This year is different for a lot of us. We’re starting to travel again to go see family for the holidays or we’re spending it with friends nearby. But some people are still keeping it low key in this “post” pandemic life we’re living. And some countries are still issuing lockdowns and mandates.

Last year, we were supposed to spend Thanksgiving with our family in Hot Springs, AR. But because of the COVID-19 virus, we had to cancel. My girlfriend and I had volunteered to pick up all the groceries and bring them over to their house.

So there we were, in our small apartment, with a full-blown Thanksgiving spread ready to be prepared for just the two of us. But we made it work, had plenty of leftovers and had a blast making the best of the day!

Whether you’re stuck in a predicament like we were, just trying to small something small or even plan something different, here’s my tips on how to go with the flow and have fun instead of stressing out.

Wear Something Comfortable

It was only the two of us last year so we literally stayed in our pjs all day. We got up, put on something cozy, had coffee and watched the Macy’s Day parade. We knew we would probably be eating on the food all day, so stretchy pants were a must.

Eat Throughout the Day

There’s nothing wrong with snacking on things as their ready. Especially if its a really laid back setting. We started cooking towards the end of the parade so that we could try to have everything ready by lunch and one of my favorite things to cook for breakfast/snack is gluten-free sausage cheese balls.

Since we had enough ingredients to make large batches I froze half of it and made enough for us to snack on that morning and into the afternoon. These can easily be saved in a plastic bag and are great reheated in the microwave!

But what I love about snacking small throughout the day vs eating all at once is you don’t often feel weighted down and can still enjoy the day!

Make Life Easy with Ready-To-Go Dishes

One of my favorite things is boxed stuffing. I don’t care what you say. It’s good. I love and appreciate homemade stuffing and dressing as well, but I once spent Thanksgiving alone and it was my first time having boxed stuffing. Total game changer. You can literally throw it in a pot add, and stock or water and a few table spoons of butter and its ready within minutes.

Another easy ready to go side is the rolls. Homemade rolls are great for bragging point, but make it easy on yourself and pick up a bag of Sister Schubert’s rolls.

We did end up making sweet potato casserole, but if you want to cut back even more cooking time, you can easily replace this with a pre-made pie!

Don’t Forget the Bubbly

A little carbonation can help ease the over-stuffed belly. And it also puts everyone in a good mood! Whether its with breakfast, brunch, lunch or just because, popping champagne is always a fun tradition to get into the holiday spirit. Or whatever your beverage of choice is!

Go Beyond the Traditional Menu

I’ve never done this for Thanksgiving, but I have done it for Christmas dinner when I was younger. You don’t HAVE to cook the carb loaded, creamy coated traditional dinner. My favorite thing to do on Christmas was have a Mexican inspired dinner and once I was old enough, make margaritas too!

We’d make rice, fajita chicken, tacos, jalapeno poppers and have cheese dip galore. It was fantastic. If you’re totally over the traditional menu do whatever you want! Bake a whole fish, make a salad, form your own traditions.

Another great idea is to plan ahead and order catering from a local restaurant. It’ll give you a chance to experience new foods and share it with everyone while supporting a local business. And the best part is you don’t have to do any cooking!

Plan Activities

I cannot go through Thanksgiving without going on a walk. Thanksgiving is commercialized to make us think we should spend it stuffing our faces and then sleeping it out on the couch while everyone watches football. Instead, take a moment to get some fresh air. It’s beautiful this time of year and if the weather is nice, walk off a few of those sides! If there’re pups around, gather them up and take them with you.

Another great idea is games. Whether its holiday themed or just board games its fun to stay stimulated into the evening especially with how early it’s getting dark now. I’m bringing One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Clue to my friends-giving this Thursday in case anyone wants to play!

Lastly, turn on the music. When all of our friends get together, by the end of the night we always ended up dancing our asses off. It’s a good time, puts everyone in a good mood, and after Thanksgiving your body will thank you!

Ultimately what we all want, is to spend the day with someone special. Like I mentioned before, I’ve had to spend Thanksgiving alone. And even though I had my two cats, I still really missed being with friends and family. It doesn’t matter if your bubble of people is large or small, or even just the two of you. You can celebrate however you’d like without the media standards pressuring you into a perfect commercial holiday.

What’s your Thanksgiving like? Traditional or unconventional? Let me know in the comments!

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Remember to be brave in trying new things and always cook with a dash of love!

Until next time,

Haley | Creator of Haley’s Kitchen

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