10 hacks to help you cheat at Thanksgiving dinner

Hosting Thanksgiving doesn't have to be stressful.

Credit: Getty Images / shironosov
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From planning your guest list to picking up every single item on your (endless) ingredient list, there's a lot to remember on Thanksgiving. You're part party-planner, part chef and—let's face it—part mediator. Everyone's got politics and other hot topics on the mind, while you're just trying to get a thumbs-up on on your apple strudel. To take the stress off just a tad, there are plenty of ways that you can hack Thanksgiving—from having to-go containers ready on hand (saves you from cleaning up!) to buying dessert from the grocery store (shhh, no one will notice). Here's our list of time- (and sanity!) saving hacks:

1. Buy all your desserts

Pumpkin pie
Credit: Getty Images / bhofack2

Think about it: if you don’t have time to make all those delicious main courses and sides (in bulk, for all your family members), the last thing you’re gonna wanna do is bake a pie. Head to the grocery store, pick up a few pies and some ice cream, and call it a night. Your guests will be so woozy from carb overload that they won’t question it! Or, if you really want to make your own desert, have a friend or family member come over and help you do it earlier that day. You won’t have to think about it at all; it’ll be their special project.

2. Eliminate clean-up with to-go containers

If you don’t want to deal with cramming your fridge full of leftovers, have your family take everything with them! Have a bunch of storage containers on-hand for easy takeaway—and easy clean-up.

3. Invest in your lighting

Don’t have time to revamp your whole dining room? Do what I do and buy a bunch of long white candles. They look magnificent, make your dining space look super elegant and are incredibly inexpensive.

4. Prep your veggies beforehand


You’re going to be busy on the big day—busy making sure your turkey doesn’t burn, your kids don’t touch the stove, your guests have enough space to sit, and your dishes are all prepped and ready for use. There are so many little things that take up time. So why not deal with veggies before hand? Peel them, prep them and keep them refrigerated until the day comes! If you want to keep your veggies in tip-top shape, these Rubbermaid FreshWorks Produce Saver Food Storage Containers are your very best bet.

5. Make your gravy in advance

According to the Kitchn, it’s a good idea to go ahead and make all that delicious gravy now:

Make a big batch of turkey stock now from turkey parts, then make the gravy and freeze! You can always add turkey drippings to the made-ahead gravy at the last minute for authentic flavor and relax now that there's no furious whisking and worrying about lumps.

This should save you tons of time while sacrificing almost nothing, considering you can add to your gravy on the day.

6. Keep the skins on your potatoes

Rustic potatoes
Credit: Getty Images / voltan1

Peeling potatoes and making sure that they’re perfect is, well, a time-suck. Not to mention, leaving the skins on is delicious and gives them a "rustic" look. No one needs to know you decided to do it that way to save time!

7. Organize your kitchen ahead of time

Come Thanksgiving, it can seem like there are a million ingredients, a million dishes, and a million people with a million food requests. Keep everything organized in the kitchen so that you can simply reach to your right or left for a spoon, bowl, pan, aluminum foil, or a bit of rosemary—anything that makes the process manageable. In addition, you can keep people away from Ground Zero by setting up drinks and snacks in another room! Your sanity will thank you.

8. Use a small ice chest as your go-to fridge

There’s nothing worse than saying, “I just know I put the mustard there!” while you rifle through the fridge, fruitlessly seeking mustard. Keep everything you need for the big meal in one small fridge or cooler. This way you’ll know exactly where the most important ingredients are and you’ll save space in your fridge for the leftovers or main dishes. This best-selling Coleman 120 Quart Xtreme 5 Marine Cooler is a great way to go.

9. Cut the turkey before you cook it

According to The Stir, you should cut before you cook:

Got a large bird? Cook legs and breasts separately, which will speed up the cooking process and ensure everything cooks thoroughly.

If you’re looking for some great knives, this Cuisinart CEK-40 Electric Knife is a best-selling item that you won’t want to miss.

10. Save money on wine by buying bulk

Wine toast
Credit: Getty Images / BraunS

The last thing you want to do is worry about is whether you have enough wine, whether the wine shop is open for last-minute purchases, or whether people prefer red or white. Just buy a bunch of wine in bulk and call it a night. You’ll save money and time.

Thanksgiving experts hero

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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