Getting organized for a Thanksgiving Meal can be OVERWHELMING!!!! My suggestion? - Take everybody out to dinner, just kidding, (I hope my sister doesn't read this, I'll be in big trouble, holiday traditions are her favorite thing!)
How do you have a Thanksgiving Dinner and avoid feeling overwhelmed - truthfully I don't think it's possible. Even if you're only cooking for a small group there are so many things you want to do to make the meal perfect that it all becomes overwhelming. Here are my top 5 suggestions for making your Thanksgiving Holiday less Overwhleming and More Enjoyable.
1 - Accept the fact that you are going to feel Overwhelmed and possibly under appreciated.
I remember a couple of years ago my older son saying to me, "I don't know why Mrs. Smith is so stressed out, you have twice as many people over and you do everything in one day." He was oblivious to the fact that I had spent at least one hour, and on some days several hours, - everyday for the two weeks prior to the event just getting ready. This is one of the keys to enjoying the Overwhelming event that a thing like Thanksgiving is - Accept that it will overwhelming, Accept that nobody will really know how hard you worked, and then when it gets hairy you can just take a deep breath, look around at all of your wonderful friends and family and say - "I'm so glad you're all here."
2 - Make a list for the week or two before Thanksgiving
Write your list several days before you actually need to begin executing it. Create a master list of ALL the things to do and then divide that master into daily tasks. Each day knock off a few of the items. Besides the obvious things like shopping and baking pies ahead of time, consider actually setting your Thanksgiving table a day or two early complete with serving dishes. I drop a little note in each dish with what I'll actually use the dish for and then I add the appropriate serving utensil to the empty dish. This will avoid that last minute scramble to find a spoon for the mashed potatoes.
3 - Assign tasks to willing takers - then accept the work they do.
There's no better way to run off a good volunteer than to be visibly dissatisfied with the fruit of their labors. When you assign a task or menu item to a member of your Thanksgiving group be Thankful that they've take something off your plate. Don't make adjustments to what they've done or prepared, bite you tongue when you taste the bland soup or notice that the forks are on the wrong side of the plates. Chances are you're the only one who will notice. If you can't keep your comments to yourself on this one day of Thankfulness, don't share your work. Assigning tasks will only help you be less overwhelmed if you can deal with the fact that it isn't going to be done "Your Way." Know yourself, be THANKFUL if you can, if you can't, don't let others help.
4 - Create and Follow a Cooking Schedule
Large meals require lots of planning, and often times the stove or oven get over booked. Make and follow a cooking schedule. This will help insure that you have space in the oven at the right time and right temperature. You may want to invest in one of those little portable ovens for cooking your turkey. They're less than $50 and they can free up all of your oven space for doing other things. (If you don't have room for it in your kitchen, you can plug it in elsewhere - the basement, or even the garage.) Your cooking schedule should start a day or two days before the big event and include all of your chopping, slicing, dicing, mixing...anything that is food prep related. Again, it's a good idea to figure out which pots and pans you'll need and when you'll need them.
5 - Clean up the dinner dishes (with help) before you serve dessert.
You've spent days getting ready for this meal. Lots of time, money and energy - now let some of your helpful guests ease you into the final phase. Accept their help with the mid-event kitchen clean up. Put on the coffee, get the kitchen cleaned up, and the first load of dishes into the dishwasher before you serve dessert. That way you can enjoy dessert and when everyone loads up to go home all you'll have left to do is a stack of pie plates, a few forks and some coffee cups. - Let those things wait until tomorrow. (You're family can take care of them after you've left the house for the 5am shopping bargains.)
Happy Turkey Day to All of you!!