99 Thanksgiving Tips to Transform Your Holiday Meal

Take the stress out of Thanksgiving with these tips and tricks.

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Creamy No-Boil Mashed Potatoes (3:10)

1. Take advantage of BOGO deals on food and supplies.

During other times of the year, buy-one-get-one deals are really just an excuse to spend a few more dollars on something you could do without. But during the holidays, and especially during Thanksgiving, when you actually do need to buy in bulk, BOGO deals can help you save money. You know you’ve got to stock up; you might as well stock up strategically.

2. Get your turkey for free at your local supermarket.

Local mom-and-pop supermarkets seem to be few and far between these days. You’d be well-served to pay them a visit on Thanksgiving to reacquaint yourself with the kind of local love these supermarkets have to offer. Many go so far as to give away (yes, for free) turkeys. Grab one, and repay them with future visits.

Watch: How to Buy the Healthiest Food at Your Local Deli Counter

3. Make fruit-infused water instead of serving soda. 

Soda is often high in sugar. Besides, it doesn’t taste so great when you’re washing down a mouthful of hearty turkey and gravy. This Thanksgiving, serve fruit-infused water instead. That will solve the “boring water” problem and you won’t have to buy cases upon cases of soda.

More: Supercharged Infused Water

4. Swap buttermilk for regular milk.

If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don’t have any around or you don’t want to waste your calories on it, use regular milk. Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to regular milk is the perfect substitute. Plus, it's a great alternative for heavy cream.

More: The Kitchen Diva's Southwestern Coleslaw with Creamy Buttermilk Dressing

5. Use paper goods for easier cleanup.

Your guests will not think less of you as a host if you serve your Thanksgiving meal on paper plates. They won’t even mind if you have them dig in with composite or plastic silverware. Make cleanup easier on yourself. You deserve to enjoy the evening as well. Go ahead, serve on paper!

6. Accept help from your guests.

Because Thanksgiving dinner requires so much time and energy, we often feel that we might as well do all of the work if we’re going to do any of it—we might as well get all the credit, right? Wrong! Accept help from your guests. They’ll feel happier having contributed anyway. Have a running list of a handful of tasks and be a willing delegator when a guest offers.

7. Make a signature drink for the entire evening.

One of the surest ways to waste money during the holidays is on alcohol. One of the most fun ways to save money during the holidays is to make punch. This way, you won’t need to cater to each of your guests’ alcohol preferences. The best part is, if you make a great punch, you’ll send your guests home with something to talk about.

More: Aaron Sanchez's Tropical Tequila Punch Recipe

8. Clean out your fridge a week in advance.

Each year, you find yourself playing Tetris with the items in your fridge, scrambling to find an extra inch of space. Thanksgiving dinner requires lots of space for preparation and for leftovers. Clean your fridge out a week in advance and get rid of anything expired. For the items that you can’t bear to throw out, use them to make a pre-Thanksgiving meal.

Watch: The Secrets to a Perfectly Stocked Fridge

9. Line your pans with foil for a quick, no-mess cleanup.

The juices, sauces, and gravy will be flowing, and Turkey Day is all the better for it. But cleanup can daunting as a result. There’s a solution: Line your pans with foil. With sufficient “foiling,” you might be able to get away with a quick rinse of your pans before you put them right back in the cabinets.

10. Freeze leftovers.

Let’s face it—you’re going to have far too many leftovers. Do a leftover audit! For the leftovers that will be impossible to finish the following day, take the extra 10 minutes to wrap them in foil, label them, and put them in the freezer.

Watch: Holiday Leftovers' Shelf Life

11. Microwave your lemons.

This sounds strange, doesn’t it? But it’s a hack to remember. Microwave your lemons for 30 seconds! You’ll get a lot more juice out of them.

12. Recycle your wine.

When you think leftovers, you probably don’t think wine. That’s a mistake. There’s no good way to save wine so that you can serve it again. Once you’ve uncorked a bottle, time is of the essence. But here’s what you can do to save that remaining quarter of a bottle: pour it into ice cube trays and freeze! Use this wine for future cooking.

13. Color your cubes.

With all that extra lemon juice you’ll be enjoying, you’ll be able to liven up your ice cubes. Freeze freshly squeezed lemon juice and water in muffin tins to make them colorful and refreshing.

More: 5 Genius Ways to Use an Ice Cube Tray

14. Wear latex gloves (or latex-free, if allergic).

During your next trip to the supermarket, or to your local convenience store, pick up a package of latex gloves. You know the ones—the gloves that make you look like a veteran surgeon. You won’t have to worry about cross-contaminating foods, and you’ll save yourself many hand-washes.

15. Use coconut water in your cocktail.

Cocktails are delicious. The reason they’re delicious, though, is that they’re often loaded with artificial sugar. If ever there was a time to indulge, it’s during the holiday season. But indulge the smart way! Use coconut water instead of artificial mixers to sweeten your cocktails and hydrate at the same time.

More: Coconut Water Guide

16. Microwave squash.

Squash is one of nature’s wonders. It looks interesting; it’s colorful; it’s sweet and tasty. The only problem is, it can be awfully hard to cut. Put your squash in the microwave for five minutes and see if the problem isn’t solved. Spoiler: It will be.

17. Rinse berries in vinegar.

Berries are a favorite pick for an easy, healthy dessert. If you’re going to be serving a large dish of fruit, you want to be sure that all of those berries (melons, and everything else, for that matter!) are clean. Wash them thoroughly in vinegar to be safe.

Watch: The Best Way to Wash Your Fruits

18. Use the secret solution for a burnt pan.

You might as well let go of that perfect Thanksgiving preparation fantasy right now. There’s no such thing, even for the most seasoned of chefs. Something will go awry—and it might very well leave you with a burnt pan. Here’s the cleaning solution you’ve been waiting for: one cup warm water + one cup vinegar + two tablespoons baking soda. Scrub and repeat.

19. Sprinkle cinnamon on that casserole.

Thanksgiving food tends to sit idle for long stretches of time—many of us prepare certain dishes well in advance and some of us host guests for hours upon hours. Use cinnamon specifically to preserve your casseroles. The spice helps decrease bacteria that can grow on open food.

Watch: How Spicy Turkey Chili and Sweet Potato Casserole Burn Fat

20. Use Halloween candy for entertaining treats.

The sugar rush of Halloween is hardly behind us. No doubt, kids will be wondering where all of that candy disappeared to. Take those leftover sweets out of hiding and give the kids an activity to get ready for Christmas! Challenge them to make a DIY gingerbread house.

21. Serve wine and cocktails over frozen fruit.

Those colorful lemon ice cubes can go a long way. But for those who just can’t get enough fruit, this is a solution for you. Ditch the ice cubes and pour wine and cocktails over frozen fruit. Not only will you be left with alcohol-infused treats, but your alcohol will taste that much better.

22. Turn your phone into a sound system.

Well, not exactly. But if you don’t have speakers or a multi-room sound system, there’s no reason to fret. Place your phone inside of a glass cup or bowl to amplify sound. You’re going to be surprised how loud the music gets.

Watch: Curtis Stone: Music While You Cook

23. Put down the knife and pick up the dental floss.

A beautiful cake deserves a perfect cut. With dental floss, you can cut your cake with near-perfect precision, and the cuts will be almost invisible. This is a dessert hack that doubles as a conversation starter.

24. Bake your pinecones.

Pinecones are nature’s gift to the enthusiastic decorator. But, careful—make sure to bake your pinecones to kill any bugs hiding inside. You don’t want any unexpected guests joining your Turkey Day dinner.

25. Use cake stands to optimize table space.

Arranging a Thanksgiving dinner table can be a logistical nightmare. It’s less of a nightmare when you start thinking vertically, instead of only horizontally. Elevate certain dishes using cake stands to make room for more dishes underneath.