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Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Whether you've done that a lot over the years or this is your first time, we hope these planning-ahead tips will help you enjoy the holiday with less stress.

My first Thanksgiving of making pretty much the entire meal by myself (in our first small apartment), I was stressing out about how everything would be ready at the same time (seemed like so many things needed to be in the oven for different times and some at different temperatures). How was I going to make it all work?

My husband helped me sit down and make a list of all that I wanted to make, including cooking or baking times and temperatures, etc. Then we started working backwards and planning which items could be made ahead a day or two, what could be reheated easily after cooking earlier in the day or the night before, and which items could be in the oven at the same time. It worked so very well!

Except, of course, that I messed up the cornbread dressing that first year - misunderstood the handwritten recipe I had from my mom and put in a can of something instead of a cup of something, and ended up with dressing that came out fairly runny. But overall it was a great success and we enjoyed our meal; and I figured out why the dressing was messed up so I didn't make that mistake again -- a good life lesson, always learning from our mistakes.

So, here we go with three tips to make your special day easier.

1. Pies and desserts are the easiest thing to make a day or two in advance and check those off your to-do list early. Additionally, while made-from-scratch desserts are so good, taking shortcuts like using mixes or refrigerated pie crusts can definitely help make your life easier; give yourself some grace and take shortcuts when possible.

2. If you are making cornbread dressing, bake up the cornbread a couple of days beforehand, crumble it, and store in an airtight container until you are ready to use it. Chop up the other ingredients the night before as well.

3. Put your crockpot to use, especially if you are low on oven or stove space. Choose a potato, sweet potato, or green been casserole type dish that can be prepared in the crockpot instead of the oven on the big day.

Don't be afraid to delegate tasks that are not in your comfort zone. Ask others to bring part of the meal or hand off the table decor to another family member (or keep it simple with a tablecloth and a few votive candles or mini pumpkins).

For conversation around the dinner table, I love these printable Thanksgiving dinner conversation starters from The Pinning Mama (or search around the internet for other ideas). It's a fun thing to add to your traditions this year.

Grab your free downloadable printable complete Thanksgiving Dinner Planner with plan-ahead and make-ahead steps starting with the week before Thanksgiving, including full recipes, decorating tips, and detailed instructions to take the stress out of your Thanksgiving dinner and holiday weekend and take the stress out of your holiday.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dinner traditions (or maybe one of your most memorable Thanksgiving dinner fails)? I love hearing your stories!

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