A few days ago I decided to start planning for Thanksgiving! Since we live 1800 miles away from our family and most of our friends here are transplants to Portland as well, we love to throw a Friendsgiving to still have that sense of family and togetherness! Last year we hosted our first Friendsgiving.. in our downtown apartment.. that didn’t have a dining room! Not to be discouraged by our small space, we pushed our living room furniture against the walls, borrowed two 6ft long folding banquet tables, and rented folding chairs. Everything came out perfect despite the obstacles and we had room AND food for 20+ guests.
This year we have a bigger space and I know what to expect, but for those of you hosting and/or cooking the entire meal yourself this year for the first time, I put together a few quick tips to keep you sane!
1. LISTS LISTS LISTS! I love making lists and I think maybe this is why I enjoy hosting parties and events so much! It makes me feel like I’ve got a grasp on things when in reality I probably do not! Start with your guest list and don’t forget the possibility of plus ones. If it’s a close family event, this may not be an issue, but for a Friendsgiving that’s a little bit more relaxed, remember that your single friends may not want to sit at a table full of married couples!
2. Send out invitations early. By mail, text, or Facebook, just make sure to include all the details, and set a date for everyone to RSVP by. If you follow up and still get a wishy-washy answer from someone, count them out. Thanksgiving isn’t an easy task to pull off by yourself and they should respect that! RSVP or no turkey!
3. Plan your menu. Not everyone is a fan of turkey so I like to do a ham, bacon wrapped chicken drumsticks or even a veggie option like acorn squash in addition to the turkey. And speaking of dietary restrictions.. make sure when your guests RSVP they specify any allergies or food restrictions. Decide if you want to make an extra dish for them (I’ve done this and it’s kind of a pain in the ass when it’s just for ONE person) or kindly ask them to bring along a dish of their own. Hey.. it’s not your fault they decided to eat only organic, vegan, and gluten-free right before the holidays!
4. Make note of which items can be cooked or prepped the day before. Doing as much as you can the day before helps everything run a bit smoother! Write down cook times and oven temperatures for each dish as well. This was a huge help for me last year because I was able to throw 3-4 items in at the same time that all needed to be at the same temperature.
5. Hot plates! This is great if you have a small oven, but a lot of large items that need to be baked. Scour the thrift stores for old hot plates or see if your friends have a few you can borrow. You can also cover items with foil and store in the microwave to help keep them warm.
6. No table? No problem! Borrow or rent tables and chairs and move your living room furniture to make room if you have to. Last year we borrowed two tables and pushed them together so we could eat family style and I covered the seam of the tables with a handmade table runner. We rented 12 chairs that came to $21 for the day. A drop in the bucket compared to the cost of purchasing tables and chairs for that many!
7. DISPOSABLE DISHWARE! Unless you’re expecting The Queen, your guests won’t mind if you don’t whip out the fine china on their accord. It makes for easy clean-up so you can spend more time with your guests!
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask friends if they’ll co-host, come over the night before to help prep, or bring a dish.
9. Plan for the evening. I’m not a morning person at all so waking up at 6am or earlier to start cooking a huge meal is out of the question! Always leave yourself extra time in case there’s a last minute ingredient you need to get from the store or the turkey is taking longer than expected to cook. Planning your Thanksgiving meal later in the day gives you plenty of time for all of the unexpected bumps in the road.
10. If all else fails… you burn the green bean casserole, the turkey is still frozen, or you have more guests than expected… Keep calm and pour yourself a hefty glass of Sailor Jerry and enjoy the fact that everyone came together to share a meal with YOU!
Happy early Thanksgiving!