20 Quick Tips For Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

Whether you’re inviting a small group of close friends or your entire extended family, hosting Thanksgiving is no easy feat. The planning process is overwhelming at best and downright chaotic at worst.

Already feeling behind? Don’t sweat it, we got you. Just follow these 20 quick tips to get a jumpstart on hosting your friends and family:

1. Plan Your Menu

Write out your exact menu ahead of time so you know which dishes you’re making and which you can delegate to a friend or family member.

2. Make a Master Grocery List

Write down everything you’ll need for the big day, and be specific about exact ingredient amounts.

3. Decorate on the Fly

Don’t overthink the centerpiece. All you need is some ornamental gourds, pinecones, and some woodsy candles. Even your mother-in-law will be impressed.

4. Use an Online Calendar

Schedule every event, appointment, and task — however minor it may seem — on an easily accessible calendar so you can stay organized.

5. Buy Non-Perishables Now

Mark every non-perishable item (like canned vegetables, bags of flour, etc) on your grocery list, then shop for these items as early as possible.

6. Set Up a Drink Station

Buy beverages ahead of time and set up a convenient drink station with cocktail napkins, glasses, straws, ice buckets, and mini bowls for lime wedges and garnishes.

7. Dry Run Your Table Setting

Gather your table linen and fancy dishware from storage. Practice arranging everything exactly how you want so you can see what looks best.

8. Declutter Common Areas

Focus on decluttering and cleaning the areas of your home people will actually see and spend time in first. Toss trash, put things away, and store any precious personal items.

9. Load Up on Cleaning Supplies

Make sure you have basic household and cleaning necessities: paper towels, Ziploc bags, containers for leftovers, cleaning rags, dish soap, and new sponges for scrubbing grimy pans.

10. Take a Kitchen Inventory

Once you plan your menu, gather all your cooking equipment to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t forget to account for serving utensils, platters, gravy troughs, and necessities like casserole dishes or crockpots.

11. Cook What You Can in Advance

Things like piecrusts, cranberry sauce, and cornbread can all be made five or six days ahead of time and stashed in the freezer.

12. Clean Out Your Fridge and Pantry

Toss expired foods, wipe up any spills or messes, and reorganize everything so you can grab ingredients easily.

13. Clear Surfaces

Counters, desktops, shelves, and coffee tables hold tons of clutter. Clear these areas and keep only decorative items and bare necessities.

14. Deep-clean Bathrooms

Scrub the toilets, wipe the counters, spray the mirrors, degrease the showers, take out the trash, sweep the floors — do whatever you have to do to make your bathrooms sparkle.

15. Plan For Overnight Guests

While you’re at it, stock the bathrooms with clean towels, extra toilet paper, hand soap, fragrance mist, and a plunger for good measure. Even if you aren’t expecting anyone to spend the night, give your guest bedroom a thorough cleaning and change the sheets. You never know if Uncle Jack might have one too many Cranberry Gimlets.

16. Clear a Space for Coats, Shoes, and Bags

Piling coats on a guest bed is classic standby. If you have a coat rack, even better.

17. Set up a Space For Kids

Create a space for kids to play together while the adults cook and chat. Gather any kids’ books, toys, movies, and games they might enjoy.

18. Fuel Up

You got to eat too. Plan your breakfast the night before turkey day: whip up something light and easy like an egg frittata, overnight oats, or a platter of fresh chopped fruit.

19. Set Out Your Dishes the Night Before

Lay out your platters, baking pans, and dishes so you don’t have to go digging through your cabinets when you want to put something in the oven.

20. Mise En Place Your Way to Victory

If you have celery to chop, onions to dice, and potatoes to peel, do it the day before. Portion out the chopped ingredients for each dish in containers or baggies and cooking will be a breeze.

Paige Smith

Paige Smith is a freelance writer from Orange County, California. She specializes in lifestyle, wellness, and travel topics.