We’re gearing up for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Katie’s house, and I cannot wait. For us, Thanksgiving used to mean hanging out at Katie’s all day while cooking and hosting, doing fun activities with the kids, watching football, and enjoying the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Of course, things are going to look a bit different this year with COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. So this year, we’re vowing to have all the same fun with a SAFE family get together.
I’m sharing my tips for keeping things stress-free, my favorite go-to recipes, and some easy tips for sticking with safety guidelines this year.
Throwing the Ultimate No Stress Thanksgiving
We always have fun when we have a family get together, but Thanksgiving is always NEXT LEVEL!
We usually dust off the kids’ bounce house and do cute art projects throughout the day. Dinner is served around 6pm. And after the kids go to bed, the adults enjoy some cocktails and cigars to end the day. Although fun, Thanksgiving dinner is a HUGE undertaking and can be overwhelming to host.
We’ve thrown a lot of these parties now, so I have a whole list of tips to make hosting these get togethers as stress free as possible. So let’s get started!
1. Choose a menu you can make ahead of time and have ready when guests arrive.
Planning a menu that avoids you standing over the stove cooking while all your guests arrive is very important. Missing out on guests is not fun for you and creates a stressful environment for your guests watching you cooking and not enjoying yourself.
People get uncomfortable and feel badly when watching the host run around cleaning and preparing. But if you have everything organized and prepared before your guests arrive, you will avoid the awkwardness. And you’ll get to enjoy your feast with your friends and family!
2. Set the table, decorate, and place serving platters the night before the party.
I write what I am serving on an index card and include the time I need to set it out or place it in the oven. I also include how long the dish needs to cook and then place it on the platter I plan to use for that dish. It eliminates one step on the day of the party and helps me visualize the timing and set up.
3. Keep a folder with all the details.
My folder consists of the the number of guests, the menu, and all of my recipes for the day. As I make each item, I toss out that recipe. I love to watch the stack of paper get smaller and smaller!
4. Clean up the prep work as you go.
If you clean as you go, you’ll have much less work at the end of the party. Plus, you’ll have a clean kitchen to hang out in after dinner! Without fail, everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen and socialize (one of the major reasons why open living homes are so popular). So if the kitchen tends to be the hangout spot, make sure it looks nice, inviting, and organized by the time your guests arrive.
5. Have appetizers ready before everyone arrives.
Have a drink, and start socializing with your guests when they come in. If possible, avoid cooking, cleaning, and preparing when everyone is there. All you should need to do is place the main course on the table for eating when it is ready to be served.
You’ve worked hard! Enjoy the cocktail hour with your guests!
6. Wait to do the final clean up…then wait some more.
When everyone is eating the main course and the meal is coming to an end, do NOT start picking up the empty plates and cleaning dishes. Cleaning up brings the conversations to an end. Your guests feel like they need to stop, help, or even leave. Leave the final cleaning for after all your guests are gone.
Believe me, this tip will have your guests hanging out, laughing, chatting, and enjoying your no stress Thanksgiving dinner for much longer.
What’s on the Menu?
This year’s menu is going to be similar to year’s past, but we’ll be making some adjustments to make everything more COVID-friendly.
Scroll down a bit more for tips on hosting a fun family get together during a pandemic!
Check out some of our go-to Thanksgiving recipes (in scratch and cheat form). We always bring out these classics.
Some of our favorite fall recipes are also part of our annual Autumn Feast!
Oh, and if you want a delicious and different appetizer to get the party started, this Slow Baked Salami in Duck Sauce is just AMAZING!
How to Make Thanksgiving Safe During a Pandemic
During these uncertain times, safety is key to making any family get together successful. Here are my top 5 tips for maintaining social distancing guidelines during this time.
1. Stick with Outdoor Entertaining
If weather allows for it, hosting a family get together outside is much safer. Make sure everyone feels comfortable by hosting the party outside where you can easily keep a safe distance from others.
2. Spread Out Multiple Serving Tables
Set up multiple serving tables so people do not feel compelled to walk inside to make a plate for themselves. I like to set up 2 or 3 tables of food and drinks with different recipes that are spaced out all over the backyard.
If you’re setting up indoors, do the same thing, if possible. The more stations available, the less chance of crowding when it’s time to eat!
Having multiple tables prevents a bottleneck effect where everyone is lining up for food at the same time. Your guests can walk around at a safe distance to serve themselves.
3. Portion Foods Individually for Easy Self-Service
I love this tip! And I can really use my creativity with this one.
Veggie and humus appetizers, pasta sides, and almost all other traditional side dishes can be individually served in small, single-serve cups. Avoid large bags or bowls of food that require grabbing, like chips, to ensure safety and comfort among your guests.
4. Space Out Seating
Safe seating is important so people can comfortably go to different areas and maintain the 6-foot distance guideline.
Understand that everyone has different anxieties, stresses, and fears about the virus. Where some people do not fear infection at all, others want to wear masks all the time and follow all social distancing guidelines. Everyone should feel comfortable without being judged. Make sure there are plenty of areas where people can follow guidelines as they see fit.
5. Set Up a Basket of Masks and Hand Sanitizers for Guests
Wow! I never thought PPE would be part of hosting my events, yet here we are. I love giving out small gift bags at any social or family get together, so I will simply replace those gifts with these PPE goodies.
Final Thoughts on Hosting a Safe and Stress-Free Thanksgiving Family Get Together
I hope these tips help your party run smoothly, and most importantly, help create a fun, safe, and laid back atmosphere for you and your guests. Remember, these parties are to make memories, so enjoy the company and the atmosphere. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. And if you feel like it’s work and stressful, your guests will feel that way, too.
I hope everyone has an amazing fun holiday with family and friends. Although the food, hosting, and parties are a huge part of the holidays, Thanksgiving is truly about spending quality time with your family and making the moments unforgettable. I am grateful every day for my family and friends!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We all hope you have an amazing holiday!