A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Lessons Learned from a Not-So-Simple Thanksgiving

Last year I had a great idea on how to simplify our Thanksgiving dinner menu. At least I thought it was a great idea. As is often the case, things don’t always work out the way we originally plan.

Living in a household of 10, automatically creates plenty of dinner preparation. With extra family at the table for special occasions like Thanksgiving, the shopping, cooking, and cleaning are multiplied. I decided to make it my mission to simplify Thanksgiving.

My plan went like this: I asked everyone in the family what their favorite dish was that we traditionally had for Thanksgiving. The idea was that several people would have the same favorite food and that could help narrow down the menu items.

“What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?”…”I like Faith’s sweet potato casserole.”…”Oh! That’s my favorite too!”

Ta-Da! Menu choices kept small and people get to enjoy their favorite Thanksgiving foods.

As you might have guessed, things didn’t go according to plan.

In reality the conversations went more like this:

“What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?”…”I like Faith’s sweet potato casserole, BUT since someone else already picked that dish I’d really like to have homemade mashed potatoes.”

See the problem? I didn’t end up with fewer menu items, I actually ended up with more.

Granted an obvious solution would have been to just not make everything that people asked for, but somehow things just got out of hand before we realized what was happening. Plus, who decides who gets what they asked for and who doesn’t? With all the capable cooks in the family we split up the recipes and each only had a couple items to make.

We survived the not-so-simple Thanksgiving meal, but we also learned some valuable lessons for this year. The added bonus is they apply to much more than just dinner preparations.

Lessons Learned from a Not-So-Simple Thanksgiving

1) You can’t please everyone. We all have our preferences and it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll all like the same thing. Don’t get bent out of shape about it. Just do the best you can.

2) Don’t ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer. This year I didn’t ask anyone what they wanted to eat. By now I know what people like to eat, which dishes disappear the fastest and which ones linger in the back of the refrigerator. By not asking I also didn’t feel bad by leaving out a certain person’s favorite dish.

3) Split up the responsibility. Cooperation is the name of the game. Shelf your pride on trying to be the ultimate hostess and remember to share the work load.

4) Learn from your experiences. If your simple plans aren’t working out quite like you hoped, just take a step back and figure out how you can do things differently next time. This year’s Thanksgiving preparations are definitely calmer than last year.

Maybe you’re planning a holiday celebration or maybe you’re working up the courage to declutter your kitchen cabinets. Either way, don’t get discouraged when your simple plans don’t initially go as smoothly as you’d like.

Keep trying. Keep learning. Just keep going.

For more advice on simplifying your holidays, check out my newest guide, A Minimalist Family Christmas.

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  1. BerniceWood says

    We typically have had family meals at my mother-in-law’s and now at sister-in-law’s as MIL lives with her now. They have ALWAYS had way too much food and way too many leftovers. Soon we will make the transition to my house as the meeting place as most of the family that gets together is my children, spouses and grandchildren. Once it moves to my house, hopefully I will have more say in what gets prepared. I will definitely ask for help and I know they will do so!

    Good luck this year!


  2. Faith I left a nice long comment, but it disappeared! So, I’ll just say I enjoyed your post and will be reading more of your blog, as well as adding it to my blog links. I too live in a blended family, with my son and DIL and two granddaughters ages 8 and 11.


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