7 Ways to Simplify the Thanksgiving Holiday

7 Ways To Simplify The Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving has always been my mom’s favorite holiday. The focus is always on people and appreciation, rather than heavily commercialized and being bombarded with idealized expectations. I can totally get on board with that myself! I love turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Give me that along with friends and family to share it with, and it’s a perfect day in my book.

The point of the meal is simple: gather in gratitude for what you have in life. Being grateful tends to take some effort in these days of busyness, and just slowing down and appreciating what we have in our lives is important.

Because the focus is often a traditional meal that takes hours of preparation, it can still be a very stressful holiday.

Here are 7 ways to simplify this traditional meal:

  1. Keep the Menu Simple. There is no need to have a huge amount of side dishes and desserts. Pick the family favorites and stick to the basics that your family enjoys. Stick to things that you are comfortable cooking and most, if not all, of the family will enjoy eating.
  2. Skip Tradition. If no one in the family enjoys the traditional Thanksgiving Meal, plan out a meal that everyone will enjoy. Remember: it doesn’t matter what you’re eating, it’s gathering in thanksgiving that is the goal.
  3. Ask Everyone To Bring A Dish. If friends and family are joining in the special day, write out the dishes that are needed and ask them to commit to bringing one or two.
  4. Make Things Ahead. Except for the turkey and gravy, almost the entire meal can be prepped and made a day or two before the holiday. Many items can be made and set in the fridge and warmed up in the oven just before the meal.
  5. Take Shortcuts. Not everything has to be homemade. If you have a certain part of the meal that stresses you out at the thought of making it from scratch… then buy it prepared! It’s important to know your limits and what will make it an enjoyable day for you as well as everyone else.
  6. Skip the holiday specific dishes and decor. Keeping the table simple and the main dish the star of the show, reduces that holiday to-do list quite a lot and the meal is just as enjoyable without the extra fluff.
  7. Don’t plan more than one thing that day. If you have several family functions in the same town, only attend one. It certainly is nice to see everyone, but going from house to house and bringing appropriate dishes to each functions is extremely stressful. Avoid shopping trips that day as well. Black Friday sales are becoming earlier and earlier, and if you do choose to participate in that, wait till Friday to do that shopping. 😉


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Complete with grocery list and prepping/cooking times to simplify your planning:

What tips do you have to help others simplify the Thanksgiving Holiday?

[Photo Credit: Satya Murthy]

About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Lisa Foster on 11/17/2016 at 5:39 PM

    In my family we order our “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides from a local restaurant, We pick it up on thanksgiving morning, and serving the dinner requires only warming up the items. It is great food and not much more money than we would spend if we bought the groceries to cook it ourselves. Try it, it takes a lot of stress out of thanksgiving day.

    • Rachel on 11/17/2016 at 8:30 PM

      That’s a great idea!

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