Close up of African American family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner at dining table

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Stress Free Holiday

Close up of African American family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner at dining table

If you’re taking on Thanksgiving this year, don’t panic! With some organization you can pull this off with a minimum of fuss. From getting the house ready to the actual meal, here are some guidelines and handy tips to make everything go smoothly:

Get help. Now is the time to get a little help! A house cleaning service is not as expensive as you think. It’s worth the money to have the house cleaned professionally before guests arrive. Ask friends and family for referrals or maybe your friendly neighborhood Realtor! If guests offer help, take it. From appetizers, liquor, or side dishes, you’ll be happier if you accept the help. I often ask people to bring drinks and desserts. There’s more variety that way and it really helps. 

Create a list. Next is your master list. I am a paper person, so I use a yellow legal pad. Of course, your phone or a tablet will work well too. The first list will be the menu, including everything from appetizers, drinks and snacks to every menu item for dinner. On the first column on the left list every dish. Next column write down everything needed to prepare the dish. Include everything like spices and herbs too. This will be your shopping list. Now is a good time to buy fresh spices and dried herbs. They are always the best fresh, so this is the time to buy.  Highlight items you need to purchase. Shop for all your non-perishables early. If using a frozen turkey, give yourself enough time for safe thawing. A large bird can take several days. Shop for perishables 2 days before. 

Organize. Take your menu list and organize all pots, pans and utensils needed for preparation. It’s not good to need another pot on Thanksgiving morning! All the stores have these items on sale now, along with dishes and serving pieces. Next, organize the table. Clean off the dining room table and put every serving dish you will need there. Appetizers, snacks, and all menu items with serving tools for each. Add plates, glassware and utensils for each guest. Cover with a clean sheet to keep the dust off. 

Prepare drinks. If you are having cocktails, arrange a bar area on a decently sized table. Include mixers along with 3 or 4 different bottles of liquor. Glassware including wine, rocks and tall glasses for mixed drinks. Use a nice ice bucket for drinks. Keep beer and soda in a cooler with ice. Most of this can be set up early in the week and again covered to keep clean. 

Schedule and time everything. Prepare your day by scheduling at least a week ahead. Make note of every menu item, what time it needs to be started and when it will be done. Some things can be prepared early and either frozen or kept in the refrigerator. Dips, rolls, vegetable dishes, stuffing, casseroles and appetizers can all be made days in advance. For example, mashed potatoes can be prepared and kept warm in a slow cooker, just add a little hot cream and butter before serving. Many items cooked in the morning can be warmed in the microwave just before serving. 

If you want to get through this holiday stress free, be as organized as possible! Don’t forget to accept help from others, before and on the big day. Many hands make light work as the old saying goes. You should be able to have some fun too and enjoy the day with your guests. Does anyone else have holiday hints for a smooth and fun day?  

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago