Hosting Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes

Are you hosting Thanksgiving?  This is the first year that I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 17 of my family members.  I hosted Thanksgiving dinner in 2020 for just me and my husband and while there will be many more people this year, a lot of the hosting drill will be the same.  My husband and I (aka Team Dave and Tina) have hosted many holiday dinners over the years so we’ve got this down to a science (so to speak). If you’re looking for Thanksgiving hosting tips or recipes or both, then I’ve got you covered here.

Top 7 Tips:

Plan the menu and go food shopping.  Make a shopping list based on the menu. Double check your list, recipes, and inventory so there are no surprises. You don’t want to discover that you have a spice, but not enough of it. My husband always says, bring a pen to the grocery store because a list is useless if you have no way to keep track of which things you’ve gotten, and trying to track it in your head will almost always result in forgetting something. In case it wasn’t obvious, go grocery shopping before the day you are hosting. Most things keep for a couple days at least without issue, and this keeps you from running out when you could be preparing something else.

Sometimes I like to try new recipes out on my friends and family and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. However, if you do want to try something new, then make sure that you have a plan B lined up in case the recipe is a flop.

Don’t make every meal on the menu complicated and shortcuts are fine.  Use your time wisely. I don’t tend to make complicated appetizers anymore because a charcuterie is always loved by guests and takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Maximum.  If Ina Garten says cheese boards are fantastic then I figure I’m doing something right. 

If you prefer fancier appetizers you could try to save time on the dessert by grabbing something from a bakery or grocery store instead. Grocery store bakeries have come a long way and you can find great options for a great price. Or maybe you prefer boxed stuffing? Perhaps you don’t feel up to the challenge of making your own gravy? There are excellent options available at the grocery store for all sorts of parts of the meal, use them and don’t feel bad about it.

It’s sort of about budgeting. Not just money but time. You only have so much energy and if you try to do everything to the max, you’ll be too exhausted to enjoy hanging out with your company.

Plan ahead. If you can do it ahead of time, then do it ahead of time. Planning is my #1 tip for easy entertaining no matter how many people you are hosting. I think that this is an important tip because it’s good to spread out the work so that you’re not doing everything in one day, which can be tiring and overwhelming.

Some recipes can be made ahead of time and then finished while the guests are around. Other things can be made ahead and warmed up without any bad side effects. Use your judgement because of course the timing (and how far you take a recipe ahead of time) depends on what the food is. Sometimes things just taste better right after being cooked.

Lay out the platters and serving dishes ahead of time.  I like to lay out all the platters and serving dishes ahead of time too.  This may sound like a lame tip, but gathering platters and things that I don’t keep in the kitchen all the time takes time (usually in the form of multiple trips to the basement). This also has the side effect of helping to make it obvious when I’ve forgotten something. “Hey, what was going to go in that bowl?”

Set a simple table. I love to set a lovely centerpiece for the table and place settings. Don’t go crazy through because you still need room for all of the food. Tall center pieces block conversation and seeing each other across the table. Unless you’re inviting a bunch of people you can’t stand, I’d stick with shorter decorations.

Set a schedule. Schedule the time you want to eat first. It gives you a point to work backwards from while you are figuring everything else out. This may take a bit of time and planning but it’s worth it. Take your menu and look at how long things bake, what needs the oven, what can be baked at the same time because of compatible temperatures or space considerations inside the oven. Then convert that into a chart or a list and bust out the different color pens or highlighters. This handy guide will keep you focused on the things that need to be done next and will keep you from eating Thanksgiving dinner at 11:00 PM.

Have fun. Most importantly, try not to panic about anything and enjoy the time with your friends and family. That’s what’s it’s all about. (I’m sure my husband will have to remind me of this several times.) Also, in general, remember that most people aren’t going to care if you are working in the kitchen if they have something to nosh on while they are in there with you. That means everything doesn’t have to be done before anyone shows up.

Here is a suggested Thanksgiving Day dinner menu:

Turkey breast (It’s just like the whole bird, but pieces can save a ton of time and money if you have a smaller group.)

Stuffing/dressing (We like Kraft Stove Top Stuffing.)

Cranberry sauce (My husband likes Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce.)

Gravy (We like Heinz Turkey Gravy)

Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans and Bacon

Creamed Corn

Butternut Squash Casserole

Sautéed Carrots


Apple Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Thank you for stopping by. I’m very grateful to all of my readers. Have a lovely and safe Thanksgiving season!

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