With times being different this year because of the pandemic, you may be planning to host and cook your first Thanksgiving. Maybe you normally get together with a huge extended family for Thanksgiving and that’s just not feasible this year. So this year you decided to cook your first Thanksgiving.
That’s what I will be doing this year. We usually get together with a huge extended family at my Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. Everyone comes from different parts of the country, so because of that, Thanksgiving at her house has been cancelled. So I will be cooking my first Thanksgiving. It will be the 3 of us, my parents, and my mother-in-law. It won’t be the normal 40 people sitting around 2 long tables in my Aunt’s basement. It will be at my house with a small gathering.
While the circumstances of us having to do this aren’t great, I’m actually excited to have Thanksgiving at our house. And if you are one who is hosting and cooking Thanksgiving for the first time this year, I’m sure you are excited as well.
So read on for 10 tips on hosting your first Thanksgiving!
1. Create a Menu
This should definitely be your first step in cooking your first Thanksgiving. You need to decide what the menu will be. Will it be a traditional Thanksgiving menu with turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing? Do you have any family food traditions for thanksgiving? And will you be sticking with these traditions or trying something new?
For my first Thanksgiving at my house, I will be sticking with the traditional Thanksgiving meal with everything we usually have at my Aunt’s except for one thing. I make butternut squash soup every fall, but it’s never on the Thanksgiving menu. This year, I think I will be adding it.
2. Write Out a Grocery List
I always tend to forget something when I go grocery shopping, even when I make a list. So weeks before write out a grocery list of everything you need for Thanksgiving. Put it away and then go back to it making sure you didn’t miss anything. Double and even triple checking your list can never hurt.
What I even did this year that could be helpful to you is I started grocery shopping for Thanksgiving weeks in advance. With so many grocery items being out of stock right now, I figured if I started weeks in advance with items that won’t spoil, I would have multiple times to try and get these items. And it has helped. There were items that I had to order a couple times before I was able to get them.
3. Make Sure the Turkey is Defrosted
Keep in mind that a turkey can take 5 to 7 days to defrost, depending on how big your turkey is. So make sure you are taking your turkey out of your freezer early enough for it to defrost in time for Thanksgiving. There is nothing worse than to realize on Thanksgiving that your turkey is still frozen.
We will actually be buying a fresh turkey (not frozen) from a turkey farm 4 days before Thanksgiving. We are excited.
4. Make a Plan
A few days before, sit down and make a timeline. Read over all the recipes and see how long they’ll take to prepare and cook and what time you should start cooking each one.
I am not good at timing everything together and making sure everything is done at the exact same time. So this is something I will be doing because I want to make sure it’s all timed together so nothing goes cold by the time I serve dinner.
Even consider doing this with the clean up. Schedule time in between cooking each dish to clean up from the dish before and even after dinner. That way you will be cleaning up as you go along and you won’t have a huge mess at the end taking you all night to clean.
5. Make Some Dishes Ahead of Time
Look over your menu and see if there are any dishes that you can make ahead of time—the day before, 2 days before, or even a week before. This will help you on Thanksgiving Day if some dishes have already been prepared and/or cooked.
I plan on doing this. I will be making my butternut squash soup a couple days before or maybe even a week in advance and freezing it and 2 pies the day before.
6. Deep Fry the Turkey
If this is your first Thanksgiving cooking, if you’ve never cooked a turkey before and are worried about timing, or if you just don’t want to spend all day cooking a turkey, think about deep frying a turkey. That’s what we will be doing at my house—deep frying our turkey.
It takes a lot less time to cook the turkey if you deep fry it and it comes out crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It’s really delicious.
7. Divvy Up the Cooking and Chores
Hosting and cooking your first Thanksgiving can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you have help. Make sure you divvy up the cooking and chores. If your kids are old enough make them pitch in. If you have little ones, they can still help out with some easy chores. Make your husband help too or if you are having a small gathering, let each person bring a dish.
At my house, my husband will be taking care of the turkey. My son loves to help out with pretty much anything we’re doing. And my mom will be baking pies to bring.
8. Involve Your Kids
Make sure you are divvying up some of the cooking and chores to your kids. Older kids can certainly help cook (maybe you even have kids that like to cook). And if you have little ones, they can still help out with picking up their toys, helping load the dishwasher, and stirring and pouring ingredients.
Don’t let them sit around doing nothing. It’s a big, busy day for you, don’t do it alone.
9. Keep It Small
With the pandemic going on right now, we plan to keep it really small at my house with just us and our parents. Yes it might be hard not having your normal Thanksgiving you usually have. Not being able to see some family you normally would. And maybe during normal circumstances, you would only see them one time of year on Thanksgiving and you will be missing it this year.
Yes, it’s sad and not the best circumstances, but it is my suggestion to keep your family safe and healthy.
10. Play Games After Dinner
My family loves games. During normal circumstance at my Aunt’s house, we would tend to play board games after dinner. Even though we won’t be at my Aunt’s, I plan on pulling out some games and playing with my family this year.
I’m excited to have this family time after dinner as well. If you’ve never played games after Thanksgiving dinner before, this is a good time to start. Why not make it a new family tradition.
One last thought, before you start stressing and feeling overwhelmed by the whole day, take a step back, breathe and just enjoy the day.
I hope you found these 10 tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving helpful. Maybe it will relieve some of that stress for you.
Happy Thanksgiving! And stay safe!
If you found these tips helpful, also check my ultimate Thanksgiving dinner checklist.
Looking for Other Holiday Tips and Ideas?
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