How to Host Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving Without Tears

The first Thanksgiving is always the scariest. What happens if the Turkey is too dry, or even worse raw in the middle? What if you can’t get all the food ready and it’s all cold once it gets on the table? What if your guests hate all of the food and have a horrible time?

Thanksgiving anxiety is real, and a lot of people avoid hosting Thanksgiving altogether because of this, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you read this easy to follow guide and break the holiday up into parts, you shouldn’t get overwhelmed, and you will be sitting down enjoying your Thanksgiving meal in no time!

The Challenge

The problem with Thanksgiving is a couple of different factors; all converged into one for the perfect storm. “Turkey Day” usually involves many dishes of food, and you can’t have your feast without all those fixins’.

The bird hogs up the oven for the day which doesn’t give the rest of the food “oven time.” Since you have limited oven or stove space all dishes finish at different times, so once it gets on the table, its cold. You might have some family members that can’t have certain kinds of foods. To exacerbate these issues even further, your family or friends are around, and you want to have a good time. They can also serve as a distraction for your cooking. So how do you get over these hurdles?

Schedule and Plan Out Your Dishes

Schedule some time to get all your recipes together to purchase. Don’t buy fresh ingredients too early or they will spoil or taste stale. Do purchase non-perishable items as soon as possible and store away, so you don’t have to worry about it later. Write down all your recipes and make your grocery list and sort accordingly.

I use the app Paprika which lets me store all my recipes, and you can even create a grocery list and schedule your meals. I have been using this application for about six years now (seriously, I just checked, my first recipe added was on 11/28/11) and I highly recommend it. It is like your own personal pocket recipe book that you can easily save recipes to at any time. Paprika is excellent to reaccess your Thanksgiving recipes next year. Remember one of the keys to being a good cook is consistency.

Now that you got all your dishes together, you need to plan an action list of when you want to accomplish each task (yes seriously). An action list is the only way you will be able to manage your time correctly.

A great program I have used to manage time is Trello. I even used it to plan my wedding. Now this might not be as big as a wedding (understatement of the year), there is still a lot of moving parts to the holiday, and if you don’t stay organized and break down what you have to do, you will stress out so early you might back out entirely. Here is a board or another one you can use from Trello that might give you some inspiration. You can choose to organize it however you want.

Frozen Turkey

I highlighted this because this is very important, don’t forget about frozen turkeys, they take a lot of time to defrost. Your best bet would be to buy one a couple of weeks before the big day and to defrost in the fridge for about seven days.

Get a Little Help From Your Friends

You can’t possibly cook all the dishes for Thanksgiving by yourself without ruining the Thanksgiving holiday for yourself. Your best bet is to enlist some help from your friends and family. Thanksgiving assignment is the perfect circumstance where your Trello app can come in handy. You can list all the dishes your family or friends are making. Make sure you don’t get duplicate dishes and that your guest is comfortable with this task before asking.

Keep It Warm

The biggest problem with Thanksgiving is keeping all the food warm that have been prepared at different times. What we found out works best is to keep everything warm on Sterno Trays. They can be found relatively cheap at the store, and most dishes can be put on them to remain at the optimal temperature.

To make things easier ask your guests to bring their meals in the standard half trays, and you can place them on the rack as soon as they arrive. Remember Sternos aren’t designed to cook the food but to keep them at the right temperature, so make sure they are hot before placing them on the rack.


You do not want to forget about this part. Keep the party going with your favorite beverages or cocktails. One word of advice, keep it simple. Serve a premade drink or just wine and beer. Don’t forget the soft drinks or water for the non-drinkers. It is also nice to include coffee for dessert time.


Most Desserts can be made the day or sometimes even two days before. Do not use your precious time to make any deserts during crunch time. Plan ahead according. If dessert is not your thing, bakeries have a lot of tasty baked goods to purchase. Don’t plan anything that will be over your head. Now is not the time to experiment.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)

If all else fails, keep it simple. The more impressive ideas you have, the more complications that can arise.

If you have family members that have food allergies, within reason, try only to make that version of the dish. There is no need to make two different versions of the same thing. Your guests might not even notice the difference without the offending ingredient.

Remember to Breathe

Don’t forget to breathe and enjoy your Holiday. No matter what, being surrounded by friends and family, if anything goes wrong, it will make a good story for next year.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post below.

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