Hosting Thanksgiving this year? Luckily, whether it's your first time hosting the holiday meal or not, there are plenty of ways to make it an easier process. Here are seven tips for staying stress-free while still creating a fun, flavorful, and festive celebration.

  1. Plan Ahead

    Whether it's Thanksgiving or another time that you're hosting family and friends, you should try to plan ahead. Sit down with a blank computer screen or a pen and piece of paper, and make a list of what you'd like to serve. Maybe you'd like to roast a turkey and have three or four sides, as well as homemade dinner rolls or garlic bread. Or perhaps you want a specific kind of stuffing that your family loves. Think through the possibilities for appetizers, salads, drinks, and so on. Write the entire menu down, from beginning to end, to map out what you'll be making.

  2. Prioritize What's Important

    Do you really need to make seven side dishes, or would three be just as satisfying? Are two kinds of bread necessary, or could you stick to one? When refining your menu, ask yourself which items matter most. Then, instead of tasking yourself with more than you need to do, you can focus on what's a priority. Likewise, when you want to cut costs, you can figure out which menu items to cut.

  3. Make a Shopping List

    Based on how many people you're hosting, what's on the menu, and how many items are your responsibility, make your shopping list. How big is your guest list? This will dictate how big of a turkey you'll need. When making your list, be as detailed and specific as possible, and then stick to your list at the store. Stick to the mantra, "If it's not on the list, it won't go in my cart."

  4. Cook Ahead of Time

    While some parts of the meal have to be made on Thanksgiving day, other parts can be prepared the week before to save you time. Create a master schedule for the week before the holiday, with specific tasks relegated to each day. For example, you could make desserts or homemade bread ahead of time. When the cranberry sauce is already waiting in the fridge on Thanksgiving Day, you'll have a few less things to remember.

  5. Share Responsibility

    Just because you're hosting Thanksgiving doesn't mean you can't accept help. For instance, let your sister bring three side dishes when she offers, and welcome your mother-in-law's contribution of pumpkin pie. And make sure you delegate tasks in the kitchen. After all, the more you divvy up the responsibilities, the easier it is to be a host.

  6. Streamline the Drinks

    Sure, it's fun to stock a full bar for parties, but if you want to minimize effort and costs, try to streamline what you're serving. For instance, pick just one or two types of wine, or one signature cocktail.

  7. Forage for Centerpieces

    Take packaged flowers off your grocery list by seeing what you can find outside. Whether you use pinecones, fall leaves, twigs, or snipped greenery for your tablescape, you can create something seasonally perfect with little trouble. Bonus: this is another task that can be done ahead of time.

Hosting Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a headache or a budget buster. Use these tips to make this year's celebration more enjoyable for everyone.