What to Know If You’re a First Time Thanksgiving Host

Everyone loves Thanksgiving. The minute Halloween ends, grocery stores start putting up displays of all necessary ingredients. News shows and our favorite blogs start to write about their beloved side dishes. All of this makes us count the days until we can devour turkey, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole. If you’re hosting the Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year, the idea of throwing everything together and making it perfect can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry: Here are some tips and tricks to make it all as smooth as pumpkin pie.

1. Frozen turkeys taking too long to Thaw? Plan accordingly

If you buy a frozen turkey, remember it takes a while to thaw. Some recommend 24 hours per every five pounds of turkey. If you buy ahead of time, remember to take it out of the freezer in advance. Also, when purchasing turkey, remember you want around 1-1.5 pounds per person. Turkeys have a lot of bone, so remember that’s not all meat you’re planning for. 

2. Now is not the time for experimentation

Sure, that super fancy potato au gratin recipe you saw on Pinterest looks superb. But if you’re hosting for the first time, don’t make things harder on yourself. Instead, stick to the basics, and you are sure to have something everyone will like. 

3. Accept help

When the company starts to arrive, you’ll likely have someone who asks, “What can I do to help?” Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to make it our automatic response to brush them off, tell them you’ve got it, and encourage them to relax. However, you also deserve some reprieve, so there’s no harm in asking someone to stir the sauce, carve the turkey, or set the table. They’ll enjoy helping you, and you’ll enjoy the minute to breathe.

4. Write everything down 

From your grocery list to your menu and even your guest list: Write everything down. This will help you stay focused when things start to get chaotic. Grocery stores get crazy around the holidays, so a list will help you stay on track.

5. Do whatever you can in advance

There are several side dishes you can make in advance and warm up on the day. Not leaving everything for Thanksgiving Day will make things easier and less stressful for you. For example, use crockpots (you can even borrow one from one of your guests for extra). No one will know you prepped the sweet potato casserole the night before, and they’ll enjoy it just the same. You can also set the table the night before to scratch one thing off of Thanksgiving Day’s to-do list.

6. Do an inventory of your kitchen equipment

If you’ve never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, there may be some kitchen tools that you don’t have but will need. For example, do you have a big enough roasting pan for your turkey? Do you have a meat thermometer and turkey baster? You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of serving dishes, serving utensils, and ways to store leftovers (not to mention, room in the fridge!) These are just some of the things you might want to think about well in advance.

7. Don’t forget drinks

Everyone is always focused on the food, but guests will need something to drink as well. Depending on their preferences, plan some alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. Find places to store them, and make sure you have enough drinkware for all of your guests. You can even save yourself some cleanup after by buying disposable cups.

8. Leave time to get ready

You’ll definitely be busy cooking and prepping. So before you know it, you’ll realize guests will start arriving in thirty minutes. (Insert sheer panic here!) Planning ahead and, as mentioned above, writing it everything down as a part of your day will help you ensure you have enough time to get ready without feeling rushed.

9. Don’t worry about appetizers

Thanksgiving is a huge meal, so you don’t need to go crazy with appetizers. Instead, it’s best to go with some pre-made dip and crackers or a cheese tray. No one will know they’re store-bought, and even if they will, who cares!

10. Have fun!

Yes, hosting Thanksgiving is a big deal, and the pressure will be on as you try to craft a picture-perfect meal. But don’t forget to leave yourself time to chat and enjoy the company you’ve invited. If dinner isn’t served at 2:30 pm on the dot, I would hope none of your guests will lose their cool over it.

Though hosting your first Thanksgiving may seem stressful at first, remember the true meaning of the holidays. Enjoy the time you’re spending with friends and family and the new memories you’re creating. Even if something goes awry, in the future it will be something you and your loved ones can look back on and laugh about.


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