As much as you love your family, hosting them for an event like Thanksgiving dinner is no easy task even for the most experienced person. Between coordinating travel arrangements, cooking, cleaning and playing referee for your dueling family members, it's no wonder that you're most likely thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner is the fact that it's over! Well, don't let that happen to you this year; here is a brief survival guide for the least stressful holiday gathering yet:
The last thing you need is to be surprised. Communication is key, so tune into your family's chatter and find out well in advance who is coming and when (down to the exact time). If you have family flying in to visit, make sure you get their flight times - or even better, get them to arrive around the same time if they are on different flights if possible. Plan out who's sleeping where so there is no argument. And remember: it's your house, so even if the family patriarch tries to say something, you're the one who gets to make the rules!
No, not the flower. Forgetting ingredients or dishes will only add to the stress of the day, so start with a list. Write down everything you want to cook and what you'll need for each item on the "menu." Create your Thanksgiving dinner in your mind with drinks, apps, desserts and coffee/tea as well as the main course. Make things you know your family will enjoy but do not let them dictate things you don't have time to or don't want to make. You're the one doing all the work, so just make sure it's work you're okay with doing. Try to vary where things are cooked right before the meal so that your dishes are not competing for oven time; the stove, microwave and even slow cooker are great alternatives.
Prepare the Presentation
Make sure you have all of the non-perishables gathered and good to go before the big day. Have chairs, table cloths, napkins, dishes, silverware, plates, glasses, etc. all accounted for ahead of time. It's one less thing you need to worry about, and it's not like this stuff goes bad. Don't bother with decorations because chances are your family is more concerned about the food than how the table looks. But if you want to have a pretty presentation, just make sure it's all planned out in advance and that there is still enough room for the main event - dinner!
There is nothing wrong with cooking ahead of time and freezing certain items. Unless you have about a week off from work and free from family before your Thanksgiving dinner, you're going to need some careful planning to cook and freeze as much as possible. Breads and certain cakes and cookies hold up well in the freezer as well as meats like pot roast and even casseroles. Just be sure to use plastic wrap to limit the air around your food before putting it in a freezer-safe container or zip-lock bag and placing it in the freezer. You'll save yourself a whole lot of time the day of Thanksgiving that you can use to relax and actually enjoy (or hide from) your family.
Remember last year when you spent the morning rolling up sleeping bags, cleaning up toys, washing towels, setting the table and (oh yeah) making an entire Thanksgiving dinner, while everyone else watched the parade? Well, this year delegate! There is no reason you need to do it all just because it's your house. With a house full of people, you're certainly not short-handed. Take advantage of the fact that there are more bodies in your home than it was ever intended for, and make them help you out. Even kids can get involved by setting the table or measuring out ingredients. No excuses - everyone can pitch in.
It's not about having a perfect day or meal; when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, it's about survival. Things will go wrong: drinks will be spilled, food will be dropped, there will be yelling, someone may even make someone else cry. Just remember to breathe. You can't control your family, but hopefully you can endure them. In the end, you'll have a delicious Thanksgiving dinner and some good stories for next year.