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Easy Thanksgiving: Preparation, entertaining and cleanup tips

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Thanksgiving tips & tricks

Thanksgiving Day should be fun for the hostess, too. Don't let the stress of entertaining put a damper on your holiday. Follow these tips for easy Thanksgiving preparation and cleanup.

Woman serving Thanksgiving dinner

1Keep décor simple

You don't need to have lavish decorations straight out of HGTV. Instead, keep your Thanksgiving décor simple. A large basket full of gourds, mini pumpkins, Indian corn, and pine cones makes a nice centerpiece. Also, consider an edible centerpiece such as a bowl of colorful fruit for your guests to munch on after the meal.

Check out these scrumptious Thanksgiving tablescapes >>

2Shop well ahead

Have you ever been at the grocery store the night before Thanksgiving? The shelves are barren and the aisles are full of frantic shoppers looking for the last box of cornbread stuffing. Plan well ahead of time to avoid the frustration of last minute shopping. Buy nonperishable items on sale in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and buy perishables two days before the big event. You don't want to be the one scrambling for pumpkin purée at midnight on Thanksgiving eve.

Read more tips on how to save money on groceries >>

3Get timing right

One of the biggest problems with cooking a big meal is the timing. It's often difficult to get the turkey and all the fixings to be ready at the same time. Real Simple has created a fantastic Thanksgiving Prep List that lays out all the tasks in the order that they need to be done to create the perfectly timed Thanksgiving meal.

4Consider a potluck

Reduce costs and the hassle of cooking Thanksgiving dinner by hosting a potluck. As the host, you can supply the turkey or other main course and allow your guests to bring the salad, side dishes, bread, dessert, and other necessities.

Check out these Thanksgiving timesavers >>

5Plan backup dishes

You never know when a vegetarian (or someone with other dietary restrictions) is going to show up at your table. Be prepared with vegetarian alternatives, sugar-free cookies, and other backup dishes for your guests.

Consider these vegan holiday recipes >>

6Keep them entertained

Provide your guests with something to do other than watching football on television. Pull out old school board games such as Monopoly, Risk, and Life. Also consider party games such as charades or Pictionary. If the weather permits, head outside for a game of flag football — fun for adults and kids of all ages.

15 Best board games for families >>

7Enlist kids to help

If several kids are going to be at Thanksgiving dinner, plan to have a separate table, or seat young kids next to adults who can supervise and help them. Enlist the children to help prepare and clean up. Older kids can chop vegetables or mash potatoes, while young children can set the table. After the meal, all the kids can pitch in to help clear the table, rinse the dishes, and take out the trash. Reward them with a fun movie on the DVD player after the meal.

Read more tips on getting kids involved in the kitchen >>

Holiday hostess tips

Holiday party etiquette: Should your guests help cook and clean?
How to prepare perfect roast turkey
Thanksgiving table: Set for thanks

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