UNITED STATES—I honestly cannot believe it. Just two weeks ago we were celebrating Halloween, and in less than 2 weeks we will be celebrating the biggest food day of the year: Thanksgiving. I am a fan of the holiday because it is all about food, family and being grateful for the things that you have in your life. So many don’t realize that last part about Thanksgiving.

A lot of us think about the food, but I want you to think about the families and people out there who don’t have the funds to put a massive feast on the table or who have lost loved ones and are just struggling to make ends meet. Don’t complain about some of the things you’re enduring in life because they are not as bad as you may think people.

With that said, the stress that comes with Thanksgiving is about to come full force for some of us. Rather we’re cooking or attending a large family celebration, things are going to get dicey. Why? Well so many Americans didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving last year because of the pandemic. Those who did kept things very small to their household to prevent potential COVID-19 outbreaks and contracting the deadly virus.

So for the host, which could be a lot of us the stress about planning for the big day is in full effect. I mean you literally have less than 2 weeks, so your guest list should be prepared people. It is a bit dicey for 2021 because you might have family members who are vaccinated and those who are NOT vaccinated which raises the question as to who will attend and who will not. As a host that is a decision you will have to make, who are you comfortable having in your home?

It is dicey and you might have to hurt feelings even if you don’t want to, but you have to consider your health and if you’re able to host outdoors that might help the situation, but that is dependent on where you live in the United States. If you live in the South and the West the weather might be tolerable to do things outdoors. However, if you live in the Midwest or on the East coast, it might be chilly and in some cases too snowy to do anything outdoors.

Also don’t feel the need to do something elaborate or over the top. Only take on what you can handle and let the rest go to the waist side. The next big step is preparing the menu. What do you want to cook? Of course you have staples like turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but then you might want to throw in a few others along the way. Here is the thing about Thanksgiving: this is not the time to experiment in the kitchen. You don’t want to purchase goods and craft a dish that is a total failure. Do what you know best, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to do a dish that you know well, but add a slight twist to it.

With that said, you can also ask your guest to bring a dish to cut down on the level of food that you have to prepare. Perhaps you focus on the main dishes (maybe three to four at most) and have your guest bring things from there, like rolls, cranberry sauce, pies, etc. Now if you’re not a fan of some of your family’s food, you might want to cook those dishes, but just understand that is an additional chore you are taking on.

Perhaps the biggest one is the grocery list/shopping. Now is the time to pick up some big items like the turkey, the ham and any other meats you might be prepping. I repeat do not wait till the week of Thanksgiving to purchase a turkey. Guess what people, that turkey needs time to thaw and if you don’t prepare in advance you could be eating raw, dry and frozen turkey as a result. Let’s not travel down that route.

In addition, cabinet staples, like boxed pasta, canned goods, and items that can be frozen to prepare your feast can be purchased early. Get those items now, and you might ask why? Well it is very simple; you’re going to get those items at a cheaper price versus waiting till the week or a few days before Thanksgiving. The only items I would wait about a week or a few days to purchase would be your fruits and veggies and dairy products that you might need. Why? Well produce tends to have a shorter shelf-life so you don’t want to have to repurchase items because they expired or molded.

So once you have the guest list prepped, you know your menu and you’ve purchased the goods, you can start to some prep work. There are indeed some dishes you can prepare at least a day or two before the actual holiday. In essence, the prep work is the thing that drives so many people crazy when it comes to Thanksgiving. The chopping of fruits and veggies, getting the fridge organized to keep things cold and stored, knowing what you need and what you don’t need, if you prepare in advance it just makes the situation that much better people.

As I noted at the start of this column in less than 2 weeks Thanksgiving will be upon us. Prepare in advance to decrease that level of stress that may be headed your way people. This way when the big day comes you can actually enjoy it and not be burned out from tackling more than you can chew people.

Written By Zoe Mitchell