It’s the holidays again. The time for family, friends, gratitude, togetherness, and (for some horrible reason) stress. Um, yeah, let’s see if we can get rid of that last one there. 

Guys, the holidays shouldn’t be this stressful. They are a time of celebration for just how damn lucky we all are in every way. Panicking about what kind of pie to make for dessert or how the table setting looks is just kind of silly. There are plenty of things in life to stress over, but what and how to cook a meal in celebration of just how blessed you are shouldn’t be one of them.  

Allow me to shine a little perspective on the situation and share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years on how to have a healthy and stress-free Thanksgiving. 

1) Cook as much as you can ahead of time….or get the meal catered.  Who wants to be cooking all day while everyone else is laughing, socializing, and enjoying one another’s company? Sure as heck not me. I want to be in the middle of the fun…relaxing and enjoying my day of celebration. Some stuff tastes better when cooked day-of (like that turkey), but many things like pies, breads, roasted veggies, and casseroles can easily be made a day or two ahead of time and popped into the oven for a quick rewarming before being served. I plan to precook one dish a night for the 3 or 4 days leading up to thanksgiving. The pecan pie one night. The cranberry sauce another night. And so on. It makes a little extra work for me on those nights, but it makes for a much more relaxing day of. Don’t have time to cook for whatever reason? Consider having Thanksgiving catered. There is no shame in needing help! Lots of amazing places offer people catered Thanksgiving meals for purchase, like Whole Foods and Sprouts. If you don’t have either of those close to you, call your favorite grocery store and see if they are offering catered meals! 

2) Less is more. Leftovers are one of my favorite things on earth (leftovers = a meal ready to go without me cooking again). However, Thanksgiving leftovers tend to be a bit extreme, to the point where you can’t even pay people to take them off your hands. No one wants to throw food away or be eating the same things for a week straight, so why stress yourself out with making so much food that won’t be eaten? Or enjoyed!?  Instead of making 4 pies, make the 2 favorites. One big salad is more than enough to feed a crowd. And do you really need appetizers right before you eat a feast? Nope, so skip those. You’ll save yourself stress, time, money, and wasted food.

3) Don’t be afraid to delegate. I may be hosting Thanksgiving this year, but no one is showing up to my house empty handed. I sat down with the friends I’m sharing the holiday with and we all decided on what to bring. No one is carrying the weight of cooking a full meal and we all get to enjoy each other’s creations. So if someone asks what they can bring, don’t politely brush them off with “oh I think everything is covered,” tell them that some corn on the cob or fresh fruit salad would be a wonderful addition to your meal. 

4) Plan now. Seriously, don’t be that person running aimlessly around the supermarket the night before thanksgiving with a panicked expression and muttering cuss words under their breath. Plan now so you aren’t stressing later. You can plan it on the back of an old Barnes and Noble receipt while you wait in line at the bank or sit down with a cup of tea one night and beautifully write it out on your personalized stationary. It really doesn’t matter, just figure it out now so you aren’t panicking later. And if you are making a turkey, make sure you remember to defrost that sucker DAYS ahead of time….or buy a fresh turkey. 

5) Stick with (mostly) the classics. I’m someone who is all about trying new things, but the holidays might not be the time to debut those guacamole deviled eggs you once saw on Pinterest. While those bad boys would likely be awesome, how bummed would you be if they weren’t and you were left to serve them or (worse) have to pitch them without a back up plan? If you want to try something new, keep it simple and/or give the recipe a test run a few days ahead of time.

Above all else, remember to soak in the meaning of this holiday. Give thanks, people. You are lucky ducks if you have a roof over your head, know where your next meal is coming from, and have people to love and love you back! Thanksgiving is the day (along with every other day) to appreciate all of that. Food and decorations do not define or make a holiday. The people you are blessed enough to spend it with do.