One of the things Sterling and I are so grateful for is that we were blessed to receive some very thoughtful gifts from the wedding. We were overwhelmed with others’ generosity and quickly grew more and more excited for all the fun we could have hosting people in our townhouse. This fall I thought about what I was most excited for and silly enough it was cooking and using some of the new tools we received! So Sterling and I decided to host a Friendsgiving! It was a lot of fun but had it’s own set of challenges that I learned a lot from.
Here are five things I learned about hosting Friendsgiving with some tips for you if you’re planning on hosting one this month!
Firstly: Smaller is Easier The first thing I quickly realized is that hosting Friendsgiving is a lot different from hosting a get together. For a more simple get together people can stand or sit, move around, go outside, and snack while chatting. With Friendsgiving this is very different – you’re hosting dinner, and not just any dinner it’s a Thanksgiving dinner. This means that everyone has to have a place to sit and eat and you have to have somewhere to put all the food.
The hardest part for me about deciding to host a Friendsgiving was that I wanted to invite everyone! All our friends from the area and further away that we love and I didn’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt if they weren’t invited. Having the word Friend in front made me feel like if I didn’t ask some people to join in they’d be hurt and feel that I don’t value them in my life or that we aren’t friends! But the reality is – Sterling and I live in a small townhouse with very limiting seating. Plus the host makes the turkey – the more people – the more turkey – the bigger the bird the longer it takes to cook – the longer it takes to cook – the more daunting the task. While this was hard to not invite all the people we love we realized we just couldn’t – having fewer people made it easier on everyone because those bringing sides also didn’t have to stress about making too much.
My advice if you’re hosting a Friendsgiving is that while it would be great to have everyone, think about how much room you actually have and remember that smaller is easier. If you have the space than by all means go bigger but if you have to go small consider one of these two options: you could look to people you see most frequently and are most active in your life to invite… OR look to people you cherish but don’t get to see frequently and want a reason to come together! Either way you can’t fail because you’re spending time with people you are grateful for no matter how many are there.
An idea to let those you couldn’t include know you still cherish their friendship – get a cute Thanksgiving card and send them a little note of love in the mail.
2nd: Make a Turkey Plan In Advance! This is something I didn’t do and it almost resulted in us not having a turkey! Basically when it comes to turkey, what I didn’t realize is that there are two ways you can go (for a whole turkey) and each have aspects that are important to consider – neither of which I knew about before this past weekend.
Things you have to consider when cooking a turkey (which I didn’t realize until last Thursday)…
- Amount of people you’re serving and size of the bird
- Frozen or fresh
- Prep & cook time
The first place to start is to finalize and figure out how many people are definitely coming so you can determine what size turkey you’re going to get. Keep in mind that early on in November you’ll be more limited in options on variety of size. Once you’ve done this you need to plan out if you’re going to do frozen or fresh because they have different prep times and other things to consider. For both frozen and fresh I learned that it is best to brine your turkey for 24 hrs before it goes into the oven so try to add this time into your turkey plan in advance.
FROZEN TURKEYS: A frozen turkey is convenient in that you can get it in advance because many stores have frozen turkeys in stock. The downside is that you have to thaw the turkey and this can take days, the bigger the bird, the longer it takes! So you can’t just pick up a frozen turkey a few days in advance because you have to thaw it and then brine for 24 hours in advance – this means you don’t have time to procrastinate.
FRESH TURKEYS: A fresh turkey doesn’t have to be thawed which means you don’t have to prep it way in advance but they are not stocked in some grocery stores until it gets closer to Thanksgiving. For us we were having Friendsgiving the first weekend of November, when I realized on Thursday night that I didn’t have time to thaw a frozen turkey I thought – oh okay I’ll just get a fresh one! It wasn’t until Friday when I started calling around to grocery stores that I realized it might be a problem getting a fresh turkey so early on. Most places I called didn’t even cary fresh turkeys until one or two weeks before Thanksgiving! I ended up having to go to Wegman’s in Midlothian because it was the only location that had fresh turkeys and they only had four smaller ones! Yoikes! I ended up also getting a turkey breast because I was worried I didn’t have enough to feed everyone.
3rd: Give Yourself Extra Time I wish that I had done this. When planning out my weekend to get ready for everyone I did a lot of research on how long a turkey would take to cook. I planned everything out around the prep time and cook time based on what I read and just assumed it would be an exact science. I found out that a 12-14lb turkey would take 3-4 hours so I put that bird in the oven 4 hours before go time thinking I’d be in the clear knowing we wouldn’t eat right away. Well the turkey definitely took longer than this – it probably took an extra two hours than expected! It wasn’t the end of the world but next time I will plan out some wiggle room time and put that turkey in a few hours earlier, just in case.
4th: Prep in Advance This is something I learned from my mom after watching her host Christmas dinner for years but it really hit home this past weekend. For Friendsgiving I got a little excited and cooked a whole turkey, a turkey breast, three pies, cranberry butter, and carrots! Seems like a lot and it was but, it was also a lot of fun! It could have been really stressful but I planned and prepped in advance, which for someone who used to procrastinate a ton, this was a proud moment! I realized that I only had one oven which means that I was limited on what I could do at certain times. Specifically this meant I couldn’t cook anything the day of Friendsgiving except for the turkey unless I use my crock pots.” I also didn’t want to be stressed the day of so I decided I’d cook anything that could be easily refrigerated in advance and utilize my crockpots the most I could. So on Saturday I woke up early and did the grocery run and got to it – I cooked all three pies and the cranberry butter on Saturday so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on Sunday. Then on Sunday I just had to wake up early enough to put the turkey breast in the one crock pot and the carrots in the other! If I had waited to do the pies on Sunday – I’d probably be in tears – not only because it would have been too much for a small kitchen with limited counter top space, but also because lord what a mess it is to make the pie crust – flour everywhere!
Finally: Paper Plates. All my earth friendly friends are going to hate this but in all seriousness I’m glad we did this. Using paper plates and plastic (or earth friendly biodegradable) utensils made it so that we could enjoy our time with friends and not have to do a ton of clean up. Once everyone left and took their own leftovers and food – we straightened up – packed up our left overs and took out the trash – easy. After spending a whole weekend cooking and cleaning to prep the last thing you’ll want to do is wash dishes at the end. We got cute plates and napkins from Target and called it a day. Would it have been fun to use our nice new china from the wedding? Yes. But… it’s still all packed away and we just don’t have the kitchen space to accommodate for the clean up process of all those dishes and silverware. I’m telling you… save time and energy where you can!
And remember! HAVE FUN! After all the whole point is to be with people you are truly grateful for. 🙂