Thanksgiving will look different for many of us this year. In North Carolina, the maximum gathering allowed inside homes is 10 people, so we’re keeping our holiday small with just 7 of us this year. Whether you’re hosting your loved ones, visiting family or experiencing Thanksgiving virtually this year, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips plus a bunch of reader submissions for Thanksgiving traditions, time saving cooking hacks, hosting tips, family games, unique traditions or meaningful ideas for making this holiday a little extra special.
Recipes & Cooking Tips
- Outsource the turkey and make your own sides! The fried turkey from Popeyes was recommended
- Make your own turkey and outsource the sides (Reids, Whole Foods, Publix)
- Make sides in the crockpot
- Prep as much ahead of time as possible so you’re not stuck in the kitchen cooking all day
- Always use a thermometer for the turkey and never trust the time per pound charts
- Let your turkey rest, covered, while you heat up the sides to keep it moist
- Costco’s pre-made gravy tastes better than homemade
- Pioneer Woman’s make-ahead mashed potatoes (recommended by multiple readers)
- “Pioneer Woman’s green bean casserole is so good I have dreams about it!”
- “My family gets a keg every year. I remember it from even when I was little!”
- Forgetting the gravy or burning the bread will make for funny memories later. (I loved this tip. My grandma was known for burning the bread at every family gathering, and we still laugh about this!)
My family has always been huge on appetizers. We tend to graze all day long on snacks before dinner. Over the past few years I’ve tried almost every Trader Joe’s frozen appetizer and rounded up all my favorites in my Trader Joe’s Appetizers Post! Some of these items you can find in your local grocery store too.
Centerpiece & Tablescapes
- Put the kids in charge of setting and decorating their table.
- Coloring activity tablecloths for the kids table
- Rent your dishes. You can return them dirty!
- Custom koozies at each placesetting that also serves as a party favor! (I thought these were a cute option!)
Our kids loved these coloring placemats last year. They kept them busy for a bit and then they ate on top of them.
I love the fresh garlands from Lynch Creek Farms. Last year I ordered my staircase garland early so I could use it ahead of time for my Thanksgiving runner on my kitchen island. It smelled amazing and looked even more gorgeous in person. And then the next day I hung it on my staircase!
I was thrilled with how my tablescape turned out last year. Almost everything came from Amazon (including the gorgeous candle holders!!!) and I went with disposable flatware and disposable plates which made clean-up a breeze! For the centerpiece I layered a few types of fresh eucalyptus and added some mercury glass votives. And at each placesetting, I busted out my old calligraphy pen and made place cards.
I know many of us are decorating early for Christmas this year. If you’re ready to bust out a Christmas tablescape for Thanksgiving, here’s one of my most favorites! Instead of doing fresh greenery (my go to) I rolled some pretty wrapping paper down the center of my table for a tablerunner and then added an assortment of glittery Christmas trees!
Family Games & Activities
- Flag football on Thanksgiving morning
- Play the Saran Wrap Ball game
- Thanksgiving Bingo with gifts for winners (coloring books, dish towels, mini candles, ornaments, candy, mini liquor bottles, holiday socks, etc.)
- Morning family walks/bike rides/park dates to give mom a quiet home to get these ready!
- Watch the Macy’s Day Parade!
Other Reader Tips & Traditions
- Leave Christmas pajamas on the kids’ beds from the “pajama fairy”! If you need pajamas, here are a bunch of our favorite pajamas.
- I love LRT’s Christmas playlist
- Eat takeout the night before.
- Don’t forget to stock up on disposable containers to send guests home with leftovers. I love this combination set for storing leftovers in your fridge and packaging up individual meals! And these stackable containers are microwave/dishwasher/freezer safe — and a great price!
- Host a “leftovers” meal the next day. The house is already decorated and it will help you clean out the fridge!
- “My dad’s family has the family ‘turkey bowl’. It is a wooden bowl that every person that comes to Thanksgiving dinner signs. You just sign it one time and it’s filled with signatures of all the family and friends through the years that have sat at the table for dinner!! The tradition started 30 years ago and with my dad being of 8 siblings there are many signatures as the family as grown and friends have joined for dinner!”