Planning Tips for Thanksgiving

thanksgiving meal planningHoliday meal planning can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Follow the important DO's and DON'T's, and you'll find more time to focus on what is most valuable - quality time together.

DO create your guest list and invite. Send a holiday-themed invitation from Not only will it make your guests feel special, it will also help to collect RSVP's and coordinate what items they'll bring. Careful planning from the start makes it easier on everyone.

DON'T overlook décor! Even simple centerpieces can be talking points and set the mood for a lovely meal. Search Pinterest for ideas. Put your DIY skills to the test by creating your own decorations or check out your local craft stores as they likely have some pre-made options. 

DO put great thought into the meal. If there is a family favorite - make sure that dish is on the menu. Whether you are sticking close to traditional fare or being a bit more adventurous with your menu selection, think about portion size. Make sure you have enough to go around… and a bit more! (Think: LEFTOVERS!) 

DON'T "wing" it. Getting family and friends together may be stressful in and of itself. This is not the time to fly by the seat of your pants. Consider a Thanksgiving checklist to keep tabs on everything from invites to day-of necessities.

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DO delegate. You can't do it all, super-woman! Assign food, drink and paper product needs to your guests. If a guest has a particular specialty, then play to her strengths. As far as day-of goes, this is not the time to stand in the kitchen and be a martyr as your guests struggle to know how to help. Get others involved!

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DON'T put too much pressure on yourself. These are family and friends, after all. It's not an undercover audition for Top Chef. They'll still love you if you burn the gravy. (But don't burn the gravy!)

DO prepare some dishes in advance. Save some day-of stress by preparing hors d'oeuvres, desserts or homemade breads ahead of time. Mind instructions to refrigerate or freeze prior and leave plenty of time for items to sit at room temp or thaw before serving.

DON'T spoil the fun. Think about food safety! Careful planning and prep can help to alleviate any concerns about food spoiling. Make sure you have ample storage space in the refrigerator for items that need to be chilled until serving. Clean out the refrigerator a week or even two in advance so you know the space you are working with.

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DO have assigned seating. No one wants to play the musical chair game for a seat. It may be wise to prepare a "kid's table" or rent extra chairs and tables as needed so no one ends up eating while standing over a plate on the kitchen counter.

DON'T run out of essentials. Stock up on the essentials like butter, sugar, eggs and flour. You don't want to run out on Thanksgiving Day or, well, you'll have to run out! Even if your local grocery store has holiday hours, why take the chance of being left out in the cold?

DO clean up as you go. Clean up time can be a huge burden and it's certainly not the best night-cap. Make a point to tidy up as you go throughout the day so the dishes don't pile sky high. Enlist help when needed so that you don't get overwhelmed.

DON'T forget to take it all in! Relax and reminisce with the people you love. Take time to be thankful. If weather allows, perhaps take a walk after dinner to enjoy one another's company and digest.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!