How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday Gathering

People at Dinner Party

Thanksgiving Day 2011 is finally here and I am so excited! I get to see my extended family (this is the one time each year I get to see most of them), watch some football, and just be an unapologetic glutton all day.

If you host holiday gatherings at your house, does the thought of the holidays stress you out? There will be more than 50 relatives at my Grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner…and she does “most” of the cooking. Yet, despite feeding so many people, I’ve never seen her stressed out.

She has planned and organized everything so that she's able to sit in her favorite chair and spend time with her family instead of worrying about last-minute details.

Here are some of the things that I’ve notice that she does to keep her holiday gatherings organized. And a few that I’ve added for good measure…kind of like the cherry on top of your ice cream (or pecans on top of your sweet potato casserole).

These tips can be incorporated into any party you host.

Don’t Get Caught Shopping at the Last Minute

First things first: determine your menu well in advance. Once the menu has been finalized (and with Thanksgiving, the menu doesn’t change much), write down every ingredient you'll need. Next, cross out all items you already have. Try to complete all shopping in one trip.

Designate an area in your kitchen where all non-refrigerated ingredients are stored. This is the one time when the appearance of clutter is okay.

Ditch the Good Plates

This is probably the most Eco-unfriendly statement I’ll ever make, but the last thing you want to do after hosting a party with food at your house is wash a bunch of dishes. And if you’re thinking you can use your dishwasher, that idea only works if you’re hosting a small party. My Grandmother actually supplies paper plates and we use her real silverware. It works fine; however, there is always someone at the sink washing forks.

Have Sara Help You Prepare

My Grandmother literally has 5+ different cakes plus 5 different pies! There are also multiple hams, turkeys, vegetables, homemade yeast rolls, etc. It blows my mind how much food she prepares (and how quickly it disappears)! That is until I found out she uses Sara – Sara Lee – to “prepare” her pies.

Yes, it is okay to buy prepared desserts and dishes. No need to pull an all-nighter to prepare everything from scratch. Take the shortcut. It’s better to be rested and relaxed than exhausted on the big day.

And while you’re at it, buy pre-cut, peeled, and washed vegetables and fruits. I always buy pre-cut food when I host a gathering at my house..or when I'm preparing my meals for the week. The amount of time you’ll save is so worth the extra money you’ll have to pay.

Ask Others to Pitch In

You don’t have to be the Thanksgiving Day martyr and take full responsibility for hosting and preparing all the food. You’re probably hosting Thanksgiving because no one else wants to do it. Hey, it’s hard work! Opening your home to your friends and family is awesome, and there’s nothing wrong with asking people to bring a dish. If someone asks you if they can bring something, say yes! And then tell them a turkey! ☺

Clean Smart or Hire a Housecleaner

Don’t overwhelm yourself by cleaning the house from top to bottom. Concentrate on public areas and if your budget allows, hire a housecleaner.

Just remember that your friends and family are coming for the fellowship and to spend time with their loved ones. Food is just the icing on the cake. Don’t stress yourself out with creating the perfect gathering. Your guest will remember for years the undercooked yams than that perfect food arrangement!

Happy Turkey Day!