Stress Free Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

How To Prepare a Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner

woman pushing shopping cart in the sunset
Planning A Stress Free Holiday Menu.

Thanksgiving Day is traditionally one of feasting on a tremendous amount of bountiful food which often results in miserably overstuffed bellies and an exhausted cook in the kitchen.

One of the least stressful Thanksgiving dinners I ever prepared consisted of two food items: oven-baked frozen turkey pot pies and root beer floats. My kids were youngsters at the time, so naturally, they loved it! You might not be able to get off that easily but there are ways to minimize the stresses that come from preparing a “gluttonous” meal… you simply need to back away from the traditional fixin’s and simplify your menu.

Are you ready to enjoy your holiday with less stress? Try this alternate menu consisting of lighter fare that will satisfy the appetites of your gracious guests. This less-fuss menu might become your new tradition.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 2 hours

Here's How:

  1. Avoid Crowds at the Market - Skip the rush that is customary among shoppers for two to three days before Thanksgiving. Wait until the early evening on the eve of Thanksgiving Day to swoop in to the grocery store to pick up the few items needed for this stress-free menu.
  2. Help Yourself Beverages - Gather up a collection of herbal teas. Forgo the loose variety, go for the tea-bags. The selection of teas are endless. I especially like jasmine, licorice, chai, lemon-grass, and chamomile. Earl Grey is a good choice for guests who prefer a more traditional black and caffeinated tea. Also choose some gourmet coffee packets and hot cocoa packets. Hot chocolate comes in a variety of flavors as well, my favorites are raspberry and hazel nut flavored blends. If children will be among your dinner guests, don't forget the miniature marshmallows.
  1. For Your Fruit Basket - In the produce aisle gather up a colorful selection of fresh tropical fruits: kiwis, bananas, pineapple, mangos, etc. These will take a bit of preparation. Do you know how to cut a pineapple? It's possible to cut one in under five minutes, but if you don't want to bother, get some pre-cut fruit. Or, if you're guests can be trusted with knives, make a game out of cutting the different fruits. Half the fun of a family gathering is joining in on activities. Even the young kids can help by slicing the bananas with a butter knife. Others can help peel kiwi or cut mango. 
  1. Let Someone Else Do the Baking - In the bakery section of the market forgo the pumpkin pies, apple cider. etc. Instead, choose a simple not-to-sweet crumb cake or a nice crusty loaf of sour dough bread. Be sure you have some butter and jam to go with it.
  2. What's for Dessert? - Tiny chocolate mints wrapped in shiny foil of course! Remember how you made those caramel chews by hand last year that took you an hour to wrap in bits of wax paper. Forget about it. And if Aunt Trudy insists on bringing her homemade peanut butter fudge... don't argue with her, thank her.
  3. Have Fun Shopping - Give a sympathetic smile and nod to any frenzied shoppers who waited until the last minute and are filling their grocery carts with the typical fair: frozen turkeys, stuffing mixes, and pre-baked pumpkin pies. After tossing those candy mints and a package of paper napkins in the cart make a leisurely dash for the check-out aisles.
  4. When You Get Home - Throw the fruit into the fridge for chilling. There is no turkey to thaw out or bread loaves to cube for the stuffing. It's all good. Relax! Curl up on the sofa to watch a rental movie or read a good book.
  5. Go to Bed Early and Sleep in Late - This is my favorite step! No more needs to be said.
  1. One Hour Before Your Guests Arrive - Yank out three wicker baskets or serving size bowls from your kitchen cupboards. If you feel like being festive, you can decorate them with a simple bow or by lining them with colorful napkins. Fill one of these containers with your assorted beverage packets. Put the fruit (to be cut by your guests) in the second container. Arrange crumb cake wedges or slices of bread you purchased from the bakery in the third container.
  2. Relax Already! - Sit yourself down in the living room and put your feet up. Turn on the television if you like and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. After all, you've only been getting glimpses of the parade in past years between painstakingly making radish roses, mashing the boiled potatoes, and frantically rummaging through the cupboards at the last minute looking for your grandmother's gravy boat.
  1. When the Doorbell Rings - Greet your guests warmly with smiles and hugs upon arrival.
  2. Can You Boil Water? - Put the kettle on the stovetop to heat water for the hot beverages. Also set out mugs, small plates, napkins, sugar, honey, and whatever else you like. Fill a small crock or jar with coffee stir sticks, forks, and spoons. If you like, get a little fancy by having a honey pot with spoon for flavoring the tea. Martha Stewart would have made individual honey-dipped and chocolate-dipped spoons a few days prior to her guests ringing the doorbell, but not you! When the kettle whistle blows invite everyone to help themselves.
  3. Be a Relaxed Host - Enjoy the day with your friends and family without the fuss and stresses of preparing a twelve course meal with all the trimmings. 


  1. Use everyday tableware. Forget the china!
  2. Be thankful!
  3. Enjoy yourself.

What You Need:

  • teas, coffee, cocoa
  • pre-baked breads or crumb cake
  • fresh fruit
  • candy mints
  • relaxed state of mind