Thanksgiving originally started out as a three-day festival to celebrate a successful harvest. Can you imagine a 3-day cooking spree? It didn’t feature desserts, sweets, or potatoes although they are considered classics today. The pilgrims may have eaten cranberries but it was definitely not the sugar-sweetened sauce we serve today. Many have created their own Thanksgiving traditions and look forward to spending time with family and friends each year. Below are some tips for having a stress free holiday of food, family & friends, and fun. 



  • Plan your menu the weekend before Thanksgiving. This way you can plan out what you want to serve in a more relaxed environment. It also gives you time to make a grocery list so you aren’t madly shopping for forgotten ingredients Thanksgiving Day. 
  • Make a game plan once you have a menu set. Try to do this the weekend before too. Figure out what dishes and prep work can be done in the evenings leading up to Thanksgiving. I keep dinners pretty easy and light these nights to all time for prep work. Here is what my game plan looks like:
    • Monday night – make pie dough and corn bread for stuffing
    • Tuesday night – make cranberry sauce, biscuit dough, prep vegetables for stuffing and the turkey
    • Wednesday night – bake the pie, biscuits, and put the turkey in its brine
  • Assign out dishes. I keep the dishes that I really love and enjoy making for myself and assign others to bring side dishes, drinks, and appetizers. Keep in mind if you are hosting and have only one oven, space will be at a premium Thanksgiving Day and timing will be crucial. 


Family & Friends

  • Assign someone to bring festive decorations. Making a festive atmosphere adds to the holiday spirit but can be just one more thing to stress about. Have a guest bring decorations. Just make sure you don’t assign this task to the perennially late guest.
  • Always accept an offer to help. When someone offers to assist you in the kitchen take him or her up on it. This will take some stress off you. The tasks don’t need to be related to prep and cooking. You can ask others to act as host and keep an eye on the appetizers, drinks and making sure others are taken care of.  
  • Goodie bags. Remind guests to bring empty Tupperware so they can take home leftovers. This will free up space in your refrigerator and save you from eating leftovers for days. Alternatively, you can buy some to-go containers for your guests to use for leftovers.



  • Set a playlist. Having good music playing in the background adds to the festive atmosphere. You can use one of the music streaming apps to get a playlist going or designate a guest whose taste in music you appreciate to play DJ for the night. 
  • Participate in a fun run or walk Thanksgiving morning. Starting your day off with exercise will help with stress management and let you enjoy the day guilt-free. Plus if you started prepping and cooking the days leading up to Thanksgiving you will leave you with free time that morning to exercise. You can also go on a group or solo walk after dinner to help digest before dessert.
  • Laugh it off. Rarely does a holiday dinner or big party go off without a single hitch. Laugh off the small mishaps and hiccups; they only seem big in your mind. Plus the hiccups make for great stories in the years to come. The first year I hosted Thanksgiving dinner I tried to make gravy from the turkey drippings but I couldn’t get the roux right. I ended up making a large pot of what looked like pureed turkey soup trying to get the consistency right. It was pretty inedible. Needless to say, no one’s meal was ruined because they didn’t have gravy. Now we laugh about it every year. And I keep a back up jar of gravy in case disaster strikes twice.


What are your tips for having a stress free holiday?