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10 Mistakes to Avoid the First Time You Host Thanksgiving

a busy table with many hands reaching out for Thanksgiving food
Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner can seem super overwhelming and stressful. But, what if we told you it doesn’t have to be? Avoid these mistakes, and host a dinner everyone will be grateful for.

From planning to preparation, each part of Thanksgiving might give you butterflies. We’ve laid out ten mistakes you will want to avoid before preparing for the big feast.

Planning the Meal Too Close to Thanksgiving

Planning your meal is an essential part of Thanksgiving. This means inviting guests, telling people when to arrive, and so much more than just the food aspect. Do yourself a favor and plan these details way ahead of time.

Whether you plan on serving five guests or fifteen, the vast array of savory and sweet dishes take up a lot of space. Winging it days before can lead to much-unwanted stress the day of. Once you’ve invited friends and family, and you have a final count, you can begin outlining your menu.

Not Writing Your Menu Down

Writing lists down is a sure way to get things done and not leave any important details out. While we understand that some are not a fan of this process, Thanksgiving is an excellent time to use it.

When you write your menu down, you can get a better picture of what you will be presenting on the table. You may realize that Brussel sprouts au gratin is unnecessary this year, or that you ultimately left out the stuffing. How can you forget about the stuffing? Seriously though, it happens.

Having a written menu helps out when you need to compose a vast grocery list too. Finally, when your aunt Betty offers to make a casserole or pie, you say yes, and cross it off your list.

Purchasing Groceries Just Days Before

If it’s your first time hosting this year, we advise that you do not purchase all your ingredients the week of. For one, buying everything just days before creates a costly shopping trip. Especially if you have basic weekly groceries to add on top of that.

If you purchase everything just days in advance, you’ll have to deal with the last-minute rush, when you’ve already got enough to do at home.

Our advice: purchase ingredients as you go. About three weeks in advance, buy non-perishables, like cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing, or frozen green beans. The week of Thanksgiving, purchase all of your perishables, like fresh produce.

Waiting Last Minute to Clean Your House

This is one of those tasks that should be taken care of overtime rather than cramming everything in the day before. You will feel less overwhelmed right before Thanksgiving.

If you have family sleeping over and you have sheets to wash, then do this about two weeks before they arrive. Take care of dusting and wiping down mirrors about five days in advance. Wash floors and vacuum the house about three days in advance. Finally, clean your bathrooms and put out fresh towels the day before.

Waiting Last Minute to Set Your Table

Setting your table up a day or two in advance is super helpful. Placing your tablecloth, linens, plates, drinking cups, and utensils take a lot of time. Don’t use up that precious Thanksgiving Day time with table setting tasks.

When you put everything on the table ahead of time, you can also account for extra plates or chairs you may need.

The Dangers of Not Delegating

an adult woman and her mother working together to prepare for Thanksgiving
Halfpoint/Shutterstock

If someone asks for help (and someone always does), then take it. No need to be superman or superwoman take the support when you can get it. Preparing such an enormous feast is a lot of work, and it takes weeks of planning and preparation.

So if a few dishes are in the sink, ask someone to wash them up for you. If the potatoes need to be mashed, but you are still making the gravy, show someone where the hand mixer is and let them go to town. You are surrounded by family and close friends who want to give a helping hand.

Another important point to add is if someone offers to bring in a prepared dish, certainly let them. That is one less appetizer, side dish, or dessert that you don’t have to make.

Not Having a Drink Station Prepared

Preparing a designating drink area the evening before thanksgiving is super convenient, and you will be grateful you did. As guests arrive, you can show them to the drink station where they can prepare a cocktail or pour a glass of wine. No need to play bartender when you’ve got enough stuff to tend to before the big feast.

Be sure to take out wine glasses, pint glasses, and anything else you may need to serve guests. These fancy glasses might not get used as often, so they will likely have a little bit of dust on them. Clean them off and have them ready to go.

Setting up a cooler is another great trick, so you don’t take up precious room in your fridge. It’s the perfect place to store water bottles, beer bottles, and other drinks.

Searching for Serving Dishes and Utensils the Day of

A few days before the big day, look through your cabinets and ensure you have all the serving bowls you need. If you think you may be short, take them out and start labeling each. 

Use a sticky note, and label each dish with what you plan to serve on it. Do this for each serving plate and use your menu as a reference. Once all of your plates and platters are labeled and accounted for, find serving utensils that will accompany that type of food.

Making all of Your Dishes the Day of

There are plenty of things that you can make ahead of time and warmed up the day of. Sweet and Savory pies can be made days or weeks in advance, depending on how you store them. You can also prepare most vegetables the day before to save time.

Potatoes can be peeled and prepped the day before, but be sure to submerge your peeled potatoes in a large pot of water and keep covered. Store them in the fridge, but do not keep them in water for more than 24 hours.

As for the dishes you do have to prepare and warm up the day of Thanksgiving, create a little cheat sheet for guidance. Utilize your menu and write down when things need to go in the oven or on the stove, depending on cooking times. This is a super handy tool to have during the big day.

Forgetting to Enjoy Yourself

While preparing a large meal for many people can feel overwhelming, you are doing it for all the right reasons. Take a moment here and there, and sip some wine. Watch as the little ones run around and play, or listen to the roars of laughter fill the air.

You are surrounded by people you care about, and that is something to grateful for.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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