When it comes to event planning, there are two types of people – those who get more excited with event planning and the prepping process and those who start to stress the minute invitations go out. I am usually the first type, but sometimes, life creeps in, and things need to be simpler. Over my years of hostessing, I have developed what I call my menu complexity matrix. It breaks down each course into the amount of time and effort, and I can choose depending on what is important to me and what I need the day to be.


Simple and Quick




Cheese and crackers and veggie tray

Buy premade appetizers and warm up day of

Make appetizers from scratch ahead of time, rewarm day of


Soda and water, wine and beer

Iced tea, warm apple cider, lemonade

Signature cocktails and mocktails, garnishes like oranges, apple slices and cinnamon sticks


Buy premade from restaurant or grocery store

Prepare in a cooking bag without stuffing and with pop up timer

Brine ahead of time, bake, smoke or fry – create centerpiece with stuffing coming out of bird


Order in advance, open a can, buy premade… keep it simple

Pick the most important sides for your family and only make those

Try new recipes (or old standards passed down), make things from scratch


Get a pie from the store

Choose a few desserts – buy some and make some (Costco makes the best pumpkin and pecan pies, and these have become my standard)

Family recipes, a variety of options – we have tried many new desserts that we have come to love. This year my son-in-law is making a homemade cheesecake, and I am making toppings out of fruit I grew myself.

Other items to consider include:

Guest List – depending on your capacity, only invite the number you can handle.

Decorations – Tablecloths can be fabric or disposable. If you are having a group of messy people and toddlers, a vinyl tablecloth will do. Decorations can be simple or more elaborate. They can even be whimsical. My kids love dinosaurs, so we sometimes have a gold T-rex on our table at holidays.

Plates and Utensils – No need to get out the good china unless you want to use it. I love the plastic plates and gold or silver utensils that are sold in stores, at Costco and on websites (smartyhasaparty.com is one of my personal favorites.) It is the company around the table that matters, so whatever you have works. Personally, I dislike spending tons of time doing dishes after the meal, and often my guests insist on doing them, and I dislike that even more. I am ready to sit in the living room with a cup of coffee and watch either a football game or a holiday movie while half the crowd naps.

Serving dishes – Whatever I decide on my menu, I plan it out, scope out what I own about a week before Thanksgiving, decide what I might need and head to the thrift store. It is a great way to get serving pieces with character without breaking the bank. I also love that most thrift stores are either charity supporting or owned by local residents, giving me the knowledge that what I pay is staying in the community. If time is short and you find you need something to serve, online stores with quick delivery and even the grocery store can provide that necessary serving piece.

However you pull together your holiday, remember to be grateful for the people who share your table and those who are missing you and sending you love this holiday.

Want to share your holiday traditions? Head on over to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ParentMagazinesFlorida, and let us know what you love to do on your Thanksgiving holidays! We would love to see your pictures also.