Anyone else feel like it was July and now Thanksgiving is a week away? The holidays can seriously sneak up on you, and unlike easy-to-throw-together dinners, it’s kind of a high-maintenance one to pull off at the last minute.
Beyond that, even for the well-prepped, it can still be stressful! An American Psychological Association study indicated that women are more likely than men to put in the extra effort to make sure the feast (see, what other dinner do you regularly refer to as a feast?) happens. So, as you do with your workouts, meetings, and meditation it’s time to pencil in the prep.
Joanna Goddard, founder of Cup of Jo and Lauren Kretzer, vegan chef and holistic wellness expert are no strangers to the challenge of hosting, whether it’s through superb dishes or welcoming guests into a cozy home. So I quizzed them on their timeline for hosting such a big dinner. The main trick? “It’s easier to make things feel festive if you’re staying true to yourself and what you love,” says Goddard. “Your guests will appreciate whatever you do.” Here, their top tips day-by-day.
Keep scrolling to find out what you should be doing every day until Thanksgiving.
One week out
Plan your meal
“Thanksgiving might be the toughest holiday to navigate as a hostess because of the near singular focus on the food,” Kretzer says. “Two things that are major sanity savers: keeping things simple and doing some careful advance planning.” That means that you should dust off long-standing family favorite recipes and do some research into new options as well such as ACV squash salad. Goddard like to create a food mood board of sorts, taping up clipped recipes to the back of her cupboard. That way she already has a menu in the works when it comes time for the big day.
Check dietary needs from guests
While every host hopes to accommodate each guest, it’s hard to be sure if you are meeting all of your loved ones’ dietary restrictions. Take a moment to reach out and check. “Ask for guidance if you need it—most people with special diets will gladly provide recipe suggestions or will even offer to contribute a dish or two that they can share with everyone,” Kretzer says.
Three to five days before
Don’t plan to cook twice
Ahead of a big turkey dinner, you shouldn’t also feel obliged to serve your guests lunch. Goddard has a quick fix. “Instead of serving big lunches, we’ve learned to fill the fridge with sliced cheeses and meats from the deli, tomatoes and lettuce, mayo and mustard, and great crusty bread—that way, guests can help themselves whenever they’re hungry. Done and done,” she says. Plan to add these things to your shopping list, which brings me to…
Make your shopping list
Kretzer creates one big shopping list for the feast and subsequent ones for things like cocktails, table settings, and music playlists. “I find that the more organized I am, the less stressed I feel leading up to the big day,” she says.
Two days out
Plan your schedule
Start with what time you would like to serve dinner and work backwards. “Sketch out a rough game plan for Thanksgiving day,” Kretzer says. “It’ll help you figure out when the table needs to be set, the oven preheated, champagne chilled, and so on.”
Get your family involved
The holiday season is about being together, so try to get the whole crew involved. “We put the kids to work! Our seven-year-old takes charge of place cards, and our four-year-old draws big welcome signs for everyone,” Goddard says. “They love to weigh in on the playlist—this year I anticipate lots of the Beach Boys and Michael Jackson.”
Keep it simple
There is a lot to be done, that’s for sure. But the day before the big event, take a moment to enjoy being with family and make things chill. Goddard’s two cents? Grab take out and relax. “The night before Thanksgiving, we always order an Indian spread,” she says. “It’s a crowd pleaser and easy to share—and that way, you don’t have to cook (or do dishes) before the big preparations begin the next morning.”
While you should keep your needs in mind throughout the process, take a moment just for you—whether this means a meditation or focusing on an especially good night’s sleep. “I find that if I’m getting enough shut eye, not only do I have more energy during the day, I handle stressful situations better,” Kretzer says.
Pause and enjoy
The reason for the day is to celebrate with friends, family, and loved ones. So why not focus on them? Take a moment to pause and be present.“Don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection—instead, pat yourself on the back for hosting in the first place,” Kretzer says. “You’re providing an opportunity for loved ones to be together on an important holiday; that’s huge in and of itself.”