How do you plan the perfect, stress free Thanksgiving meal? With so many different interesting side dishes, ways to cook a turkey, food preferences and dietary restrictions, it’s hard to even plan a Thanksgiving menu. Add to that the element of a fast paced life, less money in the food budget and the personalities of those coming and the task becomes even harder. Planning the perfect Thanksgiving is no longer as easy as it once was. By thinking ahead and communicating before hand with those who are coming to celebrate with you, your Thanksgiving holiday can be a relaxed and fun event for everyone involved, including the hostess.
The internet has tons of tips, but as in other areas, it’s also adds to the stress with information overload. You want to give your family the traditional meal they look forward to, but you also want to avoid the stress and confusion that can come from not planning. The more people involved, the harder it can become. With a large family and many different Thanksgiving traditions to include, the best place to start is by asking. Take some time now, the earlier in the month the better, and talk to those involved. The female person in charge is usually the best person to go to. Try and get a head count, so that you make sure the turkey you’re getting will be big enough to feed all, and a general overall feeling of who is coming.
Second, ask how much you’re willing to spend on the your meal. Is it necessary to purchase a fresh turkey? Or is frozen okay? Again that depends on your time involved, the expertise of the cook, and the amount you have budgeted for the bird. The more side dishes you have, the less turkey you have to buy. Or you can add other meat dishes to supplement a small turkey. With brining recipes and alternative cooking methods, you can skimp on the turkey, buy a bargain frozen turkey and still have a tasty bird that will make everyone happy.
Sharing the menu is another great way of saving both time and money. Everyone can bring their favorite dish and the host doesn’t have to make all of the meal or pay for it. This allows everyone at your table to have their traditions and insures that there is plenty to eat. Don’t make this a traditional potluck. Call ahead and pin down guests to what they’re going to bring and let them know how many are coming.
As the host, this leaves you with making sure your place is clean and ready for the feast. The bathroom, kitchen and eating area are the most important parts to tackle. Make sure you cover these areas well and do them the weekend before. Be sure there is plenty of room for everyone to sit. If you have to, a large serving table and casual lap dining could work, but part of the fun of Thanksgiving is gathering around the table. If possible, borrow or rent extra tables if there is room. This is something else to think about as early as possible in the month.
The next area to think about is what you’re going to eat on. Some people use paper plates. Others feel that holiday meals are the one time to bring out the good dishes. With most people having a dishwasher, the major clean-up isn’t the dishes you eat on, but everything else – the dishes you use for prep and serving. If going green and saving money is important, then get out the good dishes. If your style is casual, then go for the paper plates, or anything in between. The important part is everyone cooperating, feeling comfortable and enjoying time spent together.
The most important aspect of making sure that Thanksgiving is an enjoyable time spent together is communication. Talking about the event with those who are coming will help you avoid the stress of unnecessary over-planning, unmet expectations and other areas that may detract from a wonderful holiday spent with people you love.