25 simple ways to make Thanksgiving dinner planning easier

Stale (or toasted) bread = better dressing (or stuffing)

25 simple ways to make Thanksgiving dinner planning easier

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house can be uber-stressful, no matter how many times you've done it.


So, whether this is your first time (eek!) or your 30th time, here are 25 time-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks that will definitely make your day go easier.

1. Make a menu and stick to it

There are lots of great ideas out in the world that you can add to your menu a few days before the big day, or even as you're cooking. But don't do it. About a month before, write down what you're going to cook, what you're going to ask others to bring (see Delegate, below), and forget the rest. This will be a big stress-reducer and will also help you work through what you have to do to prepare.

2. Make a shopping list

Do not head out shopping until you've got that list in hand. Write out every ingredient for every item on your menu, then split the ingredients up into separate shopping lists for those items you can buy a month out, a week out and those you have to buy a day or two before. This will help reduce (note, I didn't say eliminate) the number of emergency trips you'll be running to the store.

3. Grate the butter

In any of your recipes that call for folding-in the butter (ie. pie crusts, dressing, biscuits, etc.), it's way easier to take the stick of butter and grate that bad boy into the mix!

4. Chop chop

The veggies, always with the veggies. So much chopping and cutting and gah! But I found a Cuisinart Chopper that makes my chopping life less of my life. For Thanksgiving, I like to chop my veggies well in advance (at least a day), before I prepare the specific dish. Then, I float them in a bowl of water until I need them, allowing me to worry only about putting together the dish, not chopping veggies for half of a day.

5. No-roll pie crust

You don't have to roll out the pie crust, which is awesome both for saving time and saving sanity (as well as your arm muscles). You've got enough to worry about getting this meal to come together, you shouldn't have to worry about how to transfer your perfectly rolled crust from the wax paper to the pie plate!

6. Lattice-top pie

To make pies look both traditional and pretty, you need a lattice-top on many of them, especially fruit pies. But that's kinda hard—except when you follow these easy instructions using your cooling rack.

7. Freeze-a-pie

Make your pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato pies a month early, then freeze them. If you buy the little cheapy pie-pans and cook them in that, you won't mess up grandma's heirloom pie plate…yet. After they're cooked, you can take the cheapy pie-pan off, then put them in a gallon-size baggie and put them in the freezer. Done.

8. Stale (or toasted) bread = better dressing (or stuffing)

Always use stale bread for your dressing, unless you have absolutely no options. This means buying a loaf of bread a month in advance and leaving it out. But if you just can't stand that thought or you forget (because I totally do that every year!), you can toast your bread and that will help wick out a lot of the moisture.

Don't be afraid to be too dry with your bread. You can always put more moisture in when you mix prior to baking, but you can never take moisture out. For a really great dressing , you can check out this Texas Cornbread Dressing recipe.

9. Dry cornbread = better(er) dressing (or stuffing)

Make your cornbread like you normally would (or you can try this awesome recipe), but leave out the eggs. Drier cornbread will make the dressing less soggy, just like when using stale bread. So, start dry. But if you do go with this hack and leave out the eggs, be sure to double or triple your recipe as the cornbread won't rise nearly as much as you're expecting.

10. Freeze-a-dressing

Make your dressing (or stuffing) a week or more in advance—then, like the pies, freeze it. Depending on your pan size, you might have to cut the sheet of dressing in half, but if you cut carefully, you can fit it in a gallon size bag and just stack on top of the pies.

11. Homemade cranberry sauce

Want to look like a fancy, real chef? Make homemade cranberry sauce a week before (just follow the instructions on the back of the bag of fresh cranberries), then pop it into the fridge. That stuff will save in the fridge for weeks and you'll look like the best gourmand.

12. Smoked turkey

I know everybody wants to cook that perfect turkey, but honestly, there's too much that can go wrong. No way will I take that risk. You can make your own, like this awesome recipe for smoked turkey on a grill, but I always hit my favorite BBQ place to see what kind of smoked turkey deal they're selling or I make my way to Honey Baked Ham—their turkey is reliably wonderful every time.

13. Frozen drinks

Don't stress about drinks. A few days before, brew your tea or make your kool-aid, put it in a gallon-size baggie, then freeze. Then on the big day, just pour into a pitcher!

14. Kids play before, then put someone else in charge

Thanksgiving is an exciting time for kiddos—they want to help and participate! Plus, they're out of school, so they might be a little bored (if they stopped bugging you for two seconds).

Be prepared to have some fun activities to do on Wednesday together. You can make some placemats for the kiddy-table, whip-up some Pumpkin Slime, make Paper-Bag Place Settings for everyone, or (my favorite) put together some Salt-Dough Leaf Ornaments in preparation for putting up the tree on Friday.

If they'd rather make some food, they can help make the biscuits a day ahead (nothing wrong with that) or have them make some Turkey Pretzels for snacks. Then, on the big day, make Dad be in charge (or Mom, if Dad's the chef of the family), or ask Great-Aunt Myrtle to come watch the kids—trust me, it's worth calling in the favor.

15. Thaw overnight

Take everything out of the freezer that you've frozen and put them in the garage or on the counter wherever you can find space. That will give even a huge turkey time to thaw before showtime. Just be sure to calculate about 20 minutes for every pound on that turkey.

16. Pre-made breakfast

You're making dinner for the big day. Why mess around with making something the day-of for breakfast? A few days before, make something unique and fun for the kids like this apple strudel or this cream cheese filled pumpkin bread of goodness. Then just warm it up and get ready to accept the compliments. Or, if you're making breakfast for a huge crowd (because that's what happens here at my house), you can make an awesome fruit salad, a holiday favorite around my family.

17. Simple, light lunch

Keep lunch easy and light-don't fill your kids up before the biggest meal of the year. For lunch, you could make something like this apple squash soup or these blue cheese and pecan-stuffed celery bites.

Anything quick and simple so that you don't have to waste your time making anything or having to clean up a huge mess. If you're preparing lunch for more than just you, your spouse and the kiddos, you can throw together a slow cooker meal.

18. Sides galore

No reason to make all the sides the day of. Mac and cheese casserole can be made a few days prior and refrigerated, so can green-bean casserole and candied yams. Be sure to make sides the kids are going to like (or even eat). If you're having trouble coming up with ideas (because I'm always stumped when the question is presented to me), you can check out this quick list of Side Dishes.

19. Perfectly formed biscuits

Cut your biscuits with a wine glass to make them perfectly shaped. Then turn the glass right-side-up, rinse and have a little bit of wine to ease the day. No stress and less mess. Right?

20. Wash potatoes in bulk

Rather than washing you're 'taters by hand, run them through the dishwasher! No, really, this is a thing—check it out here.

21. Boil potatoes to skin

Instead of spending a half-hour or an entire day peeling potatoes for your party, boil them first, peel and all. Once they've boiled for 15 minutes, the skin will just come right off when you rub them.

22. Fluffier mashed potatoes

Everyone (and their dog) has a recipe for their mom's mashed potatoes. However, not all 'taters are created equal. A recipe for French Mashed Potatoes calls for a little bit of baking soda—when I made this, it made my mashed potatoes so much more fluffy. And that was very nice.

23. Delegate a few sides

Crazy Uncle Charlie really is good at making that green-bean casserole, right? Flatter him a little by asking that he bring it with. It's nice, saves you stress and, frankly, a little bit of pot-luck can bring a family together.

24. Schedule a break

If things are going well, you can actually take that break, but if you're totally running behind, you have a few minutes to catch up.

25. Make reservations

My father-in-law suggested I add this to the list! He's right sometimes, though. I'll be honest, it probably wasn't the best idea for me to host Thanksgiving two months after my daughter was born—we should have made reservations that year at a very nice restaurant.

Originally published on Totally the Bomb.

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

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Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

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Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

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After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

Loose Leaf Paper

Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

$4

Personal Planner

Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

$22

#2 Pencils

Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

$10.29

Black Ink Pens

Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

$4.47

Highlighters in Different Colors

Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

$9.99

Big Pink Erasers

The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

$.99

New Headphones

Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

$16.99

Lined Notebooks

Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

$3.19

Three-Ring Binders

Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

$16.95

Locker Decorations

Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

$14.99

New Lunch Box

Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

$12.99

Upgraded Backpack

It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

$31.96

Colorful Markers

Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

$3.49

Reusable Water Bottle

Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

$29.95

Calculator

Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

$130.99
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