How to Host Thanksgiving with A Lot Less Stress

How to Host Thanksgiving with A Lot Less Stress

“If you do want to host Thanksgiving…but are worried about the mental cost, just stick with me. I’ll get you through it.”


How do you host Thanksgiving with a lot less stress?

If you’re like me, you enjoy hosting Thanksgiving, but there’s at least a bit of dread that comes with it. How many people will come this year? What dishes should I make? How should I cook the turkey? Will I be able to go all day without throat punching someone (that’s a whole other blog post)?

Every year I contemplate whether I should do it again. Do I really want to go through what I went through last year? The answer is yes, I want to host, but no, I don’t want to stress out over it.

First of all, if you don’t enjoy hosting, then don’t do it. The holidays are a time that you deserve to enjoy. If hosting isn’t your thing, let someone else be in charge. If you do want to host Thanksgiving but are worried about the mental cost, just stick with me. I’ll get you through it.

The key is planning ahead. Here’s how to host Thanksgiving with a lot less stress:

Make a Menu

Make a menu at least a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving so that you have time to mull it over and make changes. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving day and willy-nilly the dish ideas that have hung around in your head. Write them down and write each ingredient you need to complete the dish. Include everything the main dish, side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. I even like to add a special dish I know the kids will eat because they’re not really a fan of most Thanksgiving food. Personally, I really like to use Pinterest to help with my Thanksgiving plans. When I’m ready to cook, all I have to do is look at my Pinterest app. I have a great Thanksgiving board here. The Sweet Potato Casserole is everyone’s favorite!

Make a Guest List and Delegate Dishes

Now make a guest list and delegate dishes to some or all of your guests. Make them bring things you don’t want to bother with. Don’t take a wild guess about how many people are going to show up. Call or text everyone to confirm their spot and give at least some of them a food assignment so you’re not left to do all the work. I really like to delegate desserts and drinks because that’s something I just don’t care to cook or worry about buying. Uncle Ed can bring store-bought pumpkin pie and that’s just fine with me.

Turn Your Menu Into a Grocery List

Then turn the rest of your menu into a grocery list. Whatever Uncle Ed or Grandma Suzy isn’t bringing, is your responsibility to serve. Don’t go to the store and try to guess what you need because you’ll just end up making a Wal-Mart run the day of. Put the ingredients you need for each dish on your list. Don’t forget non-food items, too. Do you plan on using real dishes or are you paper-fabulous, like me? Do you need utensils, napkins, decorations? Whatever floats your Thanksgiving boat…get it.

Don’t Feel Bad About Store Bought Food or Paper Plates

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT feel bad about your store-bought apple pie or extra durable Thanksgiving paper plates and utensils. Washing dishes after you eat a huge meal sucks. You’re already going to have a ton of pots and pans to clean. Don’t you dare feel bad about going paper-fabulous this year. These days, you can buy plates, napkins, utensils, and cups that are super cute! I’m paper-fabulous every year and proud.

Make a Plan

Make a plan for Thanksgiving day. How many seats do you need? What decorations will be set up? When is dinner? When will guests arrive? How long will each dish take to make and what pan are you going to cook it in? What method will you use to cook the turkey and how long will it take? There’s been a couple of years where the day of Thanksgiving I realized I didn’t have enough pans to make all the food I had planned on. This resulted in an emergency trip to my mother-in-law’s house. I don’t recommend it.

Prep Food the Day Before

Prep food the day before. I can’t say this enough. Don’t wake up on Thanksgiving and think, okay now it’s time to get started! A couple of hours in and you’ll realize, holy crap I have so much to get done! The day before Thanksgiving I make sure desserts are done, appetizers are ready to set out, and anything that goes straight to the oven (like this awesome Sweet Potato Casserole) is ready to stick in. This makes the next day so much calmer.

Give Turkey Enough Time to Thaw

If you buy a fresh turkey, great! If not make sure you buy a frozen one at least a week out (so that you get a good pick) and give it a few days (depending on the size) to thaw in the fridge or in cold water. You can find guidance on how long to thaw a turkey here. In the past I have waited too long to buy the turkey, making it hard to find one big enough and not giving myself enough time to let it thaw. Last year I cut it close. Never again!

Start Cooking the Turkey Early

Finally, give yourself plenty of time to cook the turkey, especially if you’re not experienced. Don’t worry about being done too early, it’s way better than being done too late. Give yourself a 2-3 hour time cushion before guests are scheduled to eat. The turkey can sit in the oven or roasting pan on a low temp to stay warm if needed, but if you realize your turkey is not done when it should be, it throws everything out of whack and leaves you swearing that you’ll never host again.


I hope these suggestions help you have the most stress-free Thanksgiving yet. Did these tips help you? What could I add to the list? Comment below and tell me!


But wait…there’s more.


Subscribe to The Wiser Life today (go to side or the bottom of this page) and  I’ll send you a free Thanksgiving Dinner Planner 2-page printable!



It’s not good enough to think about your Thanksgiving plan, you need to write it down for it to be effective. My printable includes space to write your menu, your guest list, your delegated dishes, your grocery list and more!

Keep a copy of the printable for yourself so that every year you can use it to keep Thanksgiving as stress-free as possible.


It’s FREE. Just subscribe to The Wiser Life email list (bottom of page)! I’ll send it immediately!


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