9 time-saving Thanksgiving party hacks

Posted at 3:59 PM, Nov 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-11 15:59:42-05

Cutting the time you spend preparing and throwing a party doesn’t have to result in reducing the quality of your shindig.

Using our nine smart hacks to reduce your hours getting ready for your party will let you spend more time enjoying it.

Start with savings
Cutting your costs on your Thanksgiving party (without sacrificing quality), will allow you spend more on a items you can use to reduce the time you spend preparing, serving and cooking foods. Here are ways you can cut your party budget in some areas so you can spend more in others:

•Use smaller dinner plates. People can go back for seconds, but will generally eat less overall (and throw away much less) if they have smaller plates.

•Serve fewer proteins. A big turkey, a spiral-cut ham, prime rib, shrimp, crab dip, sushi and other pricey proteins make for a mouthwatering banquet, but how much of those do guests really eat (you know many much leftovers you end up with each year). Serve one or two main dishes and serve them with kicked-up sides that get more attention on your table.

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•Offer cheap, filling appetizers. When people can sample a variety of tasty appetizers, they’ll take advantage of these treats and need less during dinner.

•Cut back on the sides. Put more TLC into a few favorite side dishes, rather than offering six or more that get lost with the appetizers, soup, salad, entrees and desserts.

Don’t cook from scratch
Cooking a full turkey looks nice, but serving a heat-and-eat turkey breast is a much quicker way to serve tender, juicy breast meat. Make your stuffing from a just-add-water box, but add a few fresh ingredients to kick it up, such as diced apples, raisins, celery or sausage. Turn a box of mac and cheese into a gourmet side with a bit of tarragon. Take advantage of low-cost, pre-made pies, ice creams and other desserts that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Use an online invitation system
Sending individual reservations and following and tracking down people who haven’t RSVP’d can be a serious pain when you’re planning how much food and drink you need for a party. Free online invitation sites, like Evite, let you send a mass invite, see who’s opened and viewed the invitation and receive responses automatically. You can set your invitation to re-send automatically after a specific number of days.

Pre-set the table
Don’t wait until the day of your party to set your table. You never know what hiccup you’ll run into while you’re trying to get your other tasks finished, so get your table done a day or two before.

Hire or appoint a bartender
Ask a family member or friend to set up and manage the bar, even if it’s a serve-your-self deal. The last thing you need while you’re hosting a party is continuing requests for a bottle opener, ice, glasses, napkins, mixers, etc. If necessary, hire a college kid who can use a bit of extra cash and a free meal.

Make dessert potluck
Save yourself time (and money) while adding a personal touch to a dinner party by asking guests to show off their dessert-making skills. Depending on the size of your party and who your guests are, you can request only homemade desserts with a childhood story behind each one. This not only reduces your workload and guarantees you a great finish to your party, but also gets your guests into a more festive spirit at home as they pull out one of grandma’s old recipes and recreate a youthful favorite.

Borrow equipment
Contact friends or co-workers a week or more in advance and ask if anyone can lend you a microwave, crockpot or toaster oven. You might also get offers of items you didn’t think of, such as an espresso machine, juicer or food processor. This will allow you to cook more items at once and better time your meal service. Make sure you plan your electrical use to make sure you have enough outlets and don’t blow a fuse.

Pre-slice ingredients
If you’ll be slicing and dicing fruits, veggies and cheeses for the items you’ll serve, get that done the day before. Bag each one in an airtight plastic bag so you can quickly grab what you need to create appetizer trays or add to recipes.

Create a cleaning list early
Don’t wait until a day or two before your party to determine what you’ll need to clean. You might find you don’t have what you need around the house to clean bathrooms, carpets, windows, tile floors, microwave, refrigerator, furniture, etc. To prevent last-minute running around, walk your house as your guests will during your party and decide what needs to be cleaned. Make a list of what you’ll need, how long each cleaning chore will take and who will handle each task.

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