Thanksgiving time-savers for busy families

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:14 p.m. ET

Slowing down to read these Thanksgiving time savers will give you the time to be something other than stressed this holiday season.

Woman setting Thanksgiving tableThe holidays are a hectic time, and for already busy families, packed schedules can turn to chaos quickly. Before you hit the holiday crunch, take some time to make a holiday game plan. You'll find yourself with something to be thankful for: Extra time!

Work together

Group-share some parenting duties right before Thanksgiving. Arrange for someone else to drive the soccer carpool or pick the kiddies up from the sitter the week before Thanksgiving. The extra slivers of prep time you gain will make a huge difference in the pre-meal scramble. This works best when you partner with a friend who isn't hosting Thanksgiving, or when you trade off days.

Double up

Make double batches of holiday food recipes. You'll still be cooking leading up to Thanksgiving, so simply increase the amount of whatever you're fixing. You can serve the extras later in the week, or freeze them and save them for the holiday. It'll trim your time in the kitchen and cut down on stress. Think ahead to Christmas, too, and make double portions of staples like gravy, mashed potatoes and desserts.

Ask for help!

Ask guests to bring something. Many hosts hesitate to ask guests to bring anything to dinner. But when a guest asks, it's because she truly wants to pitch in. Request a dish that you don't enjoy cooking or just don't have the fridge space to store. Be specific when you put in your order. Telling everyone to bring a side dish could result in six green-bean casseroles.

Who knows the difference?

Don't be afraid to take help from the store. Before you guilt yourself into making every single item from scratch, remember that the holiday is really about family togetherness, not homemade pie crusts. Your family will be just as happy to be together with a freezer-aisle crust -- plus, you'll actually have time to shower before dinner this year.

Use the buddy system

Team up with a friend who is hosting a similarly sized bunch and divvy up the Thanksgiving staples. Your pal's family can make double the sweet potatoes, and your family can fix extra portions of pumpkin soup that you two exchange on the morning of Thanksgiving. To really be sneaky about your shortcut, drop off your own china and platters for your buddy to cook in so there's no hint of the extra help come serving time.


You don't have to be supermom to get everything on the table. Put family and guests to work setting the table, clearing the table and cleaning up. Most guests are happy to pitch in. Here's an idea: The menfolk probably enjoyed ample sit-down time before dinner, watching the game. So grab the ladies, a glass of wine and head to the couch for your well deserved rest while the gents tidy up.

More Thanksgiving planning tips

5 Thanksgiving time-savers every cook should know
Affordable Thanksgiving activities for the family
Planning your family's Thanksgiving