Simple Stress Free Thanksgiving Meal Ideas
Thanksgiving. A time to gather with family, friends, loved ones. To celebrate all that we are thankful for with food, drink and merriment. Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and turnip, gravy and cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and brussel sprouts.
What it’s not about it is getting up at the crack of dawn to stuff a turkey, truss it and get it in the oven early, so that there is enough time to get all the other side dishes cooked. Or slaving away solo over the stove, trying the 7th new recipe for brussel sprouts in the hopes that the family will actually eat this one. And when, as the cook, you finally sit down to eat, after lovingly serving the rest of the family first, your plate is lukewarm. You rush to shovel your food in so fast that you don’t even taste it, because everyone else at the table had a head start, and they’re eagerly awaiting seconds, and dessert.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re a single mom, if you work shifts, if family is close by or far away, and you’re travelling for 20 minutes or 2 hours, or if (gasp!) you’re hosting everyone at your place, here are some Simple Stress Free Thanksgiving Meal Ideas to make it easier, quicker, and more enjoyable for everyone.
Times Change, People Grow
Now I do understand that there are those of you out there that truly enjoy cooking and serving a meal that has everything made from scratch, using only tried and true family recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Turkeys that are brined or deep fried, gravy made from the roast pan drippings, cranberry sauce made with real cranberries! You wouldn’t have it any other way!
But over the years, as children grow up, get jobs (sometimes shift work, on holidays), get married and have children of their own, big family get-togethers have to grow and change with the times. Some families have multiple meals with in-laws or extended family. Divorce and custody schedules just add to the chaos.
So, here are some tips and tricks, short-cuts and strategies, to help you navigate to a relaxing, enjoyable feast with family! I’ve even included a simple Thanksgiving menu to guide you. It may not be gourmet, but it’s good, has all the perennial favourites, with some new easy recipes to try if you’re feeling adventurous.
Making Thanksgiving Dinner Simple and Stress Free
Store bought convenience
Don’t be ashamed to go simple and store-bought. With my job being shift work (as was my ex-husbands), a sister who is also a shift working nurse, and both sisters with husbands and kids, it’s easier to just have someone pop a frozen, stuffed Butterball turkey in the oven when they get home from work in the morning.
Divide and conquer
Take turns hosting from year to year. Ask each person to contribute a dish, even the mains. Create a list of menu items, divide it up so everyone knows who is responsible for what, and no one person is left making everything.
Make ahead menu
You’ll find a lot of the dishes in the menu below are make-ahead. Soup, stuffing, even the mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time. This makes for a more relaxed dinner when most just has to be reheated. And if you’ve got dinner at one family’s the day before, who wants to have to make a dish from scratch after for the next day?!
Instead of the cook having to serve, or waiting until everything is on the table (cold), try letting everyone serve themselves from the kitchen. This way you can keep food warm, and guests can help themselves to seconds. It might even encourage some help with the clean-up! We make a rule of feeding the little kids first, so they can go off and play once they are through, and adults can enjoy eating, drinking and chatting over a more laid-back, casual dinner.
Simple Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Pumpkin Sausage Soup – make this a couple weeks ahead and freeze, just needs to be reheated
Frozen Stuffed Turkey – Butterball is our favourite. We don’t use the stuffing (we’ll amp that up), but it does make for turkey that’s moist
Mashed potatoes – made ahead with butter, warm cream, salt and pepper, just reheat
Mashed turnip – peel, chunk, microwave and mash with butter and brown sugar
Maple Soy Glazed Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash with Bacon – tastes gourmet, but super simple
Gravy – from a package
Cranberry Sauce – jellied, from a can
Corn – for the picky vegetable eaters (my family is full of them!), from a can
Dinner Rolls – we lovingly call them “brown ‘n serves” (or when you forget them in the oven, “black ‘n serves”)
Pumpkin pie and whipped cream – from the in-store bakery, in the spray can
Hopefully this has inspired you to let go of the lofty expectations that so many of us create for family get-togethers. You can have a casual, less chaotic, enjoyable time with family using these simple stress free Thanksgiving meal ideas. Enjoy!
Got some other tips you would add to this list to make Thanksgiving a little less stressful? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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