Thanksgiving is usually the time of year where family—immediate, distant, chosen members—come together to celebrate one another and all that they’re thankful for. With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting how we gather this year, though, the highly celebrated holiday will look different for most households.
For many, kitchens, living rooms, and hallways that are usually flooded with family members will be a bit quieter as this this year brings about a more intimate experience that’s, well, a little forced upon us. We get it: It may seem a bit somber to go from having a large crowd at your home to hosting an intimate gathering of three or four. But you can flip the script: Now’s actually the perfect time to create new memories and long-lasting traditions, and perhaps you can come up with some money saving options to pass down for years to come. And with the unpredictability of the world right now, who wouldn’t want that?
So, if you’re looking for a way to downscale this Thanksgiving holiday (or if you’re just looking for some new traditions to implement), here are eight ideas for a small Thanksgiving to try out this year.
Have a set menu—with just five items.
This year has brought about a million situations that require you to develop a “new normal.” When Thanksgiving rolls around, that could mean not indulging in such an overflowing spread of food; it’s just not necessary. Keeping your menu restricted to five items—maybe they’re your classic main dish, your two favorite sides, and your two most delicious desserts—can trim the amount of money spent. Plus, you’ll be left with a manageable amount of leftovers instead of heaps that’ll eventual go bad and need to be tossed.
Host a potluck.
If you do decide to have a few people over in addition to those already in your household, take the pressure off of yourself by hosting a potluck. You can still keep the menu small, but by hosting a potluck (only with those that you trust, of course), you’ll be able to appease everyone’s taste buds without being left to do all of the cooking or cleaning up yourself. Make sure everyone’s following proper coronavirus protocol when prepping their assigned dish.
Opt for a Thanksgiving brunch.
Tired of the typical Thanksgiving food lineup? Or maybe you just want to open up your day and create new traditions with those closest to you. Try making a Thanksgiving brunch instead. This works especially well for essential workers who won’t be able to be home with the family for dinner or for families with kids who’ll be all out of sorts by evening. Your menu can consist of easy-to-make items that still feel festive, like French toast, omelettes, bacon or sausage, or you can go all out and make your regular holiday line-up…just a little earlier. Whichever option you choose, you can create a satisfyingly delicious brunch menu that will cater to everyone on your guest list’s palate.
Take a holiday trip…from your home.
Since the impact of COVID-19 has prevented many people from being able to travel as they normally would during the holidays, being able to enjoy dishes from other countries has been restricted, too. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t bring the culture to your own kitchen. Whether you’re craving French cuisine, impressive Indian meals, or even some good ol’ southern dishes, there are plenty of flavorful menus you can create for your guests to deliver something totally unexpected.
Oder “Thanksgiving in a box” from a local business.
Cringing at the thought of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, like, at all? Then use this holiday season as a way to support local small businesses near you. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many of them have had to find new ways to stay afloat. Since it’s no secret that the holiday season is usually one of the most lucrative times for many spots, purchasing the dinner options that one of your local restaurants is offering can be a great way to offer support to your community and take away the stress and anxiousness that cooking may give you. Be sure to keep an eye out for announcements from your favorite restaurants.
Rethink your bird.
Pre-pandemic, purchasing a large turkey or ham seemed ideal for a large family gathering. Instead of going big this year, though, be mindful of the limited amount of guests you’ll have sitting around the table. Save time, money, and space in your fridge by purchasing a small amount of sliced turkey or ham, opting for turkey breasts that can be jazzed up (cook them in the air fryer!), or picking up a few pre-cooked turkey cutlets instead.
Create a Thanksgiving dessert table.
Depending on your level of expertise, dessert-making can take up a huge amount of your Thanksgiving meal prep time—especially if you’re dead-set on making intricate pies. Instead of bogging yourself down with super time-consuming projects, try doing something new: Whip up simple desserts with whatever you already have in the pantry or fridge. The options are endless—fried ice cream, peanut butter no-bake cookies, crustless apple pie, churro chips.
Take your food to go.
There are ways to safely get out of the house on Thanksgiving—while staying safe during a pandemic. Pack up your food in to-go containers, choose a scenic location, and enjoy dinner while getting a bit of fresh air. Head to a beach or a park, if you live in a warm weather location. Or if you’ll be spending Thanksgiving with just one other person, park your car in front of a scenic outlook, blast the heat, and eat in the front seats of your car! You’ll get the opportunity to experience something new with the people you love the most—even if you revert to your normal gatherings in years to come.
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