Five Helpful Hints for Non-Hosters of Thanksgiving

Let me preface this list with a big, fat disclaimer: everyone approaches large gatherings like Thanksgiving differently. There is no right or wrong way to do things. Some hosts/hostesses like to "do it all" (what craziness is this?!), and want to be left alone in the kitchen, some love having people over, but hate cooking and dread getting all that food on the table, some are too nice to ask for help, etc. etc. Thanksgiving is a time, first and foremost, to be thankful for what we have and unfortunately, all too often, it turns into a frenzied day of trying to get. it. all. done.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not in charge of or hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I like to be helpful in making it happen. Thanksgiving is a huge undertaking, and I think non-hosters like myself can play a huge role in pitching in to help take some of the pressure off of the main host/hostess (let's be honest, that's usually someone's mom) and make Thanksgiving go smoothly and be enjoyable for all parties. So to remind myself (and you, too?) to be helpful on Thursday, I've come up with a list of five practical suggestions. Just 'cause you're not hosting doesn't mean you're off the hook for helping out!

1. Volunteer to bring or cook something.

Before Thursday arrives, check with the host/hostess about what you can bring or do to help. Often, the host has planned out or made a list of dishes/drinks/desserts ahead of time, so if you have something you'd like to bring, check in ahead of time to see if that works with the plan that's already in place.

If the host says not to bring anything, see if there's something else non-food or drink related you can do instead, which brings us to my next few hints!

2. Be proactive.

Hooray! It's Thanksgiving day! Once you arrive and get settled in, ask how you can help. If your host says, "Oh nothing! Go relax!" go do that. For a little while. Check in every once in awhile and ask again. Needs will certainly change throughout the day.

Oh, and you may have noticed, but people tend to congregate in the kitchen, which drives most cooks crazy. Take some initiative and lead people to another room to hang out (take some snacks and drinks to lure them with you...) or go outside if the weather's nice enough!

3. Entertain the kids (or adults).

Thanksgiving takes awhile to pull together, so there will inevitably be down time throughout the day. People, especially kids, tend to get a little restless. Come prepared with some ideas to keep people entertained and occupied until the main event. Games, crafts, prepping the table with place cards/food labels (shameless plug), running around like banshees outside, and plain, old-fashioned conversating (yes, I know that's not a real word...) are good places to start. Check out Ashley's round up of ways to get your kids involved in celebrating Thanksgiving to get you started.

Oh, and involve the kids in some of the cooking activities as well!

4. Help clean.

After your food coma has worn off a bit, grab a couple of people and take charge of the clean up. If everyone does a little bit, it'll be done in a flash. Also, ask the cook if you can clean while he/she is cooking. Sometimes it's helpful to clean as you go, especially with big meals like this!

Cleaning can also include packaging up leftovers. If any leftovers are going home with guests, check out these cute ways to package them. Or, use tried and true tinfoil if it wears you out just thinking about making leftovers "cute" :).

5. Come armed with a list of ideas for leftovers.

While we're on the topic of leftovers, it could be fun to come ready with a list of creative ways to use them. Maybe start with this pizza. Or you could just do Thanksgiving all over again and have a little bit of everything :). Mmm.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all! I hope you have a great one wherever you're celebrating :).


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  1. I am one of those cooks. Someone who lured people out of my kitchen while I put the finishing touches on everything would have my undying love and admiration for life. Such a super tip for a guest.

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