Several years ago we started hosting a Friendsgiving dinner either the weekend before or the weekend after Thanksgiving. It quickly became one of my favorite traditions during the holiday season. Since you choose the guest list and there aren’t any family dynamics at play, it takes the stress of a typical holiday dinner down by about one thousand notches. Also, it’s Thanksgiving, which is the best menu of the year in my opinion, so what’s not to love? If you want to throw your own Friendsgiving, here’s what works for me.
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Keep it Casual
I don’t mean that your guests need to arrive in their pajamas, simply that a casual attitude will win the day. Want to use your fancy dishes? By all means, set that table with the good china, but don’t feel obligated to play by the rules. Want to invite 16 people but your dining room table only seats 8? At Friendsgiving that doesn’t matter. We have people camped out on couches and we use our kitchen island seating.
Break the Rules
I personally love turkey, but a lot of people feel like it’s just there out of obligation. Turkey is super easy to cook (use this recipe and don’t skip the brine!) so if you want one don’t be intimidated by it. However you can also roast a tray of chicken breasts, thighs and wings and call it a day. Or throw a Friendsgiving that’s all about the side dishes. Does your Thanksgiving dinner usually include a green bean casserole that no one eats? Again, let go of the obligation to serve things that you don’t really love out of some weird allegiance to tradition.
The host absolutely should NOT do all of the work. If you’re hosting, be in charge of the turkey (if you’re making one) and drinks. Let everyone else bring the rest. I usually make more than just the turkey simply because I have some recipes that I really love, but you absolutely should not bear the burden alone. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to step in and stir the gravy, fill water glasses or run dishes to the table either.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but unless your guests are arriving hours before you plan to serve the meal, appetizers simply aren’t necessary. Some nuts and cheese and crackers will go a long way to keeping anyone from getting hangry if you must serve something. Do whatever sounds fun to YOU, but if you’re looking for a way to simplify your day, I think skipping complicated appetizers is the way to go.
Dishes before Dessert
This is the easiest way to get everyone to pitch in with clean-up duty. My friends are great and I’ve never once had to beg anyone to help clean up, but once dinner is over we divide up the leftovers and get the dishwasher loaded. No one wants to tackle the entire mound of dinner dishes when the tryptophan exhaustion and inevitable sugar crash kicks in, so get that taken care of ahead of time. Before dessert, fill your sink with hot soapy water, so dessert plates have a place to go while you enjoy coffee or cocktails with your friends after the pies are all gone.
A few things to keep in mind
- Have plenty of trash bags on hand – you’ll need more than you think
- Stock your bathroom with easily grabbed extras. Make sure extra rolls of toilet paper and clean hand towels are available for anyone to take care of so you don’t get called away from the kitchen
- Have plenty of containers for leftovers on hand. Whether you’ll be keeping everything for yourself or sending your guests home with a midnight snack, you’ll need a place to put everything.
My personal favorite Thanksgiving recipes
Sweet Soul Taters – The Pioneer Woman – This is the one and only sweet potato recipe that I like.
Delicious Cream Mashed Potatoes – The Pioneer Woman – I only make mashed potatoes this way for Thanksgiving and it is SO WORTH THE WAIT every year. These are delicious made ahead and a huge day-of time saver to do it that way.
Stuffing – Mrs. Cubbison’s or GTFO
Rolls – Store bought all the way, unless you’re a super fabulous baker.
Cranberry Sauce – Cranberry sauce is SO EASY to do yourself and the fresh flavor is really worth the minimal effort. Another part of the meal that can easily be made the day before.
I love hosting holiday events, but often feel constrained by family traditions that were in place long before me. Hosting a holiday with friends allows us to create our own traditions. We have a couple of fun printables that we’ve created for you to use! Feel free to download and print and use at your own Friendsgiving.
Friendsgiving Place Cards (click to print)
Friendsgiving “I am Thankful For…” Printable (click to print)
Hopefully this is the year you finally decide to add a Friendsgiving to your calendar! Let me know if you have any questions, but I know you can do it! What are your favorite holiday traditions? What recipes will always be on your Thanksgiving table?