10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving for the First Time + Thanksgiving Checklist

9:20 PM

10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving for the First Time + Thanksgiving Checklist

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is a time for celebration, quality time with family & gratitude for all that we have. Plus, lots of yummy food!

But, if you are hosting Thanksgiving, then the big day also means hours of prep work, decorating, cleaning, shopping, & waking up at 5 am to prep & start foods. 

If this is your first year I know that can sound intimidating, My first year I was so nervous that the entire day was riding on me. It can be super intimidating to take on hosting a holiday for your family. But, I promise it isn't as hard as it seems & when you see your family gathered around your table, it makes every worry worth it!

While some things can be completely out of your control the day of, you can prepare & organize yourself for the day to go as smoothly as possible. I have been hosting now for over 5 years & I have come up with these tips for you to follow to ease your anxiety so the only sweat from the day is from your oven and not your blood pressure ;)


1. Plan Ahead

Sit down & figure out your budget for your meal. Schedule what time your meal will be, my family doesn't do a typical Thanksgiving dinner we eat mid-day to enjoy the majority of the day together. Whether it be early or later in the day choose & let family know when to arrive. Then, figure out your menu. Are you taking on the whole meal yourself? Or are sides & desserts being delegated to other family members to bring? If so, send out a quick text to them to confirm & remind them. That way you know who is bringing what. 

 My suggestion is to always buy your turkey & canned goods early. {Unsure what size to get? Right below I have a quick glance infographic to help you.} 

*Hosting tip: I like to find a fun game everyone can play together each year. It's perfect for after everyone has eaten & always a blast*

2. Clean out your fridge 

This is one step you will thank me for later. Most people only have one fridge & when you are hosting it can fill up FAST. The week leading up to Thanksgiving, make an effort to use up any leftovers, empty out old condiments & check for expired food. If you need to put leftovers in zip locks & freeze them for later. Do a check in the pantry as well. You may find that you have some things for your meal already & can save yourself money. Then, give your fridge a good clean down. Lots of people will be looking in there. ;)

3. Buy leftover containers

Everyone wants to take home leftovers from Thanksgiving, that's one of the best parts. Trust me, when I say you want to buy some for people to take home & toss. Using your own can be a hassle because 1, you yourself are going to need them and 2, they may not make it back to you. THESE are smaller but very cute & THESE are practical & come with plenty.

4. Decorate and set the table ahead of time

Decorating for Thanksgiving can take a big chunk of your time. Getting the decor down, assembling centerpieces, and decorating your table can be a chore, so start early! I like to start the week after Halloween. & the kids' table the day before. But, I don't do Christmas before Thanksgiving. Whatever will work best for you & your home, just do it early. This will take one thing off your plate as Thanksgiving gets closer but also prepares you to see if you need more seating & configuring your home to host everyone best.

*Host tip: Don’t forget about the front porch. It’s the first thing your guests see when they arrive. It’s so easy to focus on the inside with cleaning and decorating. Rake up the front yard, sweep the porch. If you have the budget, some decor like a fall pillow, welcome mat, door hanger or sign. Even just a fall wreath on the front door can make a great first impression. You want to be proud of the outside of your home as well as the inside.




5. Stock up on essentials 

This is the stuff that can slip your mind when your mind is anxious about the cooking portion of Thanksgiving. Trust me, you don't want a house full of family & realize you are down to your last toilet paper roll & no stores are open!

Make sure you have things on hand like:

- toilet paper

- paper towels or napkins

- dish soap

- if you using disposables: cups, dinner plates, dessert plates & cutlery

- serving spoons { you will be surprised how many you end up using, grab some extras just in case}

- pot holders & trivets

Grab these 1-2 weeks before Thanksgiving to elevate the extra stress & trips to the store during Thanksgiving week.

6. Use a Checklist

A Thanksgiving checklist is a GREAT way to stay organized while hosting Thanksgiving. I have one I made at the end of this blog post for you to print & use. But, you can easily make one yourself on paper or right on your phone in the notes app. Having a checklist can help you determine which duties can be done in advance so you are not trying to cram things in the week of the big day. Just seeing things laid out really helps as well, even years in, I still make a checklist to help me stay organized & my mind at ease.

7. Try things out ahead of time

If this is your first year  & some of these dishes you have never made before or you are trying to make a new recipe for the first time, you probably shouldn't have your first attempt be on Thanksgiving day. I might even suggest doing a trial run on a turkey ahead of time. Try to find a cheap small, $20 turkey. $20 is a small price to pay to be able to serve up the perfect bird on Thanksgiving day.

8. Start early on non-food prep

It's not just the food that needs to be prepped. You are probably pulling your china, crystal & serving dishes that need to be washed, or extra silverware. Make sure you are washing, pressing napkins, and making sure you have enough. Wash your oven mitts & kitchen towels. Do all of this the week or two before. Double-check your serving plates & utensils & iron your tablecloth/runner if needed, too!

Also, the night before I lay out all my cooking dishes, then use sticky notes that are labeled with what I am making in them, what to bake them at in the oven & for how long. This keeps me organized but also is great if anyone wants to chip in to help, without having to stop you to ask questions. I stick what food I can in the dish as well, so in my mashed potatoes pot, I put the sack of potatoes, etc. 

9. Have appetizers & drinks ready to go

Have wine chilling & small appetizers ready when family arrives. If everyone has a drink in their hand & something to snack on, they won't mind if the meal is running a little late & will make it easier for you to concentrate in the kitchen instead of entertaining first thing. 

*Hosting tip: DON'T FORGET THE ICE!*

10. Relax, have fun & live in the spirit of the holiday

My most important piece of advice? Relax! Remember the people gathered around you aren't there to be entertained. Not once any year has anyone complimented me on my baseboards. Don't stress. You are gathering in love & gratitude. Ask for help, laugh a lot, play some games, remember to let the turkey rest & above all, look around. Look around your table surrounded by the people you love & find moments of gratitude in a busy, messy, loud & delicious holiday. YOU DID IT!

Thanksgiving Checklist

Print my Thanksgiving checklist to keep organized while hosting!

2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Bingo

1:42 PM

  Thanksgiving Day Parade Bingo 

Like most Americans, we begin our Thanksgiving day by watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade every year. Let's be honest though younger kiddos have a hard time staying engaged watching with all the commercials & cut-in commentary! So, a couple years ago I made these fun Bingo cards to play while watching the parade for a little bit more fun & to keep kids engaged in the parade! I did photos instead of words for younger kids who can not read yet!

These cards are specific to 2023! Don't worry about Bingo markers, you can just use a marker to "X" when you find the float or balloon! I made 5 different cards so there is a variety for your family!

Winning Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Bingo

What happens when you win? Well, you could play just for fun & no real prize! Maybe you win getting the first piece of pie after dinner or helping Mom with a Thanksgiving dish! My girls fight over who helps peel the potatoes {one year I am going to remember to buy more peelers} It is up to you how you want to play!


You can print the bingo cards by clicking them below or HERE

Cabin Getaway

7:18 PM

 Every fall break I can't imagine going anywhere tropical when we live in the Midwest where everything is becoming so vibrant & colorful for Fall. Fall is my favorite season, everything about it makes my soul happy. Several years back we started doing a cabin getaway during Fall break. It ends up being the best time for our souls to rest, to just be with one another & slow down before the looming holiday rush in the months ahead.

We played games THESE ones are what we packed this year. We spent so much time outside, the weather was beyond perfect. We had the best time and we are ready to take on the holiday season! I can't believe we are just 2 weeks away from Halloween! What could we be this year? Any guesses?

I am currently reading "You Again"

@mrsmumaw The perfect fall getaway to reset our souls before the holiday rush in the coming months. 🍂 #fall #cabininthewoods #fallaesthetic #getaway #cabingetaway ♬ Choking on Flowers - Fox Academy

Vehicle was in park ;)

While there this guy (Hudson) turned 6 months!  

We went to one of the beaches, we hadn't been to on a whim & recreated a photo Brandon & I had taken back in 2008 just little babies. So much life has happened between these two photos. I am so thankful for 4 little people on the other side of the dock that came from those two deeply-in-love kids in the 2009 photo.

Happy Fall Yall! 
Enjoy these last few weeks of fall before the holiday rush!

Apple Orchard

7:33 PM

As the leaves start to change and the days get shorter, it's time for one of the most beloved family traditions - a trip to the apple orchard! This age-old practice of gathering together and picking bushels of delicious apples is the perfect way to start the fall season, creating memories that will last a lifetime. But it isn't just about the apples - it kicks off the fall season for us which is one of our favorite times of the year! This year we had my cousin's daughter, Malina with us which made it even more special.  We love  turning our pickings into homemade treats, usually apple crisp & apple pie! Back when the girls were younger I had time for applesauce & apple butter but I couldn't find the time this year! 

Do you go apple picking? Our orchard used to be dead years ago, now it is always packed & we can hardly find parking. As much as it's a pain, I love seeing all the families out picking! 

About Me

Welcome Friends!
I am Tara. I am a wanna be southern momma, stuck in the Midwest. Huge Disney lover. I love a huge bow & all things Farmhouse style. Frequent user of "Ya'll" Here you will find about our travels, all things motherhood & parenting, with everything I love in between! Grab a cup off coffee & stay awhile!