Stress-free Thanksgiving–Honest!


Deep down this is my favorite holiday. I love the smells, the coziness, the thankfulness. I love the dawn of the Christmas season. I

Thanksgiving. It’s Christmas without the present pressure, you know? It is a day dedicated to thanking God for helping them survive the New World. And to thank the gracious natives that helped and instructed and shared. And yes Christmas and presents and lights are holly-jolly good (I’m a junkie), but there is something so wonderful about coming together on Thanksgiving without the pressure of making everyone’s wish come true. It’s so much simpler to toss people some food and sit around belching together. It just is. Am I right?

When Mr. Riehl and I were married I couldn’t cook worth beans. I was really, really bad.


But somehow I caught the desire to cook, found the right websites and was successful at a few things and that got me excited about cooking more things. Now it’s the one thing I am very confident about. I love to cook and love to talk about food. So Thanksgiving is a win win. I finally took over and told my family that I want to host Thanksgiving as many years as they will let me.

The one very real problem I have with Thanksgiving (and cooking in general) is the organization and timing that is required to pull off a big meal. Usually I am running around sweating and near tears because I am so out of whack. It doesn’t matter how much I bake the rolls and pies the day before, or how much prep I do, somehow I am always behind.

A nice calm day for my family? That’s precious. And a what we writers call fantasy.

A clean kitchen and set table when company arrives? Snort. Nope.

Dinner ready go when I said it would be? Fahgettaboudit. Sit yerself down and don’t you dare talk to my face about how hungry you are.

This has been the set up of this holiday at my house for the last four years. Until November 2013.

I follow Mom Advice on Instagram and noticed a few posts about “Make-Ahead Thanksgiving”. At first I mocked.

“Been there, tried that, Lady. Doesn’t make a difference. Move on to some other gullible ninny.”

But I checked out the posts anyway and realized she was talking freezer meal Thanksgiving.

And that was revolutionary in my book.

So I took a brave leap and tried it. And is was by far the best Thanksgiving I have ever had.

Mr Riehl told me — he commanded me really — that I shall not make Thanksgiving any other way. Ever. Again.


Here’s how it works:

  • Pick your favorite Thanksgiving recipes
  • Start cooking a week or two or even three before the big day. Although now that I think of it Thanksgiving is two weeks from today, so…sorry to tease you with that three weeks ahead idea.
  • Pull your frozen items out of the freezer and into the fridge the day before
  • Set them on the counter to thaw more a few hours before dinner time
  • Bake them in the oven while your turkey is resting
  • Voila – enjoy Thanksgiving like the Queen of All That is Right and Good– with a clean kitchen no less.

For reals and for serious. No last minute runs to the grocery store – not even in the chaotic week before. I finished my shopping today in peace. The only thing that needs to be made the day of is the turkey. And while we’re on the subject of turkey, what kind of turkey are you? A briner? A smoker? A frier? A roaster?  I personally brine my turkey, then use The Pioneer Woman’s roasting method. Ree-vine. Absolutely divine. (See what I did there? Ree? Instead of Dee-vine. Get it? Nevermind) I’ve tried numerous brines and they all work the same. But this roasting method. By far the best.

I have a problem delegating, but this year I finally realized that I can’t (and to be fair to my family shouldn’t) do it all.  If you’re at all wondering what is ok to make ahead:

Rolls, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, gravy (yes! I don’t have to worry about it day oh. Booya), cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, etc, etc. It’s a beautiful thing. And if you’re like me and like to have a special breakfast the day of, you can make cinnamon rolls (here is my favorite family recipe- buried in yet another rambling praise of make-ahead Thanksgiving) the day before or even breakfast casserole.

I know I’ve just babbled for far too long about freezer meals for a holiday, but honestly I want to help the other unorganized, but crazy food lovers like myself have a great day.

Two weeks early, I’m wishing you a happy, healthy, relaxed Thanksgiving.

Oh! And if you missed it, I’m hosting a giveaway for Brandy Vallance’s new book, The Covered Deep. Just think: with a make-ahead Thanksgiving, you might just have time to lounge around and read it on your holiday. Huzzah! Link is at the end of this post. Enter and share!


My first– and very naïve– Thanksgving as hostess. I’m pretty sure the deviled eggs were runny, the stuffing was burnt, the turkey was cold by the time we sat down to eat, and I wanted to down the bottle of wine…but was nursing and made my mother-in-law nervous with my very small sip. It was a fun day.


4 thoughts on “Stress-free Thanksgiving–Honest!

  1. Okay, so this is a brilliant idea! I’m the queen of freezing just about everything and I’ve never once thought about making Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time. One year I was almost in tears because my husband’s whole family was waiting in the living room and dinner was going to be late. So stressful! It’s my favorite holiday too and I want to be able to enjoy the day relaxing with my family. Oh, I roast my turkey in a turkey bag like my mom has always done. No brining, but I’ve been meaning to try Ree’s method(or Alton Brown’s). Thanks for sharing the ideas:)

    1. I have definitely cried a lot on Thanksgiving and I become completely irrational. I have been known to throw pie crust across the room. I hate never tried the bag method, but am intrigued.
      I highly recommend the freezer friendly holiday (obviously). You will love it. And so so your husband.
      Mine is just glad that pie crust is no longer a weapon.

      1. You have me laughing here! Pie crust as a weapon? I suppose you could’ve chosen much worse:) I’m going to start planning tomorrow and baking this weekend. The bags I use are by Reynold’s.

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