Easy Guide to A Less Painful Hosting Experience

Airbnb Thanksgiving 2022

Hosting for the first time can be a daunting task at any age.  It felt like we leveled up when we decided to host Thanksgiving in an Airbnb.  My family has hosted a lot of holidays and parties, so I knew how I wanted to approach the day.  I also knew what I wanted to avoid.  Since we were in a new city, I had to go to four stores to buy all of my ingredients.  It was not ideal, but it was definitely worth it.

Sometimes, and by that I mean oftentimes, the hosts feel like they do not get to enjoy the party or holiday as much as the guests.  I wanted to avoid this feeling.  Also, I wanted to avoid feeling stressed or overwhelmed as much as I could.  There is only so much that is in your control.

Now, reading this, some people are going to be impressed and others will think I am psychotic.  If you are the latter, you may have grown up in a household where holidays were not stressful.  Congratulations, you win a gold star.  For the vast majority of us, my intensity paid off, so I implore you to keep reading.

A Task In My Control: Planning

The first step to any great event is creating a list.  Do you know what is greater than a list? A spreadsheet with multiple tabs.  My Thanksgiving spreadsheet has 5 tabs.  Part of the reason I spent so much time on my spreadsheet is that I do not anticipate this being my last thanksgiving to host.  Even if it ends up being another holiday, a lot of the grunt work is done.

I am going to walk you through my tabs and thought process.  If you are following for overall process and don’t need a step-by-step, I recommend skipping to prep.

Tab 1: Menu

On this tab, you will have a high-level view of the menu.  I added columns for:

  • Type of Food (appetizer, turkey, etc.)
  • Recipe: I hyperlinked the recipe URL so it would be easy to find again.
  • Year
  • Notes  

Sometimes there are risks taken with menus or notes you want to capture for future years.  Here, you can create one view of all successes and failures.  While this is the first tab, it is also the last tab to be filled out completely.

Tab 2: Shopping List

On this tab, you will create your shopping list.  Often, items are repeated, so it will be nice to see how many you need in total.  I added columns for:

  • Recipe: I hyperlinked the recipe URL so it would be easy to find again.
  • Amount + Ingredients: This column is a formula of the Amount + Ingredients columns.
  • Amount: Will allow you to see the total amount of duplicate ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • Bought? Y/N: So you can keep track of what else you still need

Tab 3: Prep

My approach to prep is where I started to differentiate from the majority of Thanksgiving Day chefs.  Everyone creates a menu and shopping list of some sort.  Not everyone prepares ahead of time.  Some dishes will not have anything that can be prepared ahead of time and that needs to be noted when you are creating your final schedule.

For my recipes, there was a lot of chopping and measuring that was easy to do beforehand.  I started on Sunday night.  I assigned a Tupperware to each recipe or step that I wanted to prep.  Then, I took index cards to clearly label each Tupperware before beginning.  

Be sure to read through the entire recipe.  If items are all added together, you can prep in one container.  If items are added in different steps, they need new containers.  Also, I excluded all liquids from my prep phase.

Being able to open a tupperware and dump all of its contents into a bowl saves so much time on Thanksgiving Day.

Prep Step by Step

On this tab, you will start a more detailed plan.  I added columns for:

  • Recipe
  • Step: This column explains what the prep is for.  For example, for the turkey, I can a different container for brine versus broth.
  • Prep Needed
  • Prep Day
  • Prep Time
  • Cooking In?: This column helps divide pots and pans to make sure you have enough that will be clean.  This is especially helpful for a small kitchen.
  • Where Cook/Step?: This column helps divide the stove, oven, & any other appliances.  The oven is a hot commodity for Thanksgiving Day.  This is especially helpful for a small kitchen.
  • Cook/Step Day: Gives insight into when the actual recipe will be cooked.  Sometimes prep needs to be pushed out and this column lets you see what could be moved easily.
  • Cook Time
  • Notes
  • Chef
  • Prep Chef: If you are the sole chef, these columns are not useful.  If you have a partner who is helping to cook, this column is for delegation.

Tab 4: Schedule

On this tab, you will create a high-level schedule for the week.  This schedule should answer what, when, & who.  I added columns for:

  • Day (of the week)
  • Activity: For example, the activity could be grocery shopping, prep, setting the table, or cooking. 
  • Activity Time: This column refers to the time of day.
  • Task Owner: Helps with clear delegation if you are not the only person helping to host

It is important to know your guests.  There are some guests who will want to help and others who will not question sitting down the entire day.  Plan ahead which tasks you are going to delegate to others.  Don’t forget to include clean up!  

Tab 5: Day of Schedule   

On this tab you will create a timed schedule for the day.  This schedule should be clear so others can be responsible for their own tasks.  I added columns for:

  • Time
  • Activity Time: How long will it take?
  • Activity: What is it you are asking someone to do?
  • Where?: This column can be as detailed as to which counter you expect someone to work on.  Most importantly, it will determine what appliance is being used.
  • Task Owner

In my day of schedule, I included serving breakfast, cleaning up from breakfast, serving appetizers, and a goal of when lunch would be served.  A key learning from this year is to cushion the time when others are doing the tasks for you.  If they finish quicker that is a bonus.

Clean Up

The last part of the day, but definitely not the least, is clean up.  If you plan and prep and cook, you should not have to clean up.  With that being said, if you have a particular way you want it to be cleaned, you should share instructions up front.  How do you define “clean up”?

For me, it means that everything is removed from the serving dishes, pots, and pans and put away in containers.  Why? Containers are easier to store and clean later.  While putting tin foil over serving dishes does preserve the food, it is not really helpful to the host.  If that is your idea of cleaning up, I’d prefer to do it my way in the moment.

Check with your host ahead of time to see if there is something you can help bring.  Some roles for people who are not great chefs or cleaners include:

  • Bring something (Alcohol, Flowers, Appetizer, Dessert, etc.)
  • Help serve dinner or bring dirty plates to the kitchen
  • Dry dishes
  • Entertain kids or pets
  • Aid any guests who may need extra assistance

Figure out how you can be helpful when being a guest at someone’s house.  There is almost never an appropriate circumstance to do nothing.  

Elaina Pearl
Elaina Pearl
I started Elaina Pearls as an outlet to share my voice. The topics I write about cover fashion, lifestyle, & travel. On every post, you will find a challenge to spark self-growth. I believe that each day there is a lesson to be learned and something to be grateful for.