13 Ways to Hack a Homemade Thanksgiving When You Have Zero Time

Serve up a delicious Thanksgiving dinner that your entire family will love—without spending hours in the kitchen.
Julia Gartland

Thanksgiving can be an exhausting holiday to host. From meal planning and shopping, to the actual cooking and cleaning up, it's like family dinner on steroids. But this year, try these shortcuts to save you time and energy. And who knows, you may even find time to do that turkey trot you've always wanted to run or--gasp!--actually relax a little.

1. Order the Whole Meal
That's right: Just order the whole darn thing. The next time you run in for a gallon of milk from stores like Whole Foods, Publix, or Sprouts—or have 5 minutes and your phone nearby—order your turkey dinner. All you'll need to do is pick up and warm the food on the big day. Some stores will even deliver!

2. Skip the Shopping
Streamline the entire meal, from the turkey straight through to dessert, by having prepped and ready-to-cook ingredients and recipes delivered straight to your door. Martha Stewart's meal kit service Martha and Marley Spoon offers a box with ingredients for the entire feast or just the sides and dessert. 

3. Bring Home a Turkey Breast
Opt for one or two turkey breasts over a whole bird to reduce your cooking time by half and still feed a crowd.

4. Shortcut the Stuffing
Pick up a high-quality stuffing mix—try the Organic Stuffing Mix from Whole Foods—add fresh herbs, and have this staple ready in 15 minutes.

5. Bake Frozen Dinner Rolls
Simplify holiday baking with this shortcut: Brush frozen dinner rolls (try Pepperidge Farm Stone Baked Artisan French Dinner Rolls) with melted butter, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and bake as directed.

6. Forget Chopping
Simplify produce prep with packages of pre-cut butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and more. Many grocery stores carry them now. Target's Archer Farms line, for instance, features 12 varieties of pre-prepped veg.

7. Make a Short-Cut Casserole
Top Annie's Shells and White Cheddar with breadcrumbs, fresh thyme, and small cubes of butter and bake for 15-20 minutes for a crisp-topped casserole the kids will love. Who are we kidding? The grown-ups will love it too.

8. Sign Up the Slow Cooker
Use the slow cooker to roast sweet potatoes: Wash, don't dry or poke holes, and place in the bottom of a cooker. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until very soft. Then simply mash and top with chopped pecans and a drizzle of honey to serve. Or slow cook Cranberry Sauce or Gingerbread Cake and keep the oven free for the bird.

9. Shop for Cranberry Sauce
Pick up a jar of Trader Joe's Whole Cranberry Sauce and check the side off of your list.

10. Order Rosé
Ask your local wine shop to put aside a few bottles of a favorite rosé within a specific price range—it pairs perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner. (Or, pick up bottles of Bravino Sparkling Rosé at Target for under $10.)

11. Buy the Pies
Order pies from a local bakery or have one shipped to you from the Traverse City Pie Company (pumpkin), Three Brothers Bakery (pecan), or Little Pie Company (sour cream apple).

12. Streamline Décor
Buy two yards of burlap to use as the runner and place a collection of small white pumpkins in the center for a simple, yet beautifully rustic table.

13. Pick Paper
Want to save on cleaning up? Pick up fancy-looking paper plates and save the wedding china for Christmas.

Finally, if you do want to make the whole meal from scratch but don't want it to take all day, try out our menu for a streamlined 4-Hour Feast. Happy feasting!


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