I used to hate Thanksgiving because of the amount of work I had to put in before, during, and after. I was convinced that thanksgiving and Christmas were a conspiracy against women. I had to plan, shop, cook clean up, entertain, look good, smile, and be the perfect host. I fantasized about running away to a hotel in another state by myself and order room service all night. Actually, I still have this fantasy. But as I got older and hopefully a bit wiser, I’ve learned some survival tactics, so I can actually enjoy thanksgiving and not have a nervous breakdown; at least not until January. Here are some tips to survive, stay sane, and have fun on Thanksgiving or any holiday.
Get started now. It’s never too early. Giving yourself plenty of time and beating the rush will reduce stress and give you some peace of mind.
Keep it Simple
From the menu, decoration, shopping to the guest list. Keep it simple and don’t go overboard with the Thanksgiving hype. You’ll drive yourself and others crazy.
Ask for Help
I’ve discovered late that I can ask for help. Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!
You don’t have to do the whole Thanksgiving dinner alone. I know it’s probably become a habit and it’s hard to ask for help the first time, but once you do it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it sooner.
Recruit your family members, relatives, friends and even guests to help out.
There’s no shame in this. Ask people for ideas. Hone in on people’s individual interest sand talents. Some like to bake and some like to decorate, so let them. They’ll get a chance to show off their talents and you’ll get a few things off your list. And most people are happy to help and they won’t feel guilty just to gorge at your place, except for Uncle Bob. Also, ask family members and/or close friends to come a bit early to help with decoration, table setting, stirring, chopping, tasting, etc. This is when we have the most fun; hanging and talking in the kitchen. I also recruit an after party clean up team before everyone is gone, and I treat them to pizza, give them ton of leftovers, and we have loads of fun laughing and gossiping about the annoying relatives and guests.
Don’t Be a Control Freak
Even a mild mannered person can turn into the Tasmanian devil during Thanksgiving. I know it’s hard for some people, but let go of the control. You don’t have to surrender all your power, but letting some of it go will increase the chance of your dinner being a success and no one will secretly hate you. Delegate responsibilities to others such as picking things up or giving rides, entertaining, or babysitting the kids, fixing and cleaning things, etc.
Select dishes that can be made ahead a few days and/or the night before. For example, you can bake the stuffing separately ahead. It will be healthier, easier, and not soggy. So on Thanksgiving Day, all you have to do is thaw, heat up, and embellish. Smart!
Why not? You can do the whole dinner potluck or partially. Ask relatives and/or friends to bring their favorite dishes, whether it is main dishes, side dishes, desserts or drinks. Or you can do the main dishes and ask people to bring the others, or even just desserts and drinks. Every little bit helps. Potluck is also economical with everyone contributing, and you’ll get a variety of foods and a chance to taste other people’s cooking. Make sure you have a potluck list, so you don’t have 12 pies and nothing else. Everyone will feel good about contributing and you don’t have to run around all alone going crazy. Done enough of that!
Eat What You Want
Not everybody likes turkey or brussels sprouts. Cook and eat foods that your family loves. It’s more about getting together and celebrating gratitude than must eats. Most of my family members don’t care for turkey and I am not a meat eater, so I ask in advance what they’d like to eat , make some traditional side dishes, and go from there. If there are kids, I cook a small organic turkey, so they can have the traditional experience and memories. But by midlife, we’ve had enough of that.
Go Meat Free
Try going meat free or reducing the amount of meat in your Thanksgiving menu this year. You’ll eat and feel healthy, avoid chemicals, preservatives, hormones and other nasty things, as well as save time, money, energy, and pardon a turkey. Poor turkeys: They were at the wrong place at the wrong time in history, don’t you think?
Opt for Healthy Choices
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try substituting a few things like olive oil for butter, yoghurt for sour cream, coconut sugar, honey, or agave for white processed sugar, brown rice for white rice, whole grain rolls for white rolls, etc. Serve fruits before or along with pies and cakes, and have organic teas to drink to cut the grease in the meal. Even if you stuff yourself, you won’t gain as much weight, ruin your health, and be passed out in the hallway.
Get Help from the Store
It’s okay to get a little help from the store to buy organic, pre cut, prepacked veggies, berries, rice, etc., especially veggies that are difficult to chop and time consuming to prepare. Organic beans, tomato sauce, pumpkin puree, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, peas and pearl onions are healthy, cheap, and easy to work. Just throw them in a baking dish or a pot, season and you’re done.
You can easily embellish store bought foods with fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, condiments, raisins, nuts, and season with spices, specialty vinegar or wine, etc. Use your imagination. No one will know and you can have the last laugh or at least a little devilish giggle.
Again, recruit help. We have a relative who loves to trim veggies while listening to music and he’s happy to be our food taster.
Do a Combo
You don’t have to make everything from scratch. Make the main dish and a side dish or two, but buy the bread or pie from your favorite bakery, or make the pumpkin or apple pie filling, but use store bought crust, etc. A friend always takes out his favorite side dish from a restaurant in the neighborhood.
Use the Oven
Oven bake rather than frying. Who needs to stand in front of a hot stove forever? Throw your food into the oven and let it do all the work. Set the timer and it will be perfect, less clean up, and the dinner will be healthier and leaner. This is always a huge plus since there is usually life after thanksgiving.
Have a Vegetarian, Vegan, Non Meat Option
Nowadays, this is a given but again, keep it simple. Pick up some crab legs from the store; make a vegetable gratin, or an easy egg soufflé, etc.
Tip: Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, eat the non meat dishes first, like the side dishes and salads, and you’ll eat less meat and heavy foods. You can make everybody happy and stay healthy and a few pounds lighter.
Avoid Annoying Relatives
Annoying relatives come with holidays. Every family has one or two. This year, don’t let them get under your skin and ruin your dinner. Even if you can’t avoid them physically, you always have the power to avoid them mentally. Focus on the family members you love because they are the ones who truly matter.
Before, during, and after
Get a Massage
Day after thanksgiving, treat yourself and those who helped to a massage. It does wonders and you’ve earned it.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!