I’ll let you in on a secret: I LOVE making Thanksgiving dinner. I absolutely love and look forward to planning Thanksgiving and cooking a huge home cooked meal for my family. Sometimes it’s a Friendsgiving, with just our closest friends. Most of the time though, it’s just me and my husband, so the menu is not super huge, but still filled with all the essentials. On rarer occasions when I was living closer to home, I’m cooking for my family including parents, sister and her family, that makes for a respectable sized gathering. So how do I plan Thanksgiving without going crazy? With a little preparation and by thinking ahead you too can plan your own stress-free Thanksgiving dinner!
1 | No New Recipes
Here’s the thing: I take my holiday traditions very seriously. That includes foods. So I do not add in new and different recipes for my Thanksgiving. That means no trying that new recipe I just saw on Pinterest! That eliminates a lot of stress! How often does that new recipe go to plan? If you’re like me it probably doesn’t go off without a hitch the first time you try it. So don’t put that stress on yourself! Stick to the simple recipes you know how to make.
2 | Plan Around Cooking Times
You need to know your cooking times. The turkey will obviously take the longest if you are doing it the traditional roast way (maybe frying is faster? I have no idea about any of that!), then the rest of your side dishes will have varying amounts of cooking times. For example here’s what my Thanksgiving timeline may look like:
Estimated Thanksgiving Dish Prep & Cook Times:
- Turkey Breast: Several Hours
- Mashed Potatoes: 30 min to cook, 10 min mashing, 10 min prep (40 min total)
- Salad: 10min
- Corn (canned or frozen): 1 min prep time, 10min cook time
- Maple Glazed Carrots: 15 min cook time, 5min prep
- Pie, Apple: 45min cook time, 30min prep time*
- Pie, Pumpkin: Buy at store if anyone wants it, cuz I don’t like it!
- Bread/Rolls: Bake time 30min, prep time 3hrs*
- Gravy: 10min
- Sausage stuffing: 30min bake time, 15min prep time
The Thanksgiving Timeline:
- Make stuffing.
- Turkey goes in.
- 40 min before turkey done time, Start potatoes and put stuffing in oven.
- When Potatoes are done put on carrots.
- Mash potatoes.
- Pull out turkey & let rest.
- Put on Corn.
- Make gravy.
- Add butter & maple syrup to carrots.
- Recruit others to place things on table.
- Recruit turkey carver.
3 | Make it the Day Before
There are lots of things you can make before. The essential things to make at least the day before Thanksgiving is the rolls or bread if you are making it from scratch (hey, those frozen just heat up kinds are fine), and the desserts. Casseroles are also a good thing to prep the day before. Prep them the day before and then cook them on Thanksgiving. If oven space is at a premium, you can also cook them the day before and then just reheat them to save time.
4 | Get (or Accept) Help!
Let people help you! Especially for easy tasks like peeling potatoes, chopping veggies, and that time consuming prep-work. Recruit your kids, your significant other, your family members, whoever, and get them involved! Many hands makes for light work and it’s a fun family experience to cook together.
5 | Take Shortcuts
You don’t have to make everything from scratch. Notice my pumpkin pie? I hate the stuff…so I’m not going to make it. If anyone wants it I will get one from the store or bakery. It’s probably way better than mine anyway! Buy the frozen rolls you just need to heat up, or get the artisan bread from the bakery, you don’t need to do it all yourself. Got a lot of company coming over? Make it a potluck! Provide turkey, gravy and a side, and encourage them to bring other sides or desserts.
6 | Let Go of Perfection
Some people go for the magazine perfect Thanksgiving. That’s not my Thanksgiving. It never will be my Thanksgiving. I have no fancy anything, no handmade centerpiece or anything like that. It’s just a real, normal, everyday Thanksgiving. It never goes off exactly on time, there’s always something that throws it off track, like the turkey not being done on time, or whatever. That’s not the point of Thanksgiving. The point is to enjoy time with your family, and have a special meal. That’s really all that matters. Your Thanksgiving mistakes this year will make entertaining stories for years to come. Doesn’t every family have the tale of the turkey that wasn’t done?
Plan Your Thanksgiving with a Free No Stress Thanksgiving Planner Printable
To help you get organized this Thanksgiving, I’m sharing a free No Stress Thanksgiving Planner! Just download and print, then get organized so you can enjoy this Thanksgiving without the stress!