Thanksgiving Hosting Tips
Some people love it, some people hate it — hosting Thanksgiving. I personally love hosting the holidays in my home. I feel like that’s how God made me to love on my people well. However, I know that most people find hosting the holidays in their home extremely stressful. (That breaks my heart!)
I remember the first Thanksgiving that I ever hosted as an adult. (Back in 2014!) It was not that long after Rob and I started dating. We had this wild idea to host Thanksgiving at his house so that both our families could meet for the first time, and then we’d all go to the Texas A&M vs LSU game together. We did all the planning, all the cooking, (and all the cleanup!) so that our families could enjoy time getting to know each other. It was from that day forward I realized how much I loved hosting the holidays myself. I realized just how much I loved creating a space for families to gather and being present in some of life’s most precious moments. It’s so much more than the food. It’s about the memories and fellowship.
Can I share a secret with you? Hosting Thanksgiving in your home doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, I really believe it’s only as stressful as you make it. With some proper planning, it really doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it’s made out to be. Today on the blog, I’m going to share with you my hostess guide to survive hosting Thanksgiving – with 10 tips to kick the stress and allow you to be intentional on creating a place to gather this Thanksgiving Day.
Your Hostess Guide to Survive Hosting Thanksgiving
With some proper planning, hosting Thanksgiving really doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it’s made out to be. About a month ahead of time, you’ll want to start thinking about the dishes you’ll be wanting to serve as you start finalizing the guest list. I’ve got a pumpkin recipe round-up on the blog that I update every year — get your hands on over 60 pumpkin themed fall recipes to switch it up and try something new, HERE.
While you should plan and choose your dishes early, it’s also a good idea to shop early for what you can (more of your non-perishable pantry staple items.) Not only will this keep you from running around the week of trying to find something that you’ve run out of, but it also will help alleviate the financial stress that can come from a huge grocery bill by splitting the bill up over a couple of trips.
Most importantly, you should sit down a couple weeks in advance and create a timeline (or cooking schedule.) One- you need to know when you need to take your turkey out of the freezer to thaw. Two plus infinity – you only have so much oven space and so little time. Planning out which dishes can be cooked at the same time (in a certain order) is super important. It’s like a puzzle. (And if you need some help or advice, don’t be afraid to call your mom or your grandma!)
Prep as Much as You Can Ahead of Time
Another form of planning ahead (for your sanity) is to actually prep as much as you can ahead of time. Here are some of the things you can do ahead of time to alleviate stress on Thanksgiving Day when your guests start arriving.
- Shop early! (read above)
- Clean out your fridge the week of (or before you start prepping dishes ahead of time.) You’re going to need the room!
- Prep and cook dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen ahead of time.
- Chop veggies ahead of time. You can store chopped veggies in ziplock baggies in the fridge to keep the day-of seamless and efficient. (Not to mention, if you’re stressed you don’t want to risk cutting a finger while you’re chopping veggies and fielding awkward questions from family members about your job or children.)
- Set your serving dishes out on the buffet the night before. Pair serving spoons and forks with each dish.
- Label your serving platters on your buffet with sticky notes for quick plating by you (or someone who wants to help!) In the moment, you’re going to forget what you decided the night before while setting them out. This eliminates you having to think about it twice.
- If you’re having overnight guests, prep their rooms and bathroom the week before. Wash all bedding, put out fresh towels, and stock the guest toiletries. Do a quick wipe down and fluff the day before they arrive.
Have a Grazing Station and Coffee Bar Station
When I asked Rob if he had any tips for hosting the Thanksgiving, he immediately said, “Put out snacks!” This is definitely something I learned from my momma, and it is so true! When we had guests in our home for the holidays while growing up, she would always put out ready-to-grab food in the kitchen and create a coffee bar. She would have a tray with wrapped store bought muffins (in different flavors) next to the coffee bar for when people woke up each morning. She also had a basket of chips and other snacks on the bar for people to munch on in between meals.
As an adult, I now do the same thing whenever we have guests for the holidays. Not does it allow people to make themselves at home without you having to be in the kitchen serving everyone constantly, but it also keeps people out of your way in the kitchen as you’re elbows deep in prepping Thanksgiving (or Christmas) dinner. Meanwhile, it also helps avoid people eating a full meal earlier in the day and filling up before the main event.
When I host the holidays in my home, I buy muffins or bagels for the mornings. For my coffee bar, I put out everything they’d need to serve themself from either my Keurig or Nespresso machines. You can read more about creating a cozy Fall coffee bar, HERE. Meanwhile, one of my favorite things to do for light snacking is a large charcuterie board that has a little something for everyone. You can read my tutorial on creating an epic charcuterie board, HERE.
READ ALSO: How to Make an Epic Charcuterie Board
READ ALSO: Creating a Cozy Fall Coffee Bar
Set the Table the Night Before
I always pay special attention to my tablescapes when hosting people for the holidays (or really any meal!) When you think about it, your tablescape is the first impression that your guests will have of the meal. Especially around the holidays, I like to make my tablescapes extra special to set the tone and mood for the meal. This is exactly why I like to set the table at least the night before. It allows me to pay a little more attention to setting my table with intention – and without the rush. I think through the entire meal and set my table accordingly. Not to mention, people won’t be standing over you as you rush to set the table when the turkey is done.
Pro Tip: We’ve all been there at a huge Thanksgiving dinner. We stand around at the dining room entrance not sure where to sit, and we wait for the first people to start sitting before we decide where we should sit ourselves. Consider making a seating arrangement for your Thanksgiving table, and label each setting with place cards. It makes the seating process that much more seamless.
Keep the Kids Busy
Having a small kids table set up with Thanksgiving themed activities is a great way to keep the kids busy and allow the adults to be able to dive into quality conversation. Dollar Tree is one of my favorite places to go find inexpensive activities and seasonal coloring pages for kids to enjoy at a kids table. You could also find an age-appropriate craft or activity idea on Pinterest to help teach your children to reflect on what their thankful for this season.
READ ALSO: Thanksgiving Kids Table Ideas
Accept Help and Delegate
One of the main reasons people get so stressed about hosting the holidays is because the pressure of perfection makes them feel like they have to do everything themselves. Hosting Thanksgiving in your home is no easy feat. If someone asks to help you, let them! If people ask to help you, 98% of the time they really don’t mind helping you. Even giving them a small task like plating or washing a few dishes is one less thing that you have to do!
My husband actually loves to cook (and is an amazing one!), so we delegate which dishes we each are going to tackle and make. It makes a huge task like prepping Thanksgiving dinner so much less daunting.
Halfway Homemade isn’t a Bad Thing
Should I say this again for the people in the back? Halfway homemade isn’t a bad thing, ladies. Heck, store bought isn’t a bad thing! Plate it up on a serving platter, and I can guarantee that people aren’t going to know the difference. (I won’t tell if you won’t!) I’m all about saving time and stress on smaller side dishes that taste just as good store bought as they do when I make them.
Pro Tip: Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes and Bob Evans Macaroni and Cheese will change your life.
Clean the Kitchen as You Go
This is another thing that I learned from my mother and my grandmother while growing up. When making Thanksgiving dinner, it’s so important to clean the kitchen as you go. You’re going to be in the kitchen almost all day preparing the food, you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all evening after dinner too! It’ll allow you to be present at the table longer (without the stress of clean up in your head) and enjoy fellowship with your favorite people.
Pro Tip: When setting your table, opt for dishes, glasses, and flatware that can go in the dishwasher! As people finish dinner and bring their dishes to the kitchen sink, have the dishwasher open for people to just stick their dishes in after rinsing. If you’ve cleaned up your pots / pans as you went through the day, this leaves you only having to wash serving dishes at the end of the night when you put leftovers away.
Take Advantage of Your Crockpot!
When it comes to prepping Thanksgiving dinner, your crockpot (and even your Instant Pot) are your best friends. Your crockpot will allow you to keep things warm while everything else finishes cooking. This is especially a great idea for things like homemade mashed potatoes, gravy, or other side dishes before you plate them on the buffet.
Pro Tip: Potatoes can take forever and a day to make. Especially if you’re wanting to make mashed potatoes from scratch. Use your Instant Pot to cook the potatoes quickly! HERE is a great recipe for Instant Pot mashed potatoes in under 30 minutes.
Everyone Loves Leftovers
Not everyone loves leftovers, but it seems like everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers. You’ve planned and prepped and cooked, and now what? Plan ahead of time to make sure you have enough containers for your Thanksgiving leftovers so you can store them in your cleaned out fridge. Meanwhile, if you like to share, you can also stock up on some to-go containers on Amazon the week before to be able to send some leftovers home with your guests. You can even make them cute with DIY labels from shops like Certified Celebrator.
Let Go of Perfection
Lastly, my biggest tip to survive hosting Thanksgiving is to let go of the pressure of perfection. Thanksgiving isn’t about the perfect tablescapes, the cutest outfit to take pictures in, or even making the food taste perfectly. If you’re an hour behind schedule, it’s going to be okay. If you burn a side dish, it’s going to be okay. If you forget to turn the oven on (pretty sure I’ve done that a time or two), it’s going to be okay. And if you drop the leftovers on the floor (been there too, friend), your husband may shed a little tear — but it’s going to be okay.
Things will go wrong. That’s just life, girl friend. But it’s so important to remember that Thanksgiving isn’t about any of that. It is about expressing thankfulness, showing gratitude, and loving your tribe well. (And it’s pretty hard to mess those things up!) Let go of the pressure of perfection and be present. Life goes by way too fast. Don’t miss the precious moments God is orchestrating right in front of you.
Well there you have it, friends! There are some of my top tips for your Thanksgiving hostess guide to help you survive hosting the holiday season. Are you hosting Thanksgiving in your home this year? Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share with the #ahostinghome tribe? Leave a comment below!