My husband had several core reasons for wanting to be a homeowner. One was that he wanted to have holiday family gatherings in our own home. More specifically, he wanted to have a place that could accommodate hosting Thanksgiving dinner.
It may sound like a silly reason to want to own a home, but it was a reason nonetheless. Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday and he loves being with family. That’s all great and part of the reason I love the shit out of him.
Hosting Thanksgiving: Skinny Butterfly Man
However, I’d like to point out how convenient a wish it was. I do the cooking and planning and work… Meanwhile, he gets to flit around being the chipper host – like some skinny butterfly man with boots and charming facial hair.
For being so difficult to engage in conversation that doesn’t regress into something about his dick within 4-5 sentences, he sure is a chatty-Kathy when he gets to play host. It’s cute, but please get your uncle out of my kitchen 5 minutes ago, Dear.
Hosting Thanksgiving: Don’t Judge Me
We’ve done a few of these now and I’ve come to the conclusion that hosting Thanksgiving is both a breeze and the worst idea in the world, all at the same time. I definitely enjoy the control I can exert over the menu. Basically I cook all the things that I (or husband) feel are integral to our successful Thanksgiving spread. I delegate the stuff I don’t want to do or don’t care about. Don’t try to feign ignorance or judge me – I know you do it, too!
We also enjoy hosting Thanksgiving because it (hypothetically) takes a huge load off his Nan’s back. She’s just unable to do it all like she used to, and if we could convince her to stop cooking 15 different things and bringing them in 30 different margarine tubs, she could just sit back and relax the entire holiday… But that’s another story.
Hosting Thanksgiving: Stay Sane
Through all this hustle and bustle, I’ve come to love three services when hosting Thanksgiving or any other holiday gathering my husband commits me to. They help me stay organized, timely, and entertained. These apps cover menu planning, scheduling and timeliness, and dorky entertainment.
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Pepperplate is a super useful app for organizing recipes and menu planning. I only use it for big gatherings but I can see it being invaluable to someone with a larger family to plan for every week. It’s available on desktop and Android, iOS, and Windows devices, as well as on the Nook and Amazon appstore. I like to set everything up from my desktop and then on the day I’ve made the menu for, I access it from my Android phone.
You can manually input your own recipes as well as automatically import them from a long list of popular recipe sites by pasting the URL. It can be done from the mobile app, but I find it’s easier to add them from desktop. There’s really cool intuitive formatting options so you can make your recipe easy to read, like grouping ingredients and instructions.
This really helps to visually distinguish separate parts of a recipe. Make sure you write out amounts and measurement system abbreviations consistently throughout all your recipes. For example, don’t write “1 stick butter” in one recipe and then “1/2 cup butter” in another – you’ll find out why later!
Set up categories to organize your recipes by meal, cuisine, or whatever makes sense to you! You can do this within the form when you’re adding a recipe – there’s a box labelled “categories,” and you just start typing your category and it will show completed suggestions to choose from.
When you have all of your recipes listed, you can then make daily menus from them. On the main page of your account, you can sort by category, so choosing categories when you first enter a recipe is extremely useful for someone with 100s of recipes added. The “planner” tab shows your current and future menus 7 rolling days at a time, allowing you to always see what’s coming up at a glance.
The mobile apps allow you to cook with multiple timers and includes a special Cook Mode option to prevent the screen from dimming on your device while you’re in the kitchen. Scale your recipe on the fly with a handy built in multiplier!
Create Your Shopping List
I think my favorite Pepperplate feature is the “shopping” tab. From each recipe, you can add every ingredient to your shopping list. The shopping tab will automatically group your ingredients by grocery department to the best of its ability. Earlier I mentioned being consistent with your language – this is where that comes into play. If everything is named consistently, it’ll be more accurate in your shopping list. But not to worry, you can always re-arrange and add/subtract ingredients and amounts to make it perfect. Within the shopping tab is a “customize” section where you can add aisle names and drag groups of them around to arrange aisles to match the way you shop in your specific store. This makes it super easy to not accidentally forget that one thing on that one aisle that you don’t need anything else from!
Wunderlist is a list-making app and so much more. You can share lists between users to collaborate on shopping lists and party planning, or keep track of appointments, medications, meetings, etc. You can set due dates and reminders with alarms, and you can assign to-dos to other users. For most of the year my husband and I use this as a reminder tool, but when I’m planning our Thanksgiving, this app’s features are a lifesaver. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web.
A few weeks before the big holiday, I’ll start guest list. Not for sending invitations – ain’t nobody got time for that – but just to keep a tally of how many people are coming. Whatever I’ve asked each guest to bring I include that with their name in the list.
I use the Reminder settings to time each dish on when it goes in and comes out. It helps me keep track of the order everything needs to go in so we end up with everything hot and ready to eat at (roughly) the same time. Doing it this way allows me to still visit with family a bit while I’m in the kitchen instead of standing by the stove every single second.
I might stop using Wunderlist for his purpose because honestly I was previously unaware about the multiple timers for Pepperplate that I mentioned earlier! Either it wasn’t a feature when I started using it and I just missed it being added, or I really need to explore apps more when I first download them.
That being said, Wunderlist is still incredibly useful for everyday reminders and list-making, and I’ll continue using it for those things as long as they continue to update and support it. (Microsoft acquired it in 2015 and they seem like they’re trying to get people to switch to their Microsoft To-Do app. RESIST!)
That’s right, Youtube is in my arsenal for survival when hosting Thanksgiving. I’ve created what I feel is an amazing Thanksgiving-themed playlist. From Bing Crosby to Adam Sandler, from Talking Heads to Willie Nelson, this playlist truly makes me get into my holiday spirit!
We have a Roku which has a Youtube app, so we just play it right on the TV in the den, close enough so I can hear it in the kitchen. Feel free to use my Thanksgiving playlist and add your own favorites the next time you’re hosting Thanksgiving!
Hosting Thanksgiving: Ideas
I would LOVE to hear all about your unique holiday traditions – old and newly adopted – down in the comments below!