It is officially November, which means it is time to start thinking about the holidays. Thanksgiving kicks off the entire holiday season, but can be stressful if you don’t adequately plan ahead.

Hosting the annual Thanksgiving dinner may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, as long as you begin planning now! Here’s how to have a stress-free Thanksgiving that will actually allow you to enjoy the holiday with your guests:

Prepare the Menu

What will your menu include? If you’re attempting a new recipe, be sure to try it out before the big day. Will you prepare the entire meal or do others plan on bringing food, as well? Keep track of who will prepare which dish and delegate if necessary, so you don’t wind up with too many appetizers or desserts. Some of our favorites include Cheesy Brussels Sprout Bake, Slow Cooker Cranberry Pecan Stuffing, Pear Harvest Salad and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes.

Prep the Food

Scrambling at the last minute will do nothing but frazzle your nerves! Consider what you can do ahead of time, rather than waiting until Thanksgiving week (or worse yet, the day of). Determine which dishes you can you prepare in advance. Here are some things you can easily accomplish a few days, or even a week prior:

  1. Make a few pies and freeze them as far in advance as you like. As Thanksgiving Day arrives you can take the pie out, thaw and heat. It’ll taste just like it was made earlier in the day.
  2. Casseroles can also be made a day or two ahead of time. Prepare the casserole per the recipe, place in the refrigerator and cook according to the directions on Thanksgiving Day.
  3. Remember to take your turkey out in plenty of time so that it can defrost safely in the refrigerator.

Setting the Table 

Decorate your dining space and put the place settings down before the big day. If you can keep the kids from messing with the table, set it at least a few days ahead of time. This way you’ll know if you need any extra plates, chairs or other serving essentials.

Be sure your seating arrangement focuses on your guests comfortability. If there are family members who don’t get along well, be sure they are seated on opposite sides of the room. Set a smaller “kids table” if there will be older children attending who can eat without assistance. For toddlers and infants, be sure to include them at the end of the table near the exit, so parents can easily assist. Enhance table settings by using festive name place cards at each seat, that welcome guests and set the mood.

Decor

When it comes to decorating your table, simple should always win! Place some cranberries in water and top with floating candles. You could also reuse several small Halloween pumpkins by placing them in a wooden planter box along with candles for a rustic, yet eye-catching centerpiece. Even something as effortless as using a large metal lantern, lit with candles, is awe-inspiring. Get the kids involved by having them help create one-of-a-kind, DIY traced leaves napkin ties. You don’t have to go over the top, or spend a lot to add personality to your celebration.

The more you can plan and complete prior to Thanksgiving, the less stress you’ll likely experience. Which means you’ll have more time to thoroughly enjoy family and friends. Remember to have fun and be thankful for those who you are sharing the day with!