Welcome aboard, train wreck.
It’s happening. Thanksgiving is barreling down on us faster than a wind whipped Macy’s parade balloon. Soon, your house will be invaded by members of your own family. It’s enough to make an introverted train wreck hide in the bathroom. But you can’t do that. You promised to cook and bake and put on a Thanksgiving dinner that would make Martha Stewart chartreuse with envy.
What’s a train wreck to do?
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What you’re not going to do is panic. Take a breath and realize you’re one person and can only do so much. I’m going to help you get through this.
Here is my list for a stress-free Thanksgiving:
Make sure the house is clean and kept ready for company while you cook. Listen. Here’s the thing. You don’t live alone. Time to recruit some help. One kid can pick up the floor while another can run the Swiffer and the vacuum. Your partner can pick up the stray dishes that have roamed the house. You all can rock, paper, scissors for bathrooms. I’m going to be that person. No one sees my room or bathroom. I close that door and don’t worry about it. Living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom in the hall. That’s it.
And speaking of dishes, I know you’re probably wanting the full experience. Plates, silverware, cloth napkins. There will be twenty people in my house at any given point during Thanksgiving. We don’t even have that many plates and forks. So guess what? Good enough is sometimes good enough. And this is one of those times. Get you some Chinet. You know it. It’s the super bougie paper plates you can cut a steak on. And plastic utensils and cups. Make sure to have black permanent markers out so everyone can mark their cup. You can check out how to do cute napkin origami if you want. Personally, I hand that task over to the kids. They are way better at it than I am. Need a centerpiece? Grab a foam pumpkin and some fake flowers and get to stabbing them into the pumpkin. Boom! Done. Maybe buy a new tablecloth so people don’t see where your cat has been chewing on the one you have now.
Make out your menu for the dinner. Examine your recipes and pick your family favorites. Also, try one new thing. Surprises are always nice. It could become a new family tradition. The pick one new thing is hard. I read a lot of culinary cozy mysteries and of course they all have recipes in them. My favorite Thanksgiving themed one is The Diva Runs Out of Thyme. Pick out some things that can be made ahead of time and put into the refrigerator until time to cook or serve. Some salads need to be made a day or two ahead of time so that the flavors meld.
Make out a grocery list. Check the recipes for items you have on hand and list the ones you need to buy. Think of everything you will need. From stuffing to eggs, beverages to desserts. What is the main dish? Also, check with everyone who is coming to see what they’re bringing. If they’re not, sure suggest something. This helps you more than you know.
Clean out your refrigerator. Really good. Like, your family is going to be nosing through there. Don’t give them an excuse to nag you. Make room for covered dishes.
Go shopping early in the day before you cook.
Today, like right after you read this, go do this. Make an appointment calendar for your cooking. Especially on the day you are serving the dinner. You can’t have everything in the oven at once. So plan on what needs to go in the oven and stagger it according to how long they need to cook or can they cook together if you have room. This is when I would love to have 2 ovens.
At the top of this appointment calendar, write, “Only prepare ONE DISH at a time.” Set a time for each item on the menu. Follow this schedule, allowing plenty of time to clean up after preparing each item. Don’t forget to thaw the turkey or ham. For the turkey, you need to thaw it twenty four hours for each five pounds of bird. You do the math. Write it on your list.
Cook or prepare something each day for three days. If you divide the work out over three days, you will have time to plan something fun with the kids and you will have the energy to do it. You can do dessert and many salads early. Throw together casseroles. Pick items for your menus that allow you to make ahead. This way, you are only popping in the oven and setting it on the table.
When you cook, make sure the dishwasher and sinks are empty. Run hot soapy water in the sink, so you can clean up as you go. Remember to only prepare one item at a time and clean up after yourself as you go. DO NOT START A NEW PREPARATION UNTIL THE MESS IS CLEANED UP FROM THE PREVIOUS DISH. I MEAN THIS. I can hear you know. “Oh, I can do two things at once.” Do you remember how overwhelmed you get and the feeling from turning around in circles on your kitchen floor because you don’t know what to do next? Focus on one item at a time. This relieves all the stress. I promise. Your kitchen will be clean, too. That is the biggest stress reliever. And the paper plates and plastic utensils help, too.
Don’t forget the rolls. This is a family tradition in our home. Someone always forgets the bread. So from now on, I buy the frozen roll dough at the grocery store. It is wonderful. All you do is read the directions. They are on the back. Put them in the pan to rise three hours before your meal. Put this on your schedule three to four hours ahead of mealtime. They have to rise and then be cooked. Everyone thinks I made them from scratch. A new family tradition.
Give everything a time on the calendar. But if you don’t look at it, you won’t follow your plan. Take your calendar or notebook with the schedule written on it and put it on the refrigerator or on the counter. Look at it every hour. I have alarms set in my phone. I hear that alarm and I know I have something to do. It’s very Pavlovian. Whether you use a planner, calendar, notebook, or phone, it has your next few days planned out. Guess what? You don’t even have to think now, you just have to read, the thinking has already been done. Keep your recipe with this notebook too.
One word of warning: Do not let your sink become a catch-all. Put everything away as you use it and wash up all your dishes. Then you can start the next preparation. If your dishwasher is like mine, you’ll need to dry the dishes before you put them up. And this leads me to the next tip.
Have someone help you. You do not have to do this all alone. You are not a machine. You deserve a good hot meal too and it won’t do you any good to go through all this if you’re too tired to enjoy it.
If you want to have a wonderful family celebration, the hostess does not need to be exhausted and at her wits’ end. You can do this. If I can, anyone can.
Holiday celebrations are special memories of your children and family. Make them memorable in a way that only you can do.
Wishing you all the joy and happiness that Thanksgiving brings.
I hope this list helps you have a less stressy less messy feast. Again, if you like what I post, please like, comment, share, and subscribe. Please consider donating to help keep this going. $1 and I’ll ask you what your favorite book is so we can talk about it. $5 and I’ll write a review of a book you suggest. $10 and I’ll write a blog suggested by you. If you try anything listed, please let me know what you thought of it and if it has helped. That’s all I’ve got for today, train wrecks. All aboard.
If you’re like me, there will be small people at your house. Here’s a Thanksgiving printable for them to write out what and who they’re grateful for.
So, I just found out Oil of Olay is having a sale. If you’re over 40, you know what this is. Your mom used it. Your aunts used it. Your gramma used it. And now I’m thinking of using it. The crows are nesting at the corners of my eyes. And you know there’s always that one relative that will point that kind of stuff out. Now is the perfect time to start a face routine to look a little younger by Christmas. Take that, Uncle Keith.