Thanksgiving is around the corner, and a good number of people are planning to host dinner for their friends and family. And while the celebrations are fun and exciting, there’s a lot more that goes into hosting Thanksgiving dinner than just picking out a turkey. There’s a lot of planning, spending and cooking, all of which can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what to expect.
Fortunately, the best way to avoid that anxiety is to plan ahead. By the end of the night, your guests and your wallet will thank you. Here are some mistakes that can make the day harder — and some advice on making sure they don’t bring down your party.
You Didn’t Plan Enough Cooking Time
Depending on how big your turkey is, it can take anywhere from two to six hours to cook. A good rule of thumb is to budget 13 minutes per pound of turkey.
Not sure how much turkey to get? The general recommended amount is about one to one and a half pounds per person. So, if you have 10 people coming, you can be safe with a 10-pound turkey. Just don’t forget, it’ll take two hours and 10 minutes to cook. Buy anything larger and you’re not just looking at wasted time, you’re looking at an emptier wallet, too.
And no turkey dinner is complete without an array of sides to go along with it. Depending on the sides you choose, you could be looking at well over four hours of cook time. Experts recommend taking some time in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to make a list of all your dishes, including ingredients and cook time. This way, you can better plan and even split up preparations between Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, you can just warm a few dishes, rather than having to make everything from scratch the day of.
You could also consider purchasing some ready-made side options. While this may feel like you’re spending more money, the time and energy you’ll save will likely outweigh the guilt of not creating everything by hand. Remember: This is a holiday for you to enjoy, too!
You Took on Too Much
Just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you have to make every dish. If the turkey is stressing you out, and one of your guests has made one before, don’t be afraid to put that person in charge! Ask people to bring dishes that are already prepared. You can also have food delivered or picked up from local restaurants.
Think through what you want to make and what you have time to make — if a dish is making you miserable, ask someone to help. Most likely, they’ll feel happy to contribute. You can even make a spreadsheet with everything you need beforehand. Put your name to what you can comfortably take the lead on, then ask the people coming to fill in the blanks.
Creating such a list won’t just make everyone feel included, it’ll save you money, as well. Hosting is a big financial responsibility, and this is the perfect holiday to allow others to help out.
One more tip: When you’re evaluating which dishes you really want at your celebration, consider skipping the ones that are only on your table thanks to tradition. If no one eats green bean casserole or yams, save the money and time you’d spend on prepping these dishes and put it towards other aspects of your party that everyone will love.
You Don’t Have Any Appetizers
Now that you see how long the meal is going to take, you’ll realize there’s quite a bit of time where guests are just… waiting. To keep people happy, but not totally stuffed, it’s nice to have a few snacks out before the big meal is finished. This can be small — and easily outsourced! — so don’t think too hard about it.
Chips and salsa, pigs in a blanket, meat and cheese boards, veggies and dip, baked brie and crackers and pretty much anything else you like to snack on will do the trick. It’s an easy step to forget in the mix, but it’s a simple thing that makes a big difference.
Need a lot of appetizers on a small budget? You don’t need to break the bank to keep people stuffed from the second they enter your house to the moment they leave. Check out Costco and Trader Joe’s for deals on seasonal favorites. Or consider getting some non-perishable food items from Amazon. If you overstock, you get to keep the leftovers.
You’re Making Something You’ve Never Cooked Before
When it comes to the biggest home cooked meal of the year, stick to the hits. This isn’t a great time to try out a complicated recipe or something that involves a step you’ve never done before. Or worse: a dish that is both complicated and costly to make. Don’t go chasing exotic ingredients right before the holiday. Stick to the apps and mains that you’re used to.
Pick dishes that you’ve gotten good feedback on or just pick up something you think is delicious from the store or a restaurant. Thanksgiving isn’t about who can make the best dish or show off the fanciest spices — it’s just about eating good food with people you care about.
You Invited Too Many People
Maybe you’ve spent the whole month of November extending invites, and now you’ve just realized you’re having 50 people over for Thanksgiving. This isn’t a disaster, but you should be aware of what this means when it comes to cooking and setting the table. With 50 people coming, experts say you’ll need 50 pounds of turkey. And that means you’re going to be spending a lot more money than expected. Not to mention all the dietary preferences you’ll need to accommodate for. And the table space!
Make things easier for yourself and keep your party small and intimate. You’ll make some excellent memories, and your bank account will thank you.
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