Thanksgiving timesavers

Nov 5, 2008 at 4:24 p.m. ET

Preparing for a big event like a Thanksgiving dinner can bring a lot of added stress and responsibility. Some of these things are inevitable, as any time you have more on your plate (no pun intended!), you will tend to feel more overwhelmed.

But that doesn't mean you have to get so frazzled that the only thing you're thankful for is when the holiday is over! There are ways to plan a great meal, and still have some thanks left over at the end!

1. Don't cook your own turkey

This will be my first "adult" Thanksgiving. I'm not going to give away my age, but throughout all the years, I've managed to never have to cook much of anything for Thanksgiving dinner. This definitely includes the turkey. My mom gave me a great tip though: most grocery stores will cook turkeys for you! And isn't that one of the biggest stresses of the day? Check around, but most local grocers will cook a turkey for you that you buy at their stores. Places like Safeway and Albertsons also typically have services that do this.

2. Plan ahead

Most people WANT to plan ahead, but some tend to have poor execution. A big way you can get things done early is by cooking your turkey – or having it cooked – a day ahead of time. Then you know that it turned out OK. You can pop it in the oven the day of to heat it up. Consider what other dishes you can either prepare or partially prepare. Then you can just heat up or finish cooking on the day of! This will this prevent an over-abundance of juggling recipes, dishes, cooking times and – not to mention, a huge mess! You'll also feel less stressed if you know you have a few fail-safe dishes already ready to go.

3. Don't be afraid to delegate

From bringing side dishes, to having help with cleaning and decorating, don't think you have to do it all! Hey – if you have enough friends, you may be able to get away with only providing the turkey and stuffing! If you're having out of town guests of family or friends, don't shy away from asking for their help. Assign someone to set the table, clean the bathroom, vacuum, or even clean up afterward. If you don't have "live in help," consider asking a good friend to come over early and lend a helping hand. Most people will be more than willing to contribute! I know I'd be thrilled to put in a little extra work around the house if it meant I would get out of having to cook the turkey! Certain family member may prefer to cook or bake as opposed to cleaning dishes - and vice versa. Also keep in mind that you can also orchestrate Thanksgiving dinner as a potluck. Have each of your guests come with their own dish that can be contributed to the meal - even if it's just the vegetable plate with dip or a cranberry side!

4. Don't be afraid to buy prepared

One of my college friend's mom would just have Thanksgiving dinner catered because she didn't like to cook. At first I was kind of shocked, but over the years, I've come to think that this is actually an amazing idea. Don't be ashamed! Of course, you don't have to have the entire meal catered, but you can pick and choose certain dishes, sides and desserts that are already prepared to lighten your load on the big day!

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