Our Top Tips for Hosting a Low-Stress Thanksgiving

Make the holiday a joyful occasion for your guests—and yourself.

November  1, 2021

We’ve teamed up with Albertsons Companies to share our tips, tricks, and most-trusted recipes to make hosting Thanksgiving a total breeze. One thing you can take off your plate: grocery shopping. With FreshPass™, a handy grocery subscription program with perks like unlimited free delivery, a $5 monthly credit for annual subscribers, and a VIP customer service line you can reach any time, all your must-have holiday ingredients are just a few clicks away. Want to give it a test run? Start your free 30-day trial right here.

After many years of hosting Thanksgiving, and even more running a test kitchen, I’ve picked up an arsenal of helpful tips and tricks along the way to make the holiday as joyful as possible.

Sure there’s a lot to manage when it comes to cooking, delegating, and decorating, but remember, you’re in charge. The sooner you embrace the role of host, the more fun you’re bound to have. Here are a few things I do every year leading up to Thanksgiving to take the stress out of the day, plus a few time-tested recipes to add to your table.

Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

1. Make a Game Plan

Whether it’s a dinner party for just a few or Thanksgiving for the entire family, I always get out a pad of paper and pencil to write a game plan. I start by jotting down what dishes I’ll be in charge of making, along with a complete grocery list.

From there, I write a mini calendar with the days leading up to the event (in this case, Thanksgiving) and break each day down by what can be prepped in advance. I’ll make a note of when the turkey needs to be defrosted (a general rule of thumb is six days before Thanksgiving, depending on the weight of the bird), what sides can be made ahead, when the table needs to be set, and any other prep work (like mincing garlic or trimming green beans) can be done beforehand. The more stuff you can get done ahead of time, the more relaxed the big day will be.

2. Get Your Groceries Delivered

Perhaps the biggest tip for a low-stress Thanksgiving is to utilize grocery delivery. Grocery delivery makes life easier 365 days a year, but especially leading up to Thanksgiving when grocery stores are sure to be overrun with other eager shoppers. With FreshPass™, a grocery delivery subscription program, you get unlimited free delivery (in as little as two hours in most areas, for added convenience) or a DriveUp & Go™ option where you can get groceries delivered straight to your car. Not only do you not have to deal with crowds, but you also don’t have to let last-minute ingredient runs get in the way of your game plan.

3. Decorate With Fresh, Seasonal Items

Hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t just mean being in charge of the turkey—there’s also the table setting to consider. Rather than stressing the day-of about how to transform your dining table, make a list of things you can order for your table from the supermarket and have them delivered along with the groceries. You can choose from items like fresh flowers, mini pumpkins, and gourds on FreshPass™ to create a festive and low-stress tablescape.

4. Stick with Tried-and-True Recipes

I love experimenting with new recipes (it’s literally my job), but when it comes to Thanksgiving, this is the time to play it on the safe side. There’s nothing more stressful than trying a recipe out for the first time only to have it go terribly wrong. I’m still sour over a certain tart I made a few years ago that didn’t go as planned, meaning we were short one dessert at dinner. Stick to recipes you know and love to keep things easier—below are some of my favorites. As an added bonus, with FreshPass™ you’ll get 5% off O Organics® and Open Nature® products so you can save when stocking up on all your go-to ingredients, from butter to canned cranberry sauce.

Silver Palate’s Thanksgiving Potatoes

The Silver Palate Cookbook has been beloved for decades, and was a staple in my house growing up. Their Thanksgiving potatoes still hold up to the test of time—and for good reason. The recipe only requires a handful of ingredients, and is perfect for making ahead.

Ingredients to order: potatoes, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, nutmeg, salt, pepper

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Step up your green bean casserole game with this homemade version. Just because you’re making it from scratch, doesn’t mean it has to add stress. Trim the beans up to three days ahead of cooking, and fry shallots up to two days before and store them in a sealed container at room temperature.

Ingredients to order: green beans, vegetable oil, shallots, flour, mushrooms, butter, garlic, nutmeg, white wine, vegetable broth, half-and-half

Martha Stewart’s Macaroni & Cheese

This is the mac and cheese I loved most as a kid, and let me tell you, it’s worth the hype. With a gorgeous layer of golden-brown breadcrumbs on top, this extra-cheesy side is sure to be one of the first dishes eaten up.

Ingredients to order: butter, white bread, milk, flour, salt, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne, white cheddar cheese, Gruyère, elbow macaroni

Roasted Carrot Soup

If you’re a family that starts Thanksgiving with an appetizer, this soup is a great option. It’s festive without feeling too heavy, and the best part is that you can make it up to three days in advance.

Ingredients to order: carrots, olive oil, salt, vegetable stock, ginger, thyme, onion, garlic, pepper

Pear, Brandy & Walnut Cranberry Sauce

What’s Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, am I right? This version has pears that melt right into the sauce, a sprinkle of walnuts for texture, and a welcome kick of brandy. Cranberry sauce can be made up to three days in advance—just leave out the walnuts until it’s serving time.

Ingredients to order: brandy, water, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cranberries, light brown sugar, pears, walnuts

What are your favorite ways to keep Thanksgiving stress-free? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

This Thanksgiving, we’re skipping the holiday grocery store rush and using FreshPass™ instead—a grocery delivery subscription program with sweet bonuses like unlimited free delivery, monthly exclusive Starbucks® perks, rewards that don’t expire, plus 5% savings on O Organics® and Open Nature® products. Ready to get started? Find your nearest store and sign up for a free 30-day trial here. You can check out the FreshPass grocery delivery subscription program from Albertsons Companies: ACME, Albertsons, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Pavilions, Randalls, Safeway, Shaw’s, Star Market, Tom Thumb, and Vons.

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Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.