3 Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

by Kristy Tolley
pie shell on a table with Happy Thanksgiving cut into the dough
Sometimes it can get hectic prepping for Thanksgiving dinner. Check out these tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

1. Plan ahead

Having a good idea of what you want to make and when you need to make it can save so much time and effort!

  • Write out your menu a least a week before. Also, create a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to buy for the dishes you plan to prepare. Are there any dishes you can make in advance? Cooking ahead can give you more breathing room in your schedule on Thanksgiving Day and lets you focus on the main dish — the turkey!
  • Clean out your refrigerator and freezer before you hit the grocery store. Make sure there’s room for any leftovers you might have. Confession: I purposely make extra mashed potatoes for the sole purpose of having leftovers.
Need some recipe ideas for leftovers? Check out the Day After Thanksgiving Pie recipe here!
  • Set the table the day before Thanksgiving. It’s one less thing to do the day of. Plus, a festive table setting is just nice to look at.

2. Clean as you go

  • Before you begin cooking, fill your sink with hot, soapy water. In addition, make sure your dishwasher is empty. Place messier dishes in the sink to soak. I also usually hand wash bigger items like pots and large mixing bowls to allow room in my dishwasher for more dishes.
  • Have a cleaning cloth and all-purpose spray handy as well, so you can quickly clean up spills as you go. The more clean-up you do as you cook, the less time you’ll spend cleaning after!

3. Carve out a little time for self-care

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in prepping things, we forget to step back and just breathe sometimes.

  • Take some time to enjoy a long walk or just veg on the couch for a bit with your favorite holiday movie and a bowl of popcorn. If I’m honest, though, I could watch Christmas with the Kranks any day of the year.
  • If retail therapy is what you need, this is the perfect time for it! Make the most of a long weekend and get a jump on your holiday gift list. Take advantage of exclusive AAA Member savings on gourmet gift sets, home décor items, brand name gift cards and purchases from Walmart, Dell and other retailers. Click here for all the ways to save on your holiday gift purchases!


family celebrating Thanksgiving around a dinner table



4. Remember why we celebrate

There’s no denying that this year has been a doozy for many of us. We’ve experienced loss. We continue to struggle with isolation from our communities — from our families who don’t live near us and even from our work friends (how I miss those Monday morning catch-up sessions with my co-workers!). In addition, the thread of uncertainly seems to continue to weave through our everyday lives.

This is an ideal time to take stock of what’s been great about this year, though it might take a little time to pull up the good stuff. On a personal level, my husband lost his job in July. What he discovered was an opportunity to pursue projects that re-ignited his passion for what he does. We’re grateful for his “second act!” In addition, working from a small home 24-/7 with my whole family here has been a challenge for me. But I’m thankful that my two-hour daily commute is replaced with more time to watch old episodes of New Girl with my daughters and the chance to take after-work walks before it gets dark outside.

Take a minute before or during Thanksgiving to reflect on the good you’ve experienced this year. It will likely set the tone for the rest of your 2020. No matter what this year has thrown at us, there is still much for which to be thankful.

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