Thanksgiving seems overwhelming, and stressful. Anytime you are cooking a big dinner, and hosting people in your home you are going to be stressed. I don't think you can take all the stress out of it, but I do think you can minimize the work and stress. So in an effort to give you some ideas to make it easier, here are some tips and tricks!
-Start now! Do not wait to menu plan any longer than this weekend. Do not wait to start grocery shopping. Do not wait to start cleaning and preparing! The more you start doing now, the less stress you will have then. For me this means I have everything planned, and I have my grocery list. This weekend I'm going to be combing all the ads to see if there is anything I need that will be on sale. If I find something, I'm going to go ahead and buy it. I've also planned out a cleaning and deep cleaning schedule. This won't mean I'll be spared from cleaning right before Thanksgiving, but there won't be a ton to do.
-Get the china cleaned and silver polished. Take inventory now of all your china and silver. Make sure everything is there, intact and you don't need anything extra. Pre wash your dishes, and polish your silver.
-Tablecloth and napkins. Launder your tablecloth and napkins. Fold or roll the napkins how you'll need them, get them ready to be put on the table.
-Set the table. A day or two ahead, if possible, go ahead and set your table! Put out your plates, napkins, and cups. Decorate, get everything ready for the dinner. It may seem odd, and it will mean your table is out of commision but it'll keep you from having to get things perfect before dinner.
-No cooking. I highly suggest to plan on not cooking dinner the two nights before Thanksgiving. You can get food out, or make it ahead of time. The goal is you won't have to do any extra cooking or dishes you don't have to do.
-Enlist help. I prefer not to have a lot of bodies in the kitchen. The sad truth is when too many people are in the kitchen it gets crowded, hot and distracting. I suggest having one other helper, unless your kitchen can afford more. My husband is my sous chef on Thanksgiving day. We've cooked enough together to not get in each other's way. I am always, always thankful for my mother though. She is a dishwashing machine and tends to help keep the dishes under control!
-Be rested. Do not stay up ridiculously late the night before Thanksgiving. Rest, relax, take a bubble bath, and try to get as much sleep as possible. It'll put you in a better mood when you start cooking.
-Disposable pans. I try to keep things traditional for Thanksgiving. That means pulling out the fine china and silver. No throw away plates on this day for me! However, I do use aluminum pans with lids for most of the sides. You can get them at the dollar tree (a dollar for 2 or 3 pans...with lids!). Make your mashed potatoes, and put them in one of these tins. Bake when it's time, put the pan on the table, and afterwards just put the lid on and put them in the oven. This saves on dishes, and time transferring sides after dinner.
This is, in my opinion, the most important tip or trick...
Set a great atmosphere. Get up, light candles, play Christmas music. Have some mulled cider in the crock pot to sip on, and be as pleasant and happy as possible. If you get tired, cranky, or annoyed, remind yourself what you are thankful for! Make memories of laughter and love, not yelling and anger.
One more post until the end of the series! If you have any questions now or closer to Thanksgiving feel free to ask and I'll get you an answer.
More in the series here:
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Being a Good Host
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Menu Planning
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Setting the Tone
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Fun for Kids
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Recipes and Time Management
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Tips and Tricks
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Resources and Reminders