How to Host a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, Part 2

It’s time for the second installment of our how to host a stress-free thanksgiving series!

We’re just going to jump head first into the nitty gritty today!

But before we do, you can find the rest of the series here:

A pumpkin plate, Thanksgiving napkin, butter dish and place cards on a wooden surface.

Several Weeks Before Turkey Day (About 3 Weeks Out)

Today’s post includes everything that I start to do when we reach the 3-week mark from the holiday (give or take).

So are you ready? Did you do your homework that I gave you in part one?

Alright, let’s dive in!

1. Finalize your menu

It’s time. Pick your dishes and stick with them. No changing! You should have a good idea at this point of who is coming to your house, so use this to guide you in choosing your final menu.

A few points to consider while doing so:

Be realistic. With both your time and your skill level. Do not try to go overboard, especially if this is your first time hosting. Really reign yourself in with this area. It will save you so much stress later. And just remember, practice makes perfect, so start small and work your way to bigger and more complicated menus over time as you learn and grow. You don’t need to throw the end all, be all thanksgiving dinner this year.

Pick recipes that you know. i.e. ones that you’ve made before or are from very very trusted sources. You do not want any surprises on turkey day. Also, if you don’t want to make everything from scratch, plan out what you will buy versus make (such as buying all your desserts pre-made).

Choose plenty of recipes that can be made in advance. I am one of those people who likes my food super fresh, but for thanksgiving I always make sure I have lots of recipes that can be made in advance. Again, cuts down on stress the day of so that you can enjoy the holiday with your guests!

Consider leftovers. I always plan the menu out so that we have extra food. We love our leftovers (and therefore want extra!) but this also covers me incase we have any last minute additions guest wise to our meal.

Head down to the very end of the post to see my final menu for this year!

A notepad, iPhone and cup of coffee on a wooden surface.

2. Make a grocery list

I know it seems early, but again, it will save you stress later if you space out these tasks and don’t wait to the last minute.

So, take your time while making the list – go through every single recipe slowly and write down what you need. You do not want to have to make any last minute trips to the store once you start cooking!

While totally not necessary, I actually split up my grocery list into perishables and non-perishables. I do this so that I can go shopping now (or within the next week or two) for the non-perishables – I just add them to my regular weekly shopping trip.

For me, this makes the shopping part more manageable and breaks it up a bit (and also spreads out the cost of hosting over several weeks).

3. Order your turkey

This is one of those things that I totally did not think about the first year I hosted Thanksgiving. And I wound up having to pick through the sort of not really wanted turkeys when I went shopping for the big day.

So now, I just stop by the butcher on a weekly shopping trip and place the order (or you can order online with a lot of places these days). I’ll do it in person when I want to talk to the butcher – who can give you recommendations for size based on how many people you are hosting.

Assorted serving dishes and flatware scattered on a wooden surface.

4. Assess your serveware

Now that you know exactly what you are going to be serving, make sure you have dishes to put all that delicious food in!

Go through your collection and make sure you have enough. If you don’t, you can purchase something or borrow from a friend / family member.

Along those lines, also make sure you have enough serving utensils, regular plates, glasses, regular forks and knives, etc.

5. Think about the fun touches

So this part is optional, but I do love a good tablescape. Dork, I know.

I tend to buy things when they go on sale at the end of thanksgiving the year before, so I usually just take everything out now and double check to make sure I don’t need something for this year.

Do not feel pressured to do anything, but I usually think about a tablecloth (I have real ones and plastic ones that I use over and over), placemats and placecards. I also like to have disposable leftover containers on hand so that guests can take something home.

And then because I am a total nerd for this stuff, I like to print up a menu to display (you can see proof of this from last year here).

Assorted Thanksgiving napkins, place cards and decor on a wooden surface.

Thanksgiving Menu 2015

Lastly, as promised, here is my finalized menu for this year (with links to recipes where applicable).

Every single item is something I have made before (and many are dishes that can be made in advance – more on that next week). Again, with that whole be realistic point from up above, this is just to share what I am making! Do what works for you!

Note: I know, we’re going rogue this year and not doing a turkey. It’s the least favorite part of the meal for us, so I decided to go with a ham since it is just so much easier for me (and we like it better anyway)! Also, as far as drinks go, we’re doing beer and wine (plus some mulled apple cider that a friend is bringing!).

sugared cranberries with whipped goat cheese
pumpkin hummus
assorted crackers

Main / Sides:
ham with maple dijon glaze
caramelized onion gravy
vanilla cranberry sauce
blue cheese mashed potatoes with brown butter
pumpkin cheddar stuffing
rosemary roasted carrots
green beans with almonds and shallots
holiday corn
honey yeast rolls
cranberry knots
honey butter
lemon vanilla butter

rosemary ice cream
vanilla bean ice cream
salted pecan pie cookie bars
gingerbread crumb cake

So, I’d love to hear your menu! Leave a comment, shoot me an email! Don’t be shy!