Staying sane over the Thanksgiving break can be a big challenge!
Traditionally our family has come together for this holiday over any others. I’ve hosted as many as 29 people for the traditional meal, but we all know that you need to be prepared for much more than just a meal!
Plan your menu first
When you’re preparing for a feast, you have to know the menu to start anything. Most often, people over do it… and if you’re inviting guests – most want to contribute to the meal in some way… a menu is the best way to start your planning because then you know what to buy, what to prepare ahead, and how everything comes together.
Extend your menu through three days
When I host my (rather large extended family) – it’s more than just hosting one big Thanksgiving meal… With people arriving as early as two days prior, I create a three-meal menu for the entire time we have company. This way everything is planned out, we are able to relax and enjoy the company, and a planned menu helps everyone feel a part of the process!
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Clean the house
When I’m preparing for a houseful of guests, I always love to start with a ‘clean slate’… albeit – the house will be well-used (and where the kids resonate, it can actually get downright trashed…) – but starting fresh and clean makes everyone feel good and keeps the home atmosphere. Also – I never know where family members (kids, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents) are going to land – so having nice, clean, tidy floors, beds and couches makes it easy for people to crash with the need to nap hits!
Review homework before guests arrive
As my kids have grown, they’ve been issued more and more homework over the breaks. One of our survival strategies is to sit down with our kids before everyone arrives and set out a time-estimated homework strategy for the final day of break. As they’ve become older, they often have homework which requires some quiet time throughout the break which can be really challenging to set aside… so it’s important to help your kids plan out time and set it aside to be sure they can get their homework done before school starts.
Set it up and forget it
We live in the Northeast US so it’s nice and cool (and sometimes downright COLD) on Thanksgiving – so we extend our living/prep space and create an entire beverage station in the garage using tables, disposable table cloths, and all the cool drinks people could want. Additionally, I set up a hot beverage coffee station that keeps hot cups available all day (and evening) long. I love to use fancy glasses for meals, but throughout the day, I always prep my beverage station with a nice sharpie and reusable plastic cups so that family members can personalize their cup and use it all day. Once it’s set, I only need to do ‘light’ maintenance a couple times a day.
Use leftovers to create something yummy and new
Although one of my favorite ways to enjoy leftover turkey is on a sandwich with lettuce, salt, pepper and mayo – My favorite Thanksgiving leftover ‘standby’ is a ‘turkey and cranberry wreath’ made of leftover turkey, mayo, mustard, dried cranberries, water chestnuts, and smothered in cheese… all wrapped up in ready-made crescent rolls and baked to perfection. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser and doesn’t taste like leftovers AT ALL because I make something completely new.
One dish wonders
When hosting guests throughout several days, I love making big pots of stew or hearty chili for this time of year. A bubbly crockpot full of yummy, stick-to-your-ribs pulled pork or stew feeds a whole bunch of people and makes prep (and clean up) easy!
Call in the troops – or call the caterer
I love to cook, but if I’m cooking 3+ meals a day for a houseful for several days, it gets taxing to keep up with everything. So, if I know we’re having a lot of people, I usually order at least one entree for the days that people are staying through to make things easier. When all else fails, call a caterer and bring in a tray of chicken parm and pasta, or pay extra for a deli and sandwich tray and cut rolls. This way you can manage your energy so you have some left to party!
Let’s face it – more people means more mess, and more to clean up. One way to manage the time on your feet is to have your guests pair up as teams for prep or clean up before and after meals, or delegate one meal per couple/family! The other tasks that need to be delegated are clean up tasks. There’ve been holidays where we’ve had 12 teens using one bathroom… and that needed to be cleaned twice per day! So in order to keep everyone happy, each teen was delegated a ‘bathroom check/maintenance’ time throughout their stay. Everyone participated, no one was alone, and because they share the cleanup duties, people are more ‘mindful’ when using the facility and since all participate, it works out fairly.
Get out the games!
Everyone loves game night. When the family is on their way, my kids bring out the good old board games: Monopoly, Life, Stratego, Chess, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Rumicube, Mastermind, Apples to Apples and Checkers are some of our favorites. Different than video gaming or watching a movie together (which are also fun), board games have a special social quality about them that allows the kids and adults to interact, have fun, talk and really just ‘be’ together.
Plan time outdoors
Even when the weather is cold, rainy or snowy – it’s easy to get cabin fever after so many people are together for long periods of time. My hubby is the hiKING – king… He always suggests some hearty outdoor fun to break the monotony and perk everyone up!
When you’re supporting so many – it’s important to put self-care first. Even if it’s been a long, long day – I really enjoy ending my day with a warm bath. It’s a great way to do one little thing that is just for me. It helps me recharge and relax.
Your Sanity Assignment For Thanksgiving
- What is the self-care strategy that will help you recenter, refocus and relax?
- What will you do to ensure you take time for you this year?
Please share your tips for staying sane over the holidays with us below! And HEY… Happy Thanksgiving. May you be blessed with love, light, family and friends this holiday season!