into hosting a big meal like this, so hopefully a lot more of these tips/tricks will make more sense as I go through the process and post about it. 

Question for you:
What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
Have you ever hosted a big meal?

What tips or tricks do you have that help; make the day go smoothly?

(One of my mothers tricks-she is even more neurotic than me-is to tape the countertops with the cheap dollar store plastic table clothes on the days she does a massive food prep. that way, she lets anything and everything spill on the counters and then throws it all away at the end of the day. i may adopt this trick this year-ill let you know how it goes! 


  1. Whew! You make me tired reading this! Lists are good!
    I've never had to host a family get-together due to having a 850 square foot house! We always go to my sister's large house (with finished basement) for gatherings. And we decide ahead of time who is going to bring what. It's nice now that the niece's & nephews are old enough to contribute.

    1. ha! i didnt realize how much i had actually written until i posted and saw it. it is nice when other people can contribute! thats one of my favorite parts about friendsgiving's!