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3 Tips for an Organized Thanksgiving

Thanksgivingtable2 This Thanksgiving, why not plan ahead and give thanks to YOURSELF for being so organized? Imagine enjoying the preparations and festivities more and not feeling so rushed and scattered! Here are a few tips to help:

  1. Shop smart & avoid last-minute grocery trips. Here's a great tip from my own mom: Right now, in advance, write up your typical family favorites menu of Thanksgiving (and December holiday) dishes… you know, the dishes that must make an appearance each year or else! In my family, a riot would break out if I didn't make the traditional crescent rolls and we didn't have my mom's pies. Make a corresponding grocery list for each dish. Save this as a document on your hard drive, and re-use it every year! Makes planning, delegating, and shopping incredibly easy. (See also my previous post, "Things People Usually Forget to Buy at Thanksgiving.") Also remember to shop EARLY and avoid the rush!
  2. Be deliberate about delegating. Sure, most of the time you can get help in the kitchen fairly easily on Thanksgiving Day from kind family volunteers. But why not be deliberate about it? We have done this in our family, and people really appreciate the freedom of knowing they have done their part and can relax. I know I have definitely experienced feeling "guilty" if I am not in the kitchen until the whole thing is entirely cleaned up and finished. When you assign roles everything gets done and everyone feels more relaxed. Even the teenagers and the football watchers can do something! You can assign dish washing, dish drying, clearing the table, setting the table, carving the turkey and ham, whipping the cream, or whatever you like. And of course, you can delegate preparation of various dishes well in advance of the big day. 
  3. Plan beyond the big feast. Many times on Thanksgiving the festivities last into the weekend and family is visiting from out of town. Remember to consider your leftovers and plan menus to feed everyone throughout the time you'll be together. Soups are easy and satisfying, and of course there is always the good old turkey sandwich. Click here for a link to some great Thanksgiving leftover recipes to help. Planning activities is also a good idea, since people can get tired of television and sitting around digesting. At our house we like to play card games and board games. We organized a big tournament one year with a tally board and everything! Think about places that your visitors might like to go and organize a trip out to someplace other than the shopping mall. (See also my previous post, "Make a 'Tourist Binder'")

We are celebrating twice this year– we already had a Thanksgiving meal together in October when my brother was recently on leave from Iraq. We'll be thinking of him a lot on the real Thanksgiving. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions and tips?  Share in the comments!

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May I share a unique Thanksgiving tradition with you? A dear friend of mine gained a new family member who challenged all the complaining about how hard it is to pull off a sit down feast for 30 people. This was his ingenious solution. It employs using two homes and “two teams.” At the first home, the host & hostess purchase the food, set and decorate the table. At another home, team two, prepares appetizers. On the morning of game day, all the gentlemen, team one, go to the first house and cook the feast. Team two, women & children, go to house #2 and hang out until called by team one that the feast is ready and to join them. After the meal, team two cleans up, while team one enjoys the game. How beautiful is that?!


I’m all for getting the plan together now. Buying non-perishables, cleaning, etc. I have a total Thanksgiving planner for free at my site for anyone who wants to grab one.
I’ve been stocking up on butter when it’s on sale, stuff like that…
You’re so right about having the same food every year. Everyone has their favorite dish, and if it’s not there, you have a disappointed guest.
I’m glad you had a good time with your brother.
Wow Audrey, 30 people? I did 25 once. That is a challenge. I usually have 13, oddly enough… It’s just enough.


Well as a Canadian, “real” Thanksgiving IS in October…so you were spot on with your brother’s visit! Thanks for the great tips, my family is tiny (5 of us total) but I will use some of them for Christmas.


my thanksgiving tradition is when my family from new york and Massachusetts come and gather at my grandma’s house for thanksgiving


I heard a great tip about delegating tasks to family members and guests who want to help. Have a jar with different tasks in it that need to be completed such as filling water glasses with ice, etc. When someone asks how they can help – simply direct them to the jar!

china dinnerware

This is so true! Every Thanksgiving, it’s our family tradition to celebrate in our parent’s house and I am in charge with the decorations and table settings. With a lot in mind, I usually always forget a thing or two whenever I shop. These tips are really a big help! Thanks!


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