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Are you hosting thanksgiving for the first time in a small space? Do you need ideas on decorating or just advice on when to start preparing the food? Here are 11 tips to make your first time hosting as stress-free as possible.
Hosting thanksgiving dinner can be SUPER stressful. I know from experience how much planning is involved and how much hard work it is to prepare all that food. To me, though, it's something I look forward to every single year. I love to cook and entertain!
The only thing I hate about preparing thanksgiving dinner is doing it in a small apartment or home. You feel like you don't have enough room to cook or decorate properly.
I remember my first thanksgiving as a newlywed in our tiny apartment. I was determined to make a meal for my new husband that he would LOVE and decorate our house for the season. Yes, it was just the two of us, but it was the first "official" thanksgiving our little family had ever had and I wanted to make it special. I stressed for weeks about what I was going to make for this dinner, how I was going to decorate my house, how I was going to set up the table, and so on. Looking back on it, I can't help but laugh because this was a dinner for just my husband and I. Imagine how I am going to react when we have children and our family keeps growing and there are many more people to feed!
Even though I was only preparing a meal for two, I learned SO much about hosting during that first thanksgiving. I also learned a lot from our past family dinners and I used those things to help me host my own. I know hosting thanksgiving for the first time can be overwhelming, especially if you are hosting for a crowd and don't have much space in your home.
So in order to help you stress less, here are my 11 tips for hosting thanksgiving for the first time in a small space:
1. Plan out your meal AT LEAST three weeks in advance.
I like to be prepared and ready ahead of time so I'm not freaking out at the last minute trying to figure out what to serve. In order to ensure that you have plenty of time to prepare, figure out what food you are having, what groceries you need to buy, how much, and when to go shopping for them. When you will need to go shopping will depend on what kind of food you are serving. If you are serving turkey, I recommend going to get it at least 3 weeks in advance and then freezing it until the day before. If you don't, you might not be able to find a good turkey. If you don't plan on having turkey, figure out what kind of meat your family likes. If your family prefers a meatless dinner, figure out what kind of vegetables they like. When you figure out what you are going to serve, make a list of all the ingredients you need before heading to the store and stick with only the things on that list. Otherwise, you'll end up buying a bunch of things you don't need.
2. Stick with things that you know how to make and are comfortable preparing
I make this mistake ALL the time. I try to get fancy and make elaborate dinners and then they end up tasting terrible and I'm stuck with nasty food because I have no time to prepare anything else. If you want to make this dinner as stress-free as possible, cook things that you KNOW how to cook and are for the most part fail-proof. Simpler is always better. And to be completely honest with you, my family always prefers my simpler recipes over my "fancy" ones!
3. If you do choose to try and make something new, make a test batch a few weeks before
If you DO want to try something new, I would strongly suggest making a "test batch" a few days before thanksgiving so you can either tweak the recipe if needed or come up with a totally different recipe to serve. That way, you won't be so stressed out the day of thanksgiving if the recipe doesn't turn out like you were hoping.
4. If it helps you, have your family members pitch in and assign a certain dish for each person to bring
My family has done this for as long as I can remember and it has worked out great. If you think it's too much for you to prepare the entire meal by yourself or you don't think you will have enough room to cook everything in your kitchen, don't be afraid to ask for help!
5. Communicate with your family on how the bill will be split
In my family, we all pitch in to purchase the turkey and then we each bring a side dish, dessert, or plates, napkins, and drinks. How you split the bill up will depend on how your family does things and how you choose to prepare the meal (if you choose to do a potluck or if you choose to make it all yourself), but it is super important that you talk about this before anyone buys groceries!
6. Decorate at least two weeks in advance
Decorating is a huge part of thanksgiving for me. When all the family comes over, I want the house to be screaming fall! If you plan to decorate, do it at least two weeks in advance. That way, you aren't stressing out about the food AND the decorations all in the same week. When it comes to the theme, I say simple is always better. How about a farmhouse look? Use fake pumpkins, and leaves from the dollar store, re-purpose chalkboards, use antiques you have around the house, old mason jars, etc. If you need some inspiration though, here are a few ideas! Check out this post from Clean and Scentsible for Simple Ways to Add Fall to Your Home.
7. Have extra seating
If you live in a tiny space, you know there isn't always room for everyone to sit. Make sure to have extra seating arrangements just in case you find yourself running out of room. Grab chairs from bedrooms or have fold out chairs.
8. Start cleaning your house at the beginning of Thanksgiving week
If I could only give you one important tip to making your thanksgiving as stress-free as possible, THIS would be it. DO NOT wait until the day before Thanksgiving to start cleaning your house! Start at the beginning of thanksgiving week, and clean your bathrooms and kitchen last. The bathrooms and the kitchen are where most people will be hanging out, so it's definitely wise to clean those right before everyone comes over. If you clean them too early in the week, they will get dirty again and you'll have to do them twice.
9. Don't forget about the drinks
I always have several options available in case someone doesn't want water. Grab sodas that are on sale as well as sweet tea. Have juice and milk on hand for the little ones!
10. Use your Crockpot as much as you can
This thing is such a life saver when I have multiple things to cook or a big crowd to cook for. I throw things in and don't have to worry about them burning or drying out for hours. A crockpot is especially needed if you're hosting a holiday for the first time. My favorite crockpot has a timer on it so I can set it and forget it! Get yours here. And don't forget the crockpot liners.
11. For easy cleanup, use plastic or paper plates, plastic silverware, and disposable foil pans for cooking
To make it easier on yourself, use decorative paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware (like this ADORABLE set!) for dinner instead of eating off of regular plates. When baking, use these disposable foil pans for casseroles, cakes, and even biscuits or rolls. Then once your done, you can store or freeze leftovers in them. This cuts down on the amount of dishes you have to do which I know brings my stress level WAY down.
I hope you've enjoyed these tips to help you host the best thanksgiving dinner ever! Did I miss anything? Do you have any go-to tips when it comes to hosting in a small space? Drop a comment below and let me know!