The 9 best tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving. Written by a mom who knows.

Hey, put down that Halloween candy. You ready for Thanksgiving?

Holidays that center around food are squarely in my wheelhouse, but man are they a lot of work! If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year (or ever have before), you know that it can get very overwhelming very quickly. Do not freak out. Check out these tips for a turnkey turkey day.

Delegate the Menu

Truth be told, I’ve only hosted a couple major holiday meals in my life and it was exhausting, and that was before I had kids. Ever since, I’ve been a guest at someone else’s home but I always bring something—we all do, which makes it exponentially easier on the host’s time and wallet. As a host, take on the turkey (or whatever your main course will be) and dessert and ask others to bring a side dish. My family and I hash out a menu via email before so there are no duplicates or missing favorites.

No-Fuss Appetizers

Look, you’re already cooking up a storm for the actual meal so there’s no need to get everyone filled up on costly and time-consuming appetizers. Stick to simple things like cheese and crackers, olives, grapes and nuts. I like to throw in unexpected kid fare too like goldfish or animal crackers. If you want to provide something a little more substantial, Trader Joe’s sells some great pre-made dips and has a tasty hummus selection.

Easy-peasy Centerpieces

No time or money for an extravagant presentation of fresh flowers or a dazzling gourd display? Grab a pretty platter out of your cupboard and pile it with clementines, dates, grapes and nuts. Even better, it doubles as a dessert alternative après dinner.


Fool them with Presentation

It’s easier than you think to create beautiful centerpieces and fancy snack trays—look around your house for serving pieces or platters from every day décor. Cutting boards make a perfect appetizer tray, teacups are great for small crackers, mason jars work for pretzel or bread sticks, grab a basket and line it with a dish towel for bread or fruit. And just like that, you’re Martha Stewart.

Borrow Stuff

If you’re short on serving dishes, pots/pans or wine glasses, borrow from a friend who’s not hosting. Don’t worry if it’s not all matchy-matchy, it’s potluck chic. Better yet, ask your guests to bring their own plate and silverware—no dishes! Just kidding, or am I?

Everyone Helps

There’s a lot to do to get a house ready for an event like this so lean on others to help out. Assign the kids age-appropriate chores (dust, food prep, playroom pickup) and have your partner take on some of the heavier tasks (clean toilets, all the toilets, even the toilets that won’t be used). You’ll be less stressed if chores are being shared which will leave you more time for important things like basting the turkey, baking, pouring yourself a glass of wine and choosing a festive outfit.

Assigned Seating

It’s not that name cards are absolutely necessary (they aren’t), but I delegate this one to my kids because a) What’s cuter than a name placard scrawled by a little kid?, and b) it keeps them busy (i.e. out of my way in the kitchen and/or fighting with each other). The end result is cute and homey and kids love the dinnertime praise.

Have Kids’ Activities on the Ready

How many kids does it take to devastate a playroom? Exactly. Throw together a quick outdoor scavenger hunt (red leaf, oval rock, y-shaped twig, etc.– or download PKC’s free, printable scavenger hunt) that an adult can chaperone. If you’re stuck inside, have some planned crafts or activities ready for the kids (Rainbow Loom, board games or place cards (see #8).

Plan for Mishaps

Keep a healthy supply of paper towels and stain remover close at hand for the inevitable red wine, cranberry sauce or chocolate ground into the carpet. If you catch it in time, stains usually don’t have a chance. Wait a couple of hours because cleaning stuff isn’t handy and you don’t want to deal, the stain will remain as a nice memento of Thanksgivings past.

Most of all, relax and enjoy the company of your family. Don’t forget your camera and take lots of photos. Unlike carpet stains, these are memories you’ll want to keep.


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