First let me start out by saying I hope your Thanksgiving was gloriously fantastic, and that you were able to reflect upon and be grateful for the beauty of your life. Mine made my heat sing with joy. However, as I was going through my week preparing for the big day, I realized what last week’s blog should have been about. The ever elusive “they” say that hindsight is 20/20. They happen to be correct. I had been chatting with a friend who was hosting a Thanksgiving gathering for the first time. She was definitely feeling the overwhelm. I was hosting for the tenth time and though there were just ten of us, it still is quite the undertaking. However, after hosting all these years I have the process down like a well oiled machine. Let me share what works for me. This approach not only gets things done, but also allows me to truly enjoy the season and the day. Though this past Thanksgiving has come and gone, the process can be applied to any holiday or host/ess undertaking. Let the fun begin!
The key to success? Time and lists. “But Jenny”, you say, “time is finite! How can you add more time to your day?” Ahh, but you don’t add time, you manage time. That’s why it’s super important to start the process weeks before Thanksgiving actually arrives.
It is crucial to make lists. I like to keep my hosting lists in one small notebook that can easily be carried around if need be, while others prefer to have their lists on their phone. Now let’s get to it. I’m assuming you know who is coming, but do you know what you are making? Sides, desserts, beverages? Get your menu in place and that is list number one. Write it on it’s own page and label it. Now take a nice gander at this baby and see what you can delegate! What items do you truly dread cooking? Those are the ones you ask for help on. Is there a specialty a family member has that can be assigned to him/her? Do it. Once tasks are divvied up, everyone knows what they are responsible for and they can make their own lists, hee hee.
Now look at that gorgeous menu list you made, turn to a new page, and write out all the ingredients you will need to make your dishes. Add the beverages you will supply, any paper goods you might be purchasing, twine to truss the turkey…you get the drift. Now you have a list of all the items that are to be bought from grocery stores, and you can call this one menu items. Check the pantry to see what you already have, so when you shop you do not buy unnecessary items. This next part is key. I divide my shop into at least two trips. The first, as you can see, is labeled first shop and the second is second shop. I know, you just can’t get over how creative these names are. What you do is to look over your master list, and all the items that will not spoil can be bought in advance of the actual day. It makes the shopping way more manageable. The second shop is the one where the items are fresh and and require purchasing closer to the event. This also comes in handy because anything that was forgotten at the first shop can now be purchased on this go-round.
Now I get it. You might be thinking, I barely have time for one shop, let alone two! Trust me, look at your schedule and fit it in where you can. If you have to buy dry goods weeks in advance or make a couple of stops on your way home from work and before carting the kids to sports, then do it. This is the part where you see what time you actually have, even the small openings in your schedule, and work it to fit your needs. I used to push a massively heavy cart around a crazily crowded store, sweating and swearing. Now I just swear. (Kidding) It’s just a much more manageable process.
It also helps to designate what we are having for dinner on these nights, so I am not overwhelmed and scrambling.
Next part is scheduling all the days before the actual event. I have lists titled for the upcoming days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Label each page and think about all the things you have to do. When will you clean? Wednesday and Thursday? Write it on each list, adding the times too, and even better, delegate some of the work! Get those kids and hubby on board and bribe them with first dibs on the cookie dough batter when it’s time to make cookies.
What else is going to go on these lists? I set my table a night or two in advance, as we eat in the dining room for Thanksgiving instead of the kitchen. If you are able to do this, then take advantage and get it done. Which day of the week will you list it?
This next part is usually a forgotten task by newbies! All those sides I mentioned need to have receptacles and utensils. The night before I usually lay out bowls, plates and serving utensils for each, labeling with a piece of paper which food goes in each bowl. This way you are not scrambling on Thanksgiving day as dishes come to completion. It makes things so much easier. Remember to add this to one of your “days of the week” lists.
What items can be cooked the night before? What needs to be cooked on the actual day? Review this and designate the days. You don’t have to feel so overwhelmed on one specific day. Just divvy it up and plan for it as you go along. This year I bought the pies instead of baking them myself. Do I usually love to bake? Yes. However, my work schedule was pretty tight and I did not want to make myself over burdened and miserable. I did bake cookies, so I had my opportunity to enjoy the smells of the season and the task at hand, but seriously, whatever you can do to alleviate stress is key. If you are miserable while you are planning and prepping, it is just not going to be a joyful season for you. Make your heart happy.
Oi vey! All these lists? Are you more confused than ever? Trust me, a little work on the front end leads to less work on the back end. It will calm your soul to be able to look at each list on each day, and know that all is accounted for and taken care of. Delegating helps, and if you have to buy some items instead of making homemade, remember that it is super important to take care of yourself and your needs during the holiday season. The best part is now you have all these lists you can refer to next year in order to make the process easier. When the holiday is over, you can reflect and write about what worked, what didn’t, and what changes need to happen for next year. When 2020’s fall holiday season rolls around, you simply pull out your handy dandy notebook and start in on your lists. And if on the big day worse comes to worst, and the sides come out funky or the turkey burns, I always say those moments become the best stories. The ones we love to tell, especially around the Thanksgiving table in years to come. So are you hosting Hanukah? Kwanza? Christmas? Breathe, plan, list and delegate. You got this.