Cooking

Thanksgiving Prep Tips For a Stress-Free Holiday

Author:

Author:

Author:

Araminta David, RN, BSN

Published:

Published:

Published:

November 8, 2022

Medical review:

Medical review:

Medical review:

Stephanie Brown, MS, RD, LD

Woman placing a turkey down on a Thanksgiving table
Woman placing a turkey down on a Thanksgiving table
Woman placing a turkey down on a Thanksgiving table
Woman placing a turkey down on a Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season. Though it may be a celebratory time of reconnecting with loved ones, all the traveling, attending to guests, and moving around in between can add up to be … a lot. 

Much of the success that goes into these festive holiday occasions lies in the planning. Get that right, and most of the groundwork is in place. But where does one even begin to start? Below are some tried-and-true tips to take some of the stress away from planning the perfect Thanksgiving.

Be strategic about your menu

When it comes to large holiday occasions centered around food, foresight is your friend. Take some time to plan your menu and consider how each dish will be cooked. Oven space will likely be tight on the day, so try to make room for the turkey, incorporate stovetop sides or no-cook dishes into your menu. Easy stovetop options include mashed potatoes or sautéed green beans. 

Go easy on the appetizers

The main attraction on Thanksgiving is the main course, so there’s no need to complicate the appetizers. Keeping them simple will not only lower your stress levels on the day, but also prime your guests’ appetites appropriately to enjoy the main course. For foolproof appetizer ideas, opt for a veggie platter with hummus or a spread of cheese and crackers. 

Share the load (and love!)

If you’re hosting for the holiday, make it a potluck. Take care of the turkey and have your guests bring the appetizers, sides, drinks, or desserts. This also ensures that everyone will have something to enjoy. 

Make-ahead whenever possible 

Swap out a prep-heavy, cooked vegetable dish for a no-cook salad - your guests will appreciate a fresh option. Embrace the make-ahead and prep dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce the day or two prior. Simply reheat right before serving and enjoy!

Repurpose leftovers

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the same spread the next day (and day after that…), we also love trying something new. Shred or roughly chop turkey meat and make a hearty turkey and rice soup. Use leftover cranberry sauce as a spread on whole grain toast. Cut up any leftover veggies from your veggie platter, add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy chopped salad.

And, here's our top Thanksgiving recipes picks:

  1. Sage-Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Green Beans, and Potatoes

  1. Rosemary Beef with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  2. Turkey Meatballs with Sweet Potato Mash and Cranberry Sauce


Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season. Though it may be a celebratory time of reconnecting with loved ones, all the traveling, attending to guests, and moving around in between can add up to be … a lot. 

Much of the success that goes into these festive holiday occasions lies in the planning. Get that right, and most of the groundwork is in place. But where does one even begin to start? Below are some tried-and-true tips to take some of the stress away from planning the perfect Thanksgiving.

Be strategic about your menu

When it comes to large holiday occasions centered around food, foresight is your friend. Take some time to plan your menu and consider how each dish will be cooked. Oven space will likely be tight on the day, so try to make room for the turkey, incorporate stovetop sides or no-cook dishes into your menu. Easy stovetop options include mashed potatoes or sautéed green beans. 

Go easy on the appetizers

The main attraction on Thanksgiving is the main course, so there’s no need to complicate the appetizers. Keeping them simple will not only lower your stress levels on the day, but also prime your guests’ appetites appropriately to enjoy the main course. For foolproof appetizer ideas, opt for a veggie platter with hummus or a spread of cheese and crackers. 

Share the load (and love!)

If you’re hosting for the holiday, make it a potluck. Take care of the turkey and have your guests bring the appetizers, sides, drinks, or desserts. This also ensures that everyone will have something to enjoy. 

Make-ahead whenever possible 

Swap out a prep-heavy, cooked vegetable dish for a no-cook salad - your guests will appreciate a fresh option. Embrace the make-ahead and prep dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce the day or two prior. Simply reheat right before serving and enjoy!

Repurpose leftovers

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the same spread the next day (and day after that…), we also love trying something new. Shred or roughly chop turkey meat and make a hearty turkey and rice soup. Use leftover cranberry sauce as a spread on whole grain toast. Cut up any leftover veggies from your veggie platter, add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy chopped salad.

And, here's our top Thanksgiving recipes picks:

  1. Sage-Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Green Beans, and Potatoes

  1. Rosemary Beef with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  2. Turkey Meatballs with Sweet Potato Mash and Cranberry Sauce


Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season. Though it may be a celebratory time of reconnecting with loved ones, all the traveling, attending to guests, and moving around in between can add up to be … a lot. 

Much of the success that goes into these festive holiday occasions lies in the planning. Get that right, and most of the groundwork is in place. But where does one even begin to start? Below are some tried-and-true tips to take some of the stress away from planning the perfect Thanksgiving.

Be strategic about your menu

When it comes to large holiday occasions centered around food, foresight is your friend. Take some time to plan your menu and consider how each dish will be cooked. Oven space will likely be tight on the day, so try to make room for the turkey, incorporate stovetop sides or no-cook dishes into your menu. Easy stovetop options include mashed potatoes or sautéed green beans. 

Go easy on the appetizers

The main attraction on Thanksgiving is the main course, so there’s no need to complicate the appetizers. Keeping them simple will not only lower your stress levels on the day, but also prime your guests’ appetites appropriately to enjoy the main course. For foolproof appetizer ideas, opt for a veggie platter with hummus or a spread of cheese and crackers. 

Share the load (and love!)

If you’re hosting for the holiday, make it a potluck. Take care of the turkey and have your guests bring the appetizers, sides, drinks, or desserts. This also ensures that everyone will have something to enjoy. 

Make-ahead whenever possible 

Swap out a prep-heavy, cooked vegetable dish for a no-cook salad - your guests will appreciate a fresh option. Embrace the make-ahead and prep dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce the day or two prior. Simply reheat right before serving and enjoy!

Repurpose leftovers

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the same spread the next day (and day after that…), we also love trying something new. Shred or roughly chop turkey meat and make a hearty turkey and rice soup. Use leftover cranberry sauce as a spread on whole grain toast. Cut up any leftover veggies from your veggie platter, add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy chopped salad.

And, here's our top Thanksgiving recipes picks:

  1. Sage-Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Green Beans, and Potatoes

  1. Rosemary Beef with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  2. Turkey Meatballs with Sweet Potato Mash and Cranberry Sauce


Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season. Though it may be a celebratory time of reconnecting with loved ones, all the traveling, attending to guests, and moving around in between can add up to be … a lot. 

Much of the success that goes into these festive holiday occasions lies in the planning. Get that right, and most of the groundwork is in place. But where does one even begin to start? Below are some tried-and-true tips to take some of the stress away from planning the perfect Thanksgiving.

Be strategic about your menu

When it comes to large holiday occasions centered around food, foresight is your friend. Take some time to plan your menu and consider how each dish will be cooked. Oven space will likely be tight on the day, so try to make room for the turkey, incorporate stovetop sides or no-cook dishes into your menu. Easy stovetop options include mashed potatoes or sautéed green beans. 

Go easy on the appetizers

The main attraction on Thanksgiving is the main course, so there’s no need to complicate the appetizers. Keeping them simple will not only lower your stress levels on the day, but also prime your guests’ appetites appropriately to enjoy the main course. For foolproof appetizer ideas, opt for a veggie platter with hummus or a spread of cheese and crackers. 

Share the load (and love!)

If you’re hosting for the holiday, make it a potluck. Take care of the turkey and have your guests bring the appetizers, sides, drinks, or desserts. This also ensures that everyone will have something to enjoy. 

Make-ahead whenever possible 

Swap out a prep-heavy, cooked vegetable dish for a no-cook salad - your guests will appreciate a fresh option. Embrace the make-ahead and prep dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce the day or two prior. Simply reheat right before serving and enjoy!

Repurpose leftovers

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the same spread the next day (and day after that…), we also love trying something new. Shred or roughly chop turkey meat and make a hearty turkey and rice soup. Use leftover cranberry sauce as a spread on whole grain toast. Cut up any leftover veggies from your veggie platter, add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy chopped salad.

And, here's our top Thanksgiving recipes picks:

  1. Sage-Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Green Beans, and Potatoes

  1. Rosemary Beef with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  2. Turkey Meatballs with Sweet Potato Mash and Cranberry Sauce


Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season. Though it may be a celebratory time of reconnecting with loved ones, all the traveling, attending to guests, and moving around in between can add up to be … a lot. 

Much of the success that goes into these festive holiday occasions lies in the planning. Get that right, and most of the groundwork is in place. But where does one even begin to start? Below are some tried-and-true tips to take some of the stress away from planning the perfect Thanksgiving.

Be strategic about your menu

When it comes to large holiday occasions centered around food, foresight is your friend. Take some time to plan your menu and consider how each dish will be cooked. Oven space will likely be tight on the day, so try to make room for the turkey, incorporate stovetop sides or no-cook dishes into your menu. Easy stovetop options include mashed potatoes or sautéed green beans. 

Go easy on the appetizers

The main attraction on Thanksgiving is the main course, so there’s no need to complicate the appetizers. Keeping them simple will not only lower your stress levels on the day, but also prime your guests’ appetites appropriately to enjoy the main course. For foolproof appetizer ideas, opt for a veggie platter with hummus or a spread of cheese and crackers. 

Share the load (and love!)

If you’re hosting for the holiday, make it a potluck. Take care of the turkey and have your guests bring the appetizers, sides, drinks, or desserts. This also ensures that everyone will have something to enjoy. 

Make-ahead whenever possible 

Swap out a prep-heavy, cooked vegetable dish for a no-cook salad - your guests will appreciate a fresh option. Embrace the make-ahead and prep dishes like mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce the day or two prior. Simply reheat right before serving and enjoy!

Repurpose leftovers

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the same spread the next day (and day after that…), we also love trying something new. Shred or roughly chop turkey meat and make a hearty turkey and rice soup. Use leftover cranberry sauce as a spread on whole grain toast. Cut up any leftover veggies from your veggie platter, add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy chopped salad.

And, here's our top Thanksgiving recipes picks:

  1. Sage-Roasted Chicken with Gravy, Green Beans, and Potatoes

  1. Rosemary Beef with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  2. Turkey Meatballs with Sweet Potato Mash and Cranberry Sauce


Taking some time to plan for large occasions like Thanksgiving can go a long way.

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