Thanksgiving can be very difficult for so many reasons. The cost of travel and making a huge meal can be expensive. Cooking for a group can be time consuming and intimidating. Dealing with family can be stressful (to say the least).
If you’re looking to opt out of all the fuss and have a holiday that actually feels fun, here are some Thanksgiving hacks, tips, and tricks we sourced from real people to help you make your holiday as easy and affordable as possible.
Reserve Your Turkey
Darla, Executive Assistant at a Non-Profit (Grass Valley, CA)
Getting a turkey for Thanksgiving is hell on Earth. If you buy one ahead of time, you have to have somewhere to store it. And good luck buying one the week of! Stores will already be out of them. Luckily, Darla recommended something I didn’t even know was an option. “Reserve your turkey if you want a fresh one! Because I reserved, I can pick up a fresh [turkey] a few days before Thanksgiving.” Grocery stores like Vons, Natural Grocers, and Bristol Farms offer the “reserve your turkey” option for Thanksgiving. Ask your nearest store if they provide this convenient service!
Thanksgiving-ify Your Drinks
Justine, Editor-In-Chief at Sporked (Los Angeles, CA)
Justine (aka my boss) is a cocktail queen, so it’s no surprise that she has an incredible suggestion for holiday cocktails. “Cranberry sauce (even canned) shaken into any sour drink (margarita, gimlet, whiskey sour) instantly makes it seasonal and fun and you barely have to do anything.” I love a cocktail with cranberry juice, so why not cranberry sauce? Plus, cranberry sauce is always the one thing I have too much of left over after the holiday.
Toss Out Thanksgiving Thursday
Bonnie, Animation Production Manager (Glendora, CA)
If you’ve been on your 9-to-5 grind all week and on your first day off you have to host guests, cook a gigantic meal, decorate the house, and/or travel, that is not relaxing. You want to be able to enjoy the holiday season. From now on, I will be celebrating like Bonnie’s family. “Do the big meal on Friday so no one kills themself trying to [do] it all on Thursday after working Monday-Wednesday.” Smart!
Ditch the Bird
Jonny & Jackie, Stay at Home Dad/Actor/Writer and Supervising Story Producer (Santa Clarita, CA)
My parents don’t eat meat, so I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving like Jonny & Jackie my entire life. Their family has “sides-giving.” It’s “no turkey, all sides!” This is the perfect option for so many people. It’s vegetarian/vegan friendly. It greatly shortens your time in the kitchen on the big day. Turkeys can be finicky to cook and sides are typically not. It’ll save you money since the turkey is normally the most expensive menu item. Most meat eaters I know don’t even really like turkey that much. Sides-giving forever!
An Easier Version of Turkey & Sides
Hannah, Warehouse Supervisor (Chicago, IL)
In all honesty, I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I think it’s a bad holiday celebrating a bad thing where you’re expected to spend time with family you don’t like. Because of that, Hannah’s time- and money-saving hack is appealing to me. They “make turkey salad [sandwiches] instead of roasting a whole turkey…and [have] chips as a side.” I love chicken salad, so turkey salad sounds incredible. All you do is “cook a turkey breast, finely chop it up, add diced celery (3-4 sticks), minced onions (1/2 onion), salt, pepper to taste, and add mayo to your desired moisture level (1 cup per pound, typically).” They also “add diced water chestnuts for an extra crunch,” which is very interesting to me. If you like turkey but don’t want the whole Thanksgiving ordeal, make Hannah’s turkey salad!
Elevate Easy Leftovers
Terry, Lawyer & Artist (Sebastopol, CA)
Let’s be honest: Thanksgiving is all about leftovers. I would be happy with a turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich, but I know people get tired of that after a while. Terry revamps her leftovers with this incredibly easy recipe. “Turkey a la king is easy leftovers, made using that cream of mushroom soup [and]…canned button mushrooms. [We] always served it ladled over a mound of those crispy noodles in a can.” I love crispy noodles in a can.