I feel like every year Thanksgiving creeps up out of nowhere. With the holiday right around the corner, I wanted to share the easiest spread to recreate for your Thanksgiving table. Today’s post will get you ready for the big Turkey day with friends and family.
From prep week, to menu planning, I know you’ve got this, friends! I teamed up with the incredible Jaime Roberts to help me create this gorgeous table and buffet. I was in charge of the food, and she was in charge of the decor. Honestly, I still can’t believe how easy it was for her to transform my space. But as we start to plan, prep and execute Thanksgiving, here are my 5 tips to an effortless Thanksgiving buffet and how these tips can make your life a little easier for the holidays
5 Tips To An Effortless Thanksgiving Buffet
Get Organized And Prep Your Menu And Cooking
One week out from Thanksgiving you’ll want to begin prepping your menu and your day. Figure out how much food you’ll need, which dishes you want to make and what platters you’ll be putting them on. By making a big list of the ingredients you need, what needs to be made when and where dishes need to go, you’ll be able to more easily visualize your Thanksgiving Day. It’ll feel SO much less overwhelming. From there, you can then plan your Thanksgiving day based on what time things need to go in the oven, be taken out, and so on.
Keep Your Dishes Simple
I really don’t think you have to fuss a ton for Thanksgiving. I know we all want to go above and beyond. But you really don’t HAVE to. Having a few standout dishes that are simple will make life so much easier. For today’s menu, we did roasted sweet potatoes with maple and walnut syrup. Simple sauteed green beans topped with lemon and parmesan cheese. And my Mom’s classic stuffing with Italian sausage. A few other simple dishes you can add are obviously my warm autumn salad, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes which are always easy to whip up. The holiday is already hectic, so keep your dishes simple. No matter how simple your dishes are, the amount of dishes you make takes up time. So simple is always best! The sheer amount of food will feel over the top, so don’t stress about trying new and difficult dishes.
Have A Few Easy Dessert Options & Store Bought Is Fine Too
Dessert is always a favorite part of the holidays. While a pumpkin pie is easy to make, so is a trifle and it’s a little unexpected. I love this cranberry trifle because it brings in fall flavors and is so easy to make. Plus, the cranberry compote for the layers made SO much that we used it as our cranberry sauce for turkey knocking out two dishes at once. Also, be sure to make a double batch of the whipped cream and use it as a whipped topping to top all of your desserts and fruit for the holiday. So much easier than making or buying all separate items. Don’t be afraid to take some help from the store, too. Or to delegate this portion of the meal out. People LOVE to bring dessert anyway, so lean into that so it’s one less thing on your to-do list.
You can check out this holiday dessert bar that’s easy to recreate!
Shop & Cook Early
My mom is the absolute queen of this. I remember leading up to holidays that there was always a ton of stuff in our fridge and it was always off-limits. She was always super prepared and had a giant list of things to do which made it all so much easier. The great news is that a lot of these recipes can be made ahead of time. The cranberry trifle is easy to make a day or two in advance and just assemble the night before. Sweet potatoes can be prepped and ready to bake before T-Day. Stuffing is easily made a couple of days before and popped into the oven to cook through and the same with mac and cheese. Add all of this to your planning list!
Ask For Help!
I’m guilty of NOT asking for help. But sometimes you just need to. Guests always (or at least hopefully) ask if they can bring anything. Don’t be shy to specify! Need more alcohol for your party? Tell friends to bring over wine, not dessert. Not much of a baker? Ask friends to bring their favorite sweet treat over to share for an epic dessert spread. Everyone ALWAYS asks what to bring, so when they do, recommend something that will benefit your menu instead of working against it. And yes, you can totally buy something storebought (these are a few of my favorites!)
How To Set Up A Thanksgiving Buffet Table
Now that you know exactly what you are making and how many guests you’ll be having for your Thanksgiving buffet, it’s time to actually set it up! There’s definitely a method to the madness of getting it just right and looking beautiful. Here are a few of my go-to tips when creating any buffet table for entertaining, especially for the holidays.
Step One – Pull Out Your Dishes & Plates For Your Planned Menu
Get your menu together and pull out all of the plates and dishes necessary. Add a post-it note to each dish so you know which is which. Don’t forget your dinner plates as well. If you’ll be placing them on the corner to grab to start the buffet, or adding them to your tablescape and informing guests to pull them for dinner.
Step Two – Decide On A Buffet Line Flow
Think about how you fill your plate and arrange your dishes in that order. You’ll want to maybe start with your turkey and move down the line with your sides. Keep any dressings near the items they accompany.
Keep in mind your desserts as well. You may need a separate table for this which is fine! You can also set them up on a separate table to be on display (I placed mine on my bar and decorated them there) and once the meal is over, easily swap out the food and move your desserts over. Then you’ll have the perfect Thanksgiving dessert buffet as well!
Step Three – Add Height + Interest
Once your dishes are placed, begin to add height and interest. It’s amazing what putting a dish on a small bowl can do to create some interest. Use any bowls, cake stands or even square baking dishes to add some height. And you can cover this all with a tablecloth if your pieces don’t really match. Just do a couple, not everything. Also, adding height to the items in the back or on the corners is a good place to start! You can then add in some seasonal items like fruit or greenery to add more interest to your buffet.
Get The Recipes
Cranberry Ginger Trifle • Italian Thanksgiving Stuffing • Sautéed Garlic Green Beans • Sweet Potatoes With Walnut Maple Syrup
You can see the before of this buffet area here. It’s where I hang my hats, and keep a few plants, books and photos. We took it all down to transform the area for the holidays and the before and after are insane! All it took was swapping out the hats for a stunning starburst mirror then draped in the most gorgeous garland that Jaime made. Okay, so it wasn’t THAT easy. The garland takes some time, but it’s actually fairly simple. You can check out the simple garland DIY here. Personally, I love that she went off-centered with it. It’s a bit more of a modern, cool twist.
Throughout the buffet, we added a few orange pomanders (check out the easy DIY here), and mini Christmas trees to add some texture and round it all out. With some pretty dishes, florals and a few more sprigs of greenery, the buffet was complete.
Photos by Hannah Michelle // Florals by ATL Petal Peddler // Styling by Jaime Roberts Designs