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First Time Hosting? 10 Tips for a Successful Thanksgiving Dinner

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Hosting Thanksgiving is intimidating (especially if it’s your first time!). Preparing and hosting this great American meal is a huge milestone for many cooks, but it can also be a moment of anxiety and nerves.


While this holiday season will look different due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, you can still enjoy it with the people around you. So if hosting Thanksgiving seems daunting, these 10 tips will help you plan not only for this season, but for any holiday meal you may be hosting!


Don’t do it alone.

If you want to host a big crowd, preparing Thanksgiving by yourself is near impossible, especially if you have never done it before. When you’re on your own, you’re responsible for every dish and that’s a lot of pressure. But when you have help, it’s more fun and less stressful because you’ll have someone to share the duties with. Even if you can’t find help, asking friends and family to pitch in a dish or two will make things a lot easier for you. 


Note: Due to social distancing, it is advised that we celebrate virtually or with members of your own household to limit the spread of COVID-19.


Make a menu, grocery list, and schedule.

Take out a pen and notebook or your phone and write down everything you want to make, how you’re going to make it, and when you’re going to make it. This way, you’ll know which dishes you need to prep ahead of time and what you’ll need to do the day of. 


You may need to buy new kitchen tools.

If it’s your first time hosting, you’re going to need a few pieces of equipment that you might not already have. A meat thermometer is essential. It’ll guarantee you know when your turkey is ready and safe to eat. You’ll also need a large roasting pan for your turkey, a turkey baster, and an oven bag. Be sure to double-check all your recipes before you go shopping for all the tools you might need. 


Note: If you don’t cook that often and don’t want to invest in expensive kitchen tools that you’ll only use once a year, consider borrowing from a friend or family member rather than buying disposable kitchen supplies (because they’re not eco-friendly).


Prepare some recipes ahead of time.

Even if you have someone helping you, making everything you want the day of is not easy, and there’s probably not enough space in your oven to make it happen. Save yourself from stress and prepare some recipes ahead of time. Desserts, cranberry sauce, and casseroles just to name a few. Just double-check your recipe for any make-ahead instructions!


On that note, consider making the turkey the day before (or even buy one fully cooked).

Making the turkey the day before or even buying one will save you a lot of time and energy. All you’ll need to do on Thanksgiving Day is pop it in the oven to heat it up and it’s ready! And because you won’t have a turkey roasting the oven for hours, you’ll have an easier time preparing your sides.


Now is not the time to experiment with new recipes.

If it’s your first time hosting Thanksgiving, making these recipes may seem new to you. But if you have or you’ve watched your family make the same thing every year, stick with that recipe. Don’t make simple things overly complicated because getting experimental when you have a crowd to feed is not the best idea.


Taking shortcuts are totally fine.

Unless you’ve delegated a few things to your guests, making everything from scratch is too much work. There’s nothing wrong with buying boxed stuffing or canned pumpkin purée. If it makes for a more relaxing day, nothing beats the convenience of store-bought items.


Set the table the night before.

Take one more task off your to-do list and set the table the night before. Plan out where everyone will sit and put out your serving plates and utensils. This will give you more time to prepare for dinner and it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. 


Note: When serving a large crowd, it’s convenient to use disposable plates. But to be more sustainable, consider using biodegradable plates like ones made from bagasse. These plates can be placed in a compost bin after it’s used and will decompose and break down in a short period of time.


Plan for leftovers.

Once it’s safe again to host guests for holiday events, remember to have enough containers on hand for your own leftovers and for those who want to take some home. To be more eco-friendly, ask your guests to bring their own containers so you don’t have to worry about returns or harming the environment with disposable containers.


Relax and have fun.

The most important tip? Relax and have fun! Whether you’re spending Thanksgiving this year virtually or with the people around you, remember that they are there to spend time with you, not to be entertained. So enjoy every moment you get and be grateful!

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