Planning Thanksgiving - 5 Thanksgiving Meal Ideas That Will Lighten The Work Load

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Planning Thanksgiving? Need Thanksgiving meal ideas?

thanksgiving meal ideas

We are hosting our very first Thanksgiving this year. That's right! Thanksgiving 2014 will be at our house for the first time ever...

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Thanksgiving Meal Ideas For A First-Time Host

I'm a little nervous. I love Thanksgiving, but we've always been at a parent's house and they've certainly got it down. This year, though, we decided not to travel because driving up the east coast is simply miserable during this time of year.

AND now that we are both in our thirties, I think it's safe to say that we are definitely adults. How did that happen? But I digress. Thanksgiving is at our house this year!

I am a novice Thanksgiving host, but you know me...Miss Organized. I've got some planning tricks up my sleeve. These are the things I'm doing this year to have a smooth turkey day, and I have a feeling that I'll keep doing them for the years to come. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
1. Cook a turkey before Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving meal ideas

John and I had never cooked a turkey before. We had to do a trial run to make sure we knew how to make the main dish of a very important holiday, so we decided to give it a try one October weekend.

By the way, fresh whole turkeys (as opposed to frozen ones) are not all that easy to find when it's not Thanksgiving. We went to 3 different grocery stores and finally found a very over-priced fresh bird at Whole Foods. It did turn out to be very tasty, but boy did we pay for it.

Anyhow, we found an easy recipe on the Traeger website and decided to make it. We followed the recipe with a few exceptions (stuffed it with apples, onions and herbs) and nailed it.

Alright, we know how to do a turkey. Moving on.

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
2. Choose easy Thanksgiving side dish recipes.

The focus really is on the turkey, but neglecting the side dishes would be a mistake (at least in my opinion). When we did our turkey trial run, I also roasted some acorn squash and woweee! It tasted so good!

It was a very easy acorn squash recipe and complimented the turkey well, so we plan to serve that in addition to stuffing, a green salad, mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole. I'm sure we'll also throw in a cheese plate with hummus as an appetizer and pie for dessert (either store-bought or delegated to someone else to bring). Easy peasy!

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
3. Delegate tasks to those attending your feast.

Ask the adults to make and/or bring a dish. Kids can help with prep like setting the table, making decorations and assisting with simple cooking tasks.

Since my dad and step mom will be attending our first Thanksgiving, my step mom agreed to make a dish and also help out with everything else. She's making the stuffing which is a big deal, so that's one thing off my to do list.

We are also having our neighbors over, and they are bringing a pie. Boom. Dessert is off my to do list.

We don't have kids yet and other than Brisket (who's on floor clean up duty), the only child there will be a baby. We'll let him off the hook this year.

That leaves us with turkey, appetizer and a few side dishes. Totally doable.

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
4. Create simple Thanksgiving table decorations.

I plan to spiff things up with simple, homemade Thanksgiving table decorations using what I have (with the help of Pinterest, of course).

This is what I already have:

  • table cloth
  • mason jars
  • serving platters
  • napkins

This is what I'll get:

  • fun paper plates (I don't have China and cleaning up will be easier.)
  • flowers for the mason jars
  • a few small pumpkins to decorate the table

I intend to decorate the middle of our Thanksgiving table with flower-filled mason jars and cute little pumpkins and/or gourds - easy and inexpensive. (I will post a photo so you can see how this turned out. UPDATE: See the photos here!)

Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
5. Don't overspend...Christmas is around the corner!

thanksgiving meal ideas

As a first-time Thanksgiving host, I can tell you it's easy to get wrapped up in buying things like centerpieces and place settings and serving dishes and on and on.

However, you must resist! There's no need to waste money, especially when Christmas and Hannukah are around the corner. Trust me, spending cash on a gift for your loved one is better allocated than buying a Thanksgiving something-or-other that you can make using what you have at home.

Besides, use this Thanksgiving as a trial to see what it is you feel you really do need for the feast. If you're missing something, ask for it on your Christmas wish list so you can use it next Thanksgiving.

Here are some more ways to save money and have a beautiful Thanksgiving:

  • Get free printables on Pinterest. There are tons! What do you need? Place cards? Kid's activities? Whatever it is, Pinterest has it and you can print them out for free.
  • Do you have a dollar store nearby? We have a big one, and it is a gold mine. They have the paper plates I'm going to buy along with scented candles and all kinds of fun things to celebrate the feast. UPDATE: The photo above shows the fun plates I bought from The Dollar Store.

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