This year, most of us will spend Thanksgiving with just the nuclear family — or even by ourselves — but that’s no reason not to enjoy it or prepare it for it properly. With gathering with parents, in-laws, other relatives or friends off the menu, it’s solely up to you to make sure Thanksgiving will be plenty of fun this year. If it’s the first time you’re in charge of cooking the holiday feast and decorating the home, here are the steps to follow for a perfect Thanksgiving at home:

1. Start decorating

Why not start with the easiest and the most agreeable task — decorating the home. This way, you and your family will get into the holiday spirit and will enjoy the following weeks at home a lot more. Take your seasonal decorations out of self storage and check the inventory to ensure the lights are working properly and nothing is broken. Besides the stuff you already own and that needs only to be placed around the house, here are some fun DIY projects for Thanksgiving you can do with your kids.

Depending on how you family choses to spend winter holidays, you could also start putting the Christmas decorations up. A recent study found out that 43% of Americans either put up Christmas decorations before November 1st, or they’re OK with other people doing so. Other families wait until late November to the beginning of December for Christmas decorations. Either way, it won’t be strange if you choose to do Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations all at once this year — in fact, it might even make you happier.

2. Plan the feast and order the food

Some families can’t imagine anything other than a traditional Thanksgiving meal, while others might want to try something new this year. Decide on the recipes you want to cook. Involve your children in this activity by asking them to choose a dish which they’ll then help cook.

Write the menu down and make a list of all the stuff you need. You probably have at least some of them in your pantry already, so make sure you check that out before ordering the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t get carried away and buy too much food, because it’s going to be a smaller party this year.

For example, a 10-pound turkey is more than enough for a family of four to six people — not only will you enjoy a plentiful dinner, but there will be enough leftovers for some delish sandwiches the following days. If you need less meat and can’t find a small enough bird, you can compromise and order a turkey breast plus one leg — or any other combo that suits your taste.

Most ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinner — flour, sugar, veggies, butter, eggs, cans of cranberry sauce or soup of mushrooms, and so on — can be easily stored in the pantry and the fridge and thus can be bought in advance. However, even a small turkey takes up a lot of freezer space. If you don’t have a large freezer, you can order the turkey now, but have it delivered only a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

It usually takes a day for a small frozen turkey to defrost, and it’s recommended that you keep it in a cool place while it’s defrosting, so inside the fridge, or maybe in a lidded pot in your basement or garage, if you’re living in a colder climate. Another way to skip all the storing and defrosting complications is to find a local butcher or deli that delivers fresh turkeys and order one a day prior to Thanksgiving.

3. Do you have the cooking utensils you need?

Now that you set up a menu and sorted out what food you need to order and when, you should also make sure you have the utensils you need to cook the meal. Two items are essential — a roasting pan large enough for the turkey and a meat thermometer. If you don’t already own those items, you should consider purchasing them.

The meat thermometer will tell you when the turkey is done and ready to be eaten — the inside temperature should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, you avoid two potential issues: undercooked turkey meat that can cause health problems, and overcooked meat that’s dry and unappetizing. A roasting pan with a rack helps you obtain a juicy inside and crispy-on-the-outside meat. Alternatively, you can improvise by buying just the rack and putting it inside a large oven pan.

4. Come up with something fun to do for the children

Your children probably won’t get to see extended family this year and  spend time with their cousins, grandparents and other relatives. It’s a good idea to plan something fun to do together as a way to help them navigate this year’s situation more easily. From taking nature walks and collecting leaves, twigs and acorns for DIY seasonal decorations to movie nights or some board game sessions, there are plenty of ideas to pick from. You could also organize a mini pumpkin hunt in your backyard, get a football game going or read some books detailing the meaning of Thanksgiving together. The main goal is to spend quality time together.

5. Schedule video calls with family and friends

The CDC advises us to celebrate Thanksgiving in person this year with only our immediate household, but we can always meet our extended family and friends online. Contact all your loved ones and ask them when they’ll be available for a longer chat. Schedule the talks throughout Thanksgiving Day and the following weekend. You can even invite people to virtually share the Thanksgiving meal with you!


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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