I have hosted Thanksgiving for 9 years now, and this year will be my 10th. To some, that may seem like a daunting task to host even one big family and friends get together, but with some real pre-prep, the big day can be virtually stress free.
1. Create a Master Binder
One of the hassles of hosting is never knowing where Nana's Pecan Pie recipe is. Stop this stressor, by creating a master binder that will serve you from now until whenever. Sit down and compile all the recipes you'll need for the day in one binder (ideally sooner, rather than on the day of). In my own, I've also included several print-outs of a shopping list that includes every single ingredient and how much anyone including myself would ever need to finish all the recipes in the binder. I can easily send someone out to get supplies for me or go myself without having to try and figure out every single year what I need over and over again.
2. Gather and Label Supplies
Now that you know what you'll be cooking, at least two nights before the event, gather up every dish, bowl, ladel, glass, cutlery, serving platter, you name it, that you will need on ONE or two central tables. Then, with sticky notes, assign each dish it's food item (and location if necessary). White platter: Turkey. Silver cutlery: main table, plastic cutlery: kids table. Carafe: Cider, etc. This lets you see that all your serving ware is in good shape/if you need to pick something up. This eliminates the stress of having to dig through while a dish is hot or burning and try and find dishes and mixing bowls and forks last minute. This also let's other helpers know exactly what goes where even if you aren't there to tell them.
3. Create a Master Menu Board
I use a white board, or you could use large easel paper---but write down all the dishes you'll need to prepare. Make sure you post cook times as well or when certain items need to go in the oven or come out of the freezer. From the time you start cooking until the end, you, or you and your helpers can easily see what still needs to be made and what has been done so you don't double up or forget to make or take out items. When you're done, cross it out on the board and high five when you complete all tasks!
4. Freeze It
Forget trying to cook 20 dishes on the day of. 95% of everything you make on Thanksgiving can be made up to a month plus in advance, and put in your freezer. Start slowly cooking now. You can freeze just about anything like fully baked cakes and pies, cookie/pie/bread doughs, baked bread, stews, soups, mashed/sweet potatoes, freshly made cranberry sauce, gravy, casseroles, juices, rice, all of it, can go in the freezer thus dramatically cutting down later on, with prep times. The day of cooking should only be 3-4 dishes completely from scratch, with the rest only needing re-heating or additional baking. HUGE stress reliever and time savor.
5. Do NOT cook the unknown + Call for Back-up
Now is not the time to try and figure out how to cook. If something goes wrong with a dish it will only frustrate and stress you out. Go with what you know and have cooked before (learn duing the off season for next times events). The whole turkey dinner is a lot, especially if you are a novice, so call family and friends. Let them help you or have them bring a veg, or desserts, or drinks. This way everyone gets to shine with their dishes and you won't be so stressed out trying to do it all.
6. F-it, Just buy (some of) It
If you are not a Martha Stewart type, but you still want to host and you can't seem to get some help with the cooking, buy what you need or buy ingredients that will get you half way to done faster. Hire out some catering, order your fried turkey or holiday pies, f-it. The point is fellowship with family and friends, and if good food has to come from Mario's down the street, then it will, and everyone will like it...or else.
7. Let people help you
Some people have so much trouble with this one, but not I. If someone offers to help, put them to work. Unless you're totally done, use them where you need them. Get them to put the drinks in a cooler with ice, get them to watch the kids so they don't run in the kitchen and get in the way, have them check on your bathroom to make sure it's not a total mess and above all else, have those who didn't help with the cooking, DO THE DISHES! I don't ask about this last one, I assign! Most people coming to Thanksgiving with you, are family or good friends who can see if you're getting stressed. Let them help you out and return the favor for their next event.