By contributing writer Dawn
If one person does all the planning, shopping, and cooking, holiday meals can be a burden! We have close to twenty on our guest list, and cooking for twenty is a pretty big undertaking. One way we have learned to combat the load of one person doing (and buying) everything is to implement a potluck meal.
Each family brings several dishes to the holiday table, and no one person is left to do it all. Having a Thanksgiving potluck helps distribute the work and the cost of a large dinner.
How to Have a Thanksgiving Potluck
The first thing to do is start early. When changing from what has been the norm in a family, the idea of something new may be met with resistance. I cannot imagine someone saying “no” to helping when asked, but there are many times when people just don’t think to offer help. This is especially true when when one person has been in charge of preparations for so long. Start talking about the change early. Get a few family members on board and then spread the word.
Plan the Menu
Begin with putting pen to paper (or hands to keyboard). Keep it simple the first year. I love lists, and I like everything planned out and on paper. I like to know who is doing what and when things are going to happen. Start with the basics and then think about specialty dishes or additional side items to round out the meal plan. Once a plan is made, try to stick to the dishes that are assigned rather than making additional changes and preparing more than what is planned.
Make Changes if Necessary
Although holiday meals are usually traditional, it’s okay to make changes if something isn’t working. My mother-in-law makes an incredible cranberry salad that her mother-in-law always made at holiday meals. Over time, my husband’s parents were the only ones eating it. I loved it, too, but couldn’t tolerate some of the ingredients.
I volunteered to make it one year so that I could eat it again. It looked a little different without the bright red gelatin since I used a natural product, but the flavor was still there! Now I am able to enjoy it, and they aren’t stuck eating the entire dish by themselves.
This is also a great time to start some new traditions. One family member enjoys trying new recipes and making adorable holiday themed dishes (like vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey). She also brings a spinach dish and crackers every year, and everyone in the family enjoys it. Most likely, each family member has a signature dish that everyone enjoys. There may also be some dishes that need to be crossed off the list, which is the perfect opportunity for new ones to be tried.
Assign each person their jobs and which food dishes they are in charge of. Don’t forget about table linens, silverware, dishes and decorations. Ask everyone what they would like to prepare and go from there. Get kids involved with the preparations if possible. Depending on their age, kids can set the table, make place cards, and help with simple tasks such as filling drink glasses.
Let Go and Enjoy!
Letting go of something can be hard. Sometimes changes need to be made in order to lighten the load and make family times more enjoyable for all. Embrace the change and allow others to help.