Thanksgiving is a time for welcoming guests with open arms, laughter, and of course—an abundant feast. For those hosting the dinner for the first time, however, the holiday can feel like a lot to take on. The preparation alone can be stressful, let alone the pressure of satisfying a house full of hungry guests. In this blog post, we’ll give you some helpful tips and tricks on how to make Thanksgiving with as little prep as possible. From planning the menu to streamlining your prep work and keeping things clean afterward, we’ve got you covered! So read on for our best advice on how to make Thanksgiving with as little prep as possible.
1. Create a Shopping List
When you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, the most important thing to do is create a shopping list for all of the ingredients you’ll need. This will help you stay organized and on track with your schedule throughout the rest of the month. When creating your list, keep in mind that you need to get enough ingredients to feed however many people you have coming over. This can be a bit tricky since everyone eats different amounts! A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that each person will likely consume 3 to 4 servings of each dish you have available. So if you have a 9-person dinner, you’ll need to make 27 to 36 servings of each dish. If you want to know how to calculate food for a party, click here.
2. Plan the Menu with Guest Preferences in Mind
We’ll start with the most important part of any dinner—the menu. When planning your menu, think about your guests’ preferences. Are there any allergies you need to be aware of? Do you have vegetarians and vegans at the table? When it comes to gluten allergies, the best rule of thumb is to avoid any cross-contamination. If you’re serving a gluten-containing side dish or dessert, make sure that your serving dishes and utensils are clean to avoid contaminating something else.
For vegans and vegetarians, try to serve meals that aren’t made with meat or dairy. While it might be tempting to serve a plate of mac and cheese, try to think outside the box and create something new and exciting. You can also try to veganize some classic Thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce to make everyone at the table happy.
3. Consider a small roast turkey
For many people, the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving meal is a large roast turkey. However, these birds can often be pricey, difficult to find, and take a long time to cook. You can consider buying a smaller, cheaper turkey and supplementing with other foods. You can make cranberry sauce with dried cranberries and fresh orange slices, and stuffing mix and make a side dish rather than a full meal. If you’re hosting a bigger meal, you can buy two small turkeys to save on cooking time. You can often find these turkeys for a much lower price than a large one.
4. Consider buying a pre-cooked turkey
There are so many restaurants and grocery stores that sell pre-cooked turkeys and even side dishes. If you really want to save time and make your prep time at the minimum, consider buying a pre-cooked thanksgiving meal or just the turkey. From delicious sides and appetizers to whole turkeys, side dishes, desserts, and drinks, here is where you can find all the best places that offer Thanksgiving dinner to go!
5. Find the right recipes
If you are making the entire meal yourself, you’re going to need to find the right recipes that are easy to make and perfect tor a Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you and have a few suggestions:
Green Bean Casserole - Simple recipe with minimal ingredients. This is a great side dish to start with if you’ve never hosted Thanksgiving before or want to keep things simple for your first time.
Mashed Potatoes - This classic dish is a must-have for any Thanksgiving table. With only a few ingredients and a bit of time in the oven, you can have them ready.
Cornbread Stuffing - This recipe is much more simple than most other stuffings, which means you can have it done before the rest of the meal is ready. A great dish to warm up and put out while you finish up the rest of the meal!
Brussels Sprouts - Salty, crispy Brussels Sprouts make everything better and are easy to make, and don't take a long time to prepare.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes - This is a great Thanksgiving side dish because you can prepare the elements of this recipe ahead of time and purchase the ingredients in advance, too.
Roasted Cauliflower - This easy cauliflower recipe is perfectly flavored with garlic and Parmesan cheese, and is perfect for enjoying with your Thanksgiving dinner. Also, you can prepare this dish the day before and just warm it up in time for dinner.
Pumpkin Pie - A classic and easy dessert that can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
6. Decorations and table settings
There are lots of little details you can add to your table that will make it look amazing for a Thanksgiving dinner. Decorations can be a great way to help set the tone for the holiday, but they can also be expensive if you’re purchasing them from a store. Luckily, there are lots of cheap and easy decoration ideas you can do with items you already own or can pick up for next to nothing:
Tablecloths/napkins/cups - A great way to spruce up your table for the holidays is by adding a tablecloth and napkins. You can find cheap tablecloths at most department stores, or stores like IKEA and Target often have a selection of cheap tablecloths! You can also buy them on Amazon and save lots of traveling time to and from the store.
Plants - Adding plants to your table is a great way to bring a bit of life to your table settings. You can usually find cheap plants at the dollar store or local florist, especially around the holidays!
Candles - A classic holiday decoration that can also provide a bit of light if your table is a bit dim. You can buy Thanksgiving candles on Amazon too and save yourself lots of traveling time.
7. Ask your guests to bring a side dish or a dessert
Another great way to save time and reduce the work you have to do is by asking your guests to bring a side dish or a dessert to share. It’s a common thing at Thanksgiving dinners, so your guests will likely not mind at all. You can request this when you send out the invitations and ask that they bring a dish that contains a certain ingredient or follows a certain theme. For example, you can ask everyone to bring a dish that is autumnal or pumpkin-themed. This way, you can easily round out your menu with a few simple additions.
8. Keep Your Kitchen Clean throughout the day
Another quick way to make your kitchen a little bit less chaotic during the pre-Thanksgiving chaos is to keep it clean. Try to keep the counters clean to make sure you don’t spread any germs on the dishes you’re preparing. Keep a roll of paper towels nearby and clean up any messes as you go. By keeping your kitchen clean, you’ll be able to avoid some of the common pitfalls that come with messy kitchens. For example, by keeping your kitchen clean, you can also avoid any burnt-on foods that might be sitting on your bakeware. This can make it harder for you to clean your dishes later, and it can also make them unsafe to use.
9. Get your kids to help
No matter how old your kids are, children can be great helpers when it comes to cooking and cleaning up after the big feast. And because kids usually enjoy helping out with meals, it’s a good way for them to learn responsibility and independence. Plus, it could help build their self-esteem, which is important for kids of all ages. If you want your kids to pitch in on Thanksgiving Day, consider making them part of the planning process. For example, get them involved in deciding what dishes to serve and what they will prepare themselves.
Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is a massive undertaking that requires a lot of planning and effort. Once it’s all over, you can celebrate with your guests by simply enjoying the meal! If you’ve followed all of these steps, you should have a delicious Thanksgiving dinner on your hands. Enjoy spending time with your guests and taking a break from your busy life to sit back and relax with a delicious meal!