10 Secrets for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

These tips are a great refresher for a seasoned holiday veteran or a first-time host.

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checking list customer at market
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Plan! Plan! Plan!

To reduce stress on the big day, make a Thanksgiving game plan. You’ll need a guest list, shopping list and menu—as well as a list of things that need to happen the day of. Get our complete Thanksgiving shopping list here. We suggest working about two weeks out, beginning with planning your menu and guest list. When Thanksgiving arrives, you will be so thankful you planned in advance. Make sure to also check out our ultimate guide to hosting Thanksgiving.

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Group of friends are cooking in the kitchen

Delegate tasks

Good luck keeping everyone out of the kitchen. After all, it’s the heart of the home. Instead of getting flustered when Aunt Susan hovers over the stuffing, put your company to work. Save a few small tasks for a trusted friend or family member. Or, if you have a task that you particularly don’t care for—like carving the turkey or making the gravy—let an expert know ahead of time that their services will be required.

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Taste of Home

Make it a potluck

If you are knee-deep in recipes and beginning to question your sanity, bring together your family cooks and have everyone bring a dish to pass, like these brilliant Thanksgiving potluck recipes. If you know your Nana’s cornbread dressing just won’t be the same without her special touch, have her make the dish. After all, bringing everyone together and combining traditions is the very meaning of Thanksgiving.

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Bowl with green peas, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce and dill standing on a table on a background of hand chopping green onions with knife on wooden Board

Work ahead

This tip is crucial for a successful holiday meal. Take a look at your menu and identify dishes that can be made ahead of time and frozen. Your dressing, for example, can usually be made a few weeks in advance and frozen. Then, defrost and bake it on the big day. Other tasks, like chopping onions and scoring Brussels sprouts, can also be done days in advance. And don’t forget to defrost your turkey! Get our complete guide for how to prep, freeze and defrost your favorite holiday dishes.

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Baking Lasagne Bolognese in Disposable Foil Dish in Electric Oven

Consider disposable

I’m sure there are hosting queens clutching their pearls as I type, but disposable dishware is perfect for large, casual gatherings. Paper and plastic options have come a long way over the years. And, in many cases, it’s hard to notice the difference at first glance. If disposable plates aren’t your jam, consider using disposable cookware for easy clean-up. Baking something for the host? Consider these holiday food packaging ideas.

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Frozen food in freezer
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Opt for convenience items

Avoid more work for yourself by opting for convenience items, like frozen vegetables, bakery bread or ready-made brine. Your green bean casserole isn’t picky when it comes to fresh or frozen, and the rolls aren’t the stars of the show anyway. Just be sure to allow extra prep time for thawing.

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Stacked containers of leftovers
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Plan for leftovers

You will more than likely have plenty of leftovers. To avoid being stuck with a week’s worth of turkey and dressing, send your guests home with all the fixings in takeout boxes. Or, ask them to bring their own containers! Here are our top 10 ways to dress up leftover turkey.

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beautiful happy woman cooking thanksgiving turkey at kitchen
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Prepare your table (and yourself) first

This sounds like a weird one, but as the guests begin pouring in, you’ll be glad you aren’t still in your leggings with a pile of silverware on the table. When you wake up on Thanksgiving morning, make you and your table a priority. Better yet, set your table the night before.

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Four plates with cutlery and autumnal vegetables on wooden table
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Label your dishes

As you begin preparations, add labeling to your to-do list. Pull out all of the serving dishes that you’ll be using for Thanksgiving Dinner. Then, write down each menu item on a sticky note and place it in the appropriate dish. There’s nothing worse than realizing you loaned your largest serving platter to your best friend and she forgot to give it back. Get more tips for hosting Thanksgiving.

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Thanksgiving Celebration Tradition Family Dinner Concept

Remember the reason

Above all, Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for family members and friends. Don’t stress over incidentals like mismatched napkins or that second dessert you begged your sister not to bring. It’s about spending time with those we love the most—everything else is just icing on the cake! (Or should we say whipping cream on the pie?)

Anna Kate Goshko
With more than 10 years of professional writing experience, I have a passion for telling stories. My writing has been published across multiple industries from fashion and beauty to medical and automotive. Most recently, my work as a freelancer for StyleBlueprint focused on restaurant openings and features. My online portfolio features articles published while working for a marketing agency. In addition, I own and operate my own blog, Project Stepmom, focusing on recipes and lifestyle pieces according to my experiences as a stepmother.