Thanksgiving Thursday: 6 Tips for De-stressing Thanksgiving

This is the first in our weekly “Thanksgiving Thursday” series for 2014!

In the following weeks we’ll take a look at our favorite Thanksgiving meal plans, recipes, tips, and tricks to get the most fun (and the least stress) out of your Thanksgiving!

This week: De-stressing Thanksgiving: 6 Tips

What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.

I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? – Erma Bombeck

So many dishes, so many people, and so many “cherished family traditions” that must be upheld it’s would be well-nigh impossible to make it through the day without at least SOME drama.

So, if we can’t avoid the chaos, let’s at least try to get a rope on it, huh?

Here are a few tips to help you can avoid enough of the crises to actually enjoy the meal and your guests:

#6 – Don’t sweat the small stuff! – Does anyone really care if the tablecloth is ironed? Does anyone really care if their napkins are shaped like swans. No they don’t…they want to eat, and laugh, and eat some more. If you’re low on time (uh, who’s not?), and that cloth is really bugging you, just iron the corners and sides. Once the dishes and centerpiece are in place, no one will see the wrinkles. Have the kids help you set the table the night before, too. It’s one less thing to do.

#5 – Have a plan! – Sit down and make a guest list. From the number of guests, plan your menu, and make a check list of all ingredients. Create a complete shopping list and decide if you’re doing all of the cooking or if others will be bringing dishes. Take inventory your dinnerware, kitchen tools, and gadgets, spices and other staples in your pantry, and don’t forget to count chairs!

#4 – Lighten up on the menu! With the size of the feast on most of our tables, it really isn’t necessary to load your guests up on dips, snacks, or appetizers. A platter of cut fresh veggies should do the trick, or at least make appetizers a “pot luck” item.

#3 – Prep 24 hours in advance! Do as much prep work as you can: Make salad dressings; chop onions and celery and store in resealable plastic bags in the fridge; top and tail green beans; make stock for gravy with purchased turkey wings.

#2 – Shop early (and late!) – Now that we’re just a couple of days out, you can safely buy most of your ingredients. Onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and green beans, squash, even fresh-looking salad greens will last until Thursday provided you store them properly. DO NOT plan on doing any shopping on Thanksgiving Day! Pick up cheeses and cured meats for an easy, no-prep appetizer to serve while you’re in the kitchen.

Full-contact grocery shopping not your thing? (Mine neither)…here’s what I do:

Find a good 24-hour grocery (I like Winco), and hit it about 4-5am, do your shopping, then stop by your favorite coffee shop on the way home for a cuppa and a bagel. Make a plan with a friend to shop together. Relax, refresh…maybe jump ahead to…

Most important: #1BE THANKFUL!

This is what it’s about peeps…not the turkey, not the pies, and (believe it or not) not about being the perfect host. Find a quiet spot to sit for 20-30 minutes, before you start cooking Thursday morning, and reflect on what you have to be thankful for, write these things down, and WHY you’re thankful for them.

…and keep that thought firmly in place as you ride into battle.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth!

The secret to being a great host or hostess (and keeping your sanity) is to not sweat the small stuff. If the yams burn, toss ’em out, turn on a fan, and enjoy all the rest of the great food. If the turkey burns, have a number handy to order take-out!


Remember…Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey in the oven, it’s about all the turkeys around the table.

What tips would YOU add to the list?

Happy Thanksgiving!

– Chef Perry

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens

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