Thanksgiving without the Frenzy

How to have a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Betty Thanksgiving Series: Part 2

Let Your Thanksgiving be Frenzy-Free

Tips for hosting a feast without going crazy

-Stephanie Elliot

Next in the series: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving!

frantic womanI don’t cook. Last night’s dinner of grilled cheese and tomato soup almost put me over the edge so you can imagine the heart palpitations I get around this time of year. However, I have to shove those feelings aside because for some reason, people LOVE turkey and all the trimmings. Don’t get me wrong; put a nicely basted and juicy turkey, a pile of steamy mashed ‘tatoes and a vat of gravy in front of me and I’m all “oink-oink-the-kid-from-Christmas-Story” and eating like a pig. But the prep work that goes into getting ready for Thanksgiving … I’m not very grateful for the work involved … NO THANKS!

So, if you’re like me and want to hide in your room until the New Year’s ball drops because shopping, family functions, football celebrations, work get-togethers, gift-giving, parties and food adds too much stress and you’re looking for ways to ease yourself into this season of Thanksgiving and joyfulness, here are some tips to get you through the first hurdle of the holidays!


What if you drew the short straw this year and it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and all the family members, including your brother-in-law’s sister’s half-cousin who married that guy but then got divorced but still feels like part of the family? Whether you’ve got a houseful coming or you’re preparing a simple dinner for four, early planning can make you very thankful that you didn’t wait until the last minute to get your grocery shopping done. Because have you tried to shop for a turkey the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? Trust me, don’t do it.

Lots of little things to do can add up to a tremendous amount of time spent rushing around in a frenzied panic last minute. If you do all the simple tasks before Thanksgiving it’ll make Turkey Day a cinch.

• Bake pies in advance and freeze them.
• Set the table the night before.
• Figure out what serving bowls, casserole dishes and bread baskets you’ll need and get them out so you won’t have to dig around for them that day.
• Prepare the stuffing and green bean casserole the day before and keep them in the fridge so all you need to do is heat them on Thanksgiving.


Don’t be the holiday martyr and try to do everything yourself because you want to impress Great Aunt Eleanor or Uncle Hank. Chances are, your guests are just happy to be spending time with you and won’t care if everything is not perfect.

When relatives or guests ask what they can bring, tell them! And tell them WINE! That’s what I would do anyway! Because everyone is happier when there’s wine!
If someone LOVES being in charge of the dead bird, let ‘em! I have no clue how to even defrost a turkey, let alone gut one, stuff it, and cook it, so this is the perfect time to ask for assistance from an experienced family member. More than likely, there’s a turkey guru in your family who has tackled this task every year and loves to step in and take the reins – or in this case, the turkey legs.
• Get those kids to help too! Younger kids can set the table or get out ingredients. Older kids can clear the table or serve desserts. They’ll probably love sneaking spoonfuls of whipped cream when they’re in the kitchen anyway. Let Grandma pour the wine. She wants to feel important too.
• And, in our family, it’s been a long-time tradition that the men do the kitchen clean up after the meal. And while the men had no say when this tradition began, they don’t complain too much about helping out. They know that after the kitchen is clean, they have the go-ahead to get comfy and watch football before dessert is served. So ladies, why don’t you start a “men cleaning up tradition” of your own this year? Tell them it’s “Betty-Recommended!”


Just because the Pilgrims ate turkey and pumpkin pie, doesn’t mean your family has to (in fact, neither did the Pilgrims, really, right?!).

• If you don’t get overly excited about turkey, have steak or lasagna for your Thanksgiving meal.
• Suggest a dinner theme that relates to your nationality or come up with a unique menu that you’re sure everyone will enjoy.
• If you’re not one for cooking (like moi), most grocery stores have already-prepared Thanksgiving dinners you can purchase for not much more than it would cost to make the meal yourself. And that definitely relieves a bunch of stress!
• Or make reservations. Go somewhere where the cooking’s done for you so you don’t have to spend half the day in the kitchen if you hate being in the kitchen.


Finally, to keep your stress levels from skyrocketing, remember what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s not about how much food you can cook in the shortest amount of time, or how much turkey you can shove into your mouth. It’s not how many touchdowns your favorite team scores, or who gets the biggest piece of pie (or is it?). It’s about being thankful for what you have in your life, and hopefully, it’s a holiday you’re sharing with the people who are most precious to you. Be thankful for everyone’s health and happiness, and for your family and friends.

And yes, it’s also perfectly OK to be thankful for leftover stuffing and pumpkin pie.


Do what I did for this coming year when planning my frantic-free Thanksgiving. I called up my mother-in-law and begged her to host!

More in the Betty Thanksgiving Series:

Thanksgiving with the Stars

Stephanie Elliot is Betty’s Lit Lounge and Parenting editor, and she also answers your parenting questions at Just Another Manic Mommy. Visit her at or

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