Our Food Editor's Best Hacks for Hosting a Stress-Free Friendsgiving
‘Tis the season for thankfulness, camaraderie, and perhaps most importantly, all the best food. And as the senior associate food editor for Better Homes & Gardens, this year marks the seventh annual Friendsgiving I’ve hosted (or cohosted) since my group of wine- and party-loving girlfriends declared the tradition. After seven years, I’ve mastered the art of a stress-free Friendsgiving—and I’m sharing my best secrets with you.
Friendsgiving is a non-traditional holiday held before or after official Thanksgiving. It supplements family traditions and gives foodie friends the chance to experiment with new recipes—because you know Granny’s not letting anyone else make the pumpkin pie on actual Thanksgiving.
Related: Plan Your First Friendsgiving
This is the time to gather your squad and show appreciation for your friend group, much like you do you’re your family around the Thanksgiving dinner table. My crew has grown with new friends, spouses, and babies, but it’s always a night of delicious food, lots of wine, and feeling all the love and thankfulness for friends who have become family. It can be tempting to go all-out for an event that celebrates the people we care about most—and that can quickly eat up a lot of time, energy, and money. Here are a few of my favorite Friendsgiving ideas and entertaining moves for keeping your celebration low-stress and thrifty, without sacrificing any part of the celebration.
Buy the Turkey
Hear me out—Friendsgiving is all keeping things casual. Do you know what’s not casual? Thawing a giant bird in your tiny kitchen and then stressing over the potential of giving your friends food poisoning. The last few years we’ve ordered a whole smoked turkey from a local barbecue joint to finish off our Friendsgiving menu. It’s affordable, feeds 15+ people, and comes in a ready-to-heat bag on a foil pan. All you have to do is take a pre-party drive to pick up your bird, and dinner’s only a carve away. The added cost of buying a pre-cooked turkey is totally worth the time you’ll save. Plus, there may be a small turkey shortage this year—so ordering the bird ahead of time could save you a lot of stress at the grocery store.
Start a Sharable Sign-Up
The easiest way to keep your gathering frugal is to declare a Friendsgiving potluck. Once the date is set, take advantage of free and shareable sign-ups to corral potluck contributions. Google Drive is free, super-intuitive, and gives your guests a line-up of what to expect for dinner. Plus, it ensures you don’t end up with six green bean casseroles. If you want to send Friendsgiving invites via snail mail, just be sure to include the link information somewhere on the invitation. We've got plenty of free Friendsgiving invites you can print and send for an in-person or virtual Friendsgiving gathering.
Note: Duplicate stuffing and pie contributions are always OK in my book!
Keep Decor Minimal—Or Skip It All Together
Friendsgiving isn’t the occasion for your wedding china or cloth napkins. I'm all for keeping Friendsgiving decor as casual as possible—consider permission granted to use themed plates (6$, Crate & Barrel), paper napkins, and a craft paper runner ($10, Target) if you’re feelin’ fancy. Set out colored pencils and markers and let guests decorate and label their dishes directly on the paper runner.
Try New Riffs on Classic Recipes
I revel in the opportunity to try those funky recipes that might not fly as well at my family’s classic Thanksgiving dinner. Curried butterscotch pie, miso-spiked mashed potatoes, pulled turkey egg rolls—I’m here for all of it! This is also a great time to declare a theme: Have guests choose menu items from our soul food Thanksgiving menu or seafood-inspired Thanksgiving menu.
Supplement your Friendsgiving food menu with a few bottles of bubbly. Ask everyone to bring a bottle of wine to share, and let them know they don't need to splurge—now is the perfect time to unload that bottle of Moscato your neighbor brought over this summer! Dry Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and red and white blends are all safe bets. My motto? The more, the merrier.
Leftovers Are Fair Game—And the Dishes Can Wait
Let everybody snack on non-perishable leftovers throughout the night, send friends home with what you won’t eat in the next few days, and get excited to work your way through the remains of the night’s best contributions. Before the gathering begins, stock up on paper takeout containers ($4, Party City) so you don't have to hand out dishes that you likely won't get back. I never regret leaving the clean-up for the following morning: A pot of coffee, a loud playlist, and an hour later I’m already planning my next get-together.
Related: Friendsgiving Hosting Hacks