Flare — dramatic worsening of RA symptoms — seems to occur at the worst possible times. That’s because triggers include stress and overwork. We have two weeks until Thanksgiving, so unless our goal is to flare badly and miss out on all the festivities, a bit of advance planning is needed. Don’t wait until the last minute; start the work now.
Write out your menu. A few years ago, I realized that our menu was way more food than what we really needed. I have no idea why it took me so long to recognize that we were serving two full feasts. My pared-down menu requires about half the work. Nobody feels deprived (that’s why there are still rolls on the menu) and it’s way less work to clean up. Do whatever works for your situation.
Next list all the ingredients that will be needed to prepare your menu. This should eliminate running out of ingredients and needing to make an emergency run to the store. Here is my list; you’ll generate your own based on your specific menu.
Make things easy for next year! Type your list and save it in your computer; you’ll be able to find it next year. You can even slip a holiday notebook onto your cookbook shelves so that the same menu and grocery list can be used every Thanksgiving (and Christmas, if you’re like me).
Check this required-ingredient list against your pantry to determine what you need to get at the grocery store. Don’t wait until next week. Now is a good time to take care of getting your menu planned and your grocery list made. Obviously you won’t want to buy vegetables this soon, but everything else can be done now. Spreading out the work a little-bit-at-a-time helps to minimize RA flares.
Delegate! Just because you’re hosting an event does not mean you have to provide all the food and do all the work. My mom is diabetic, so she is in charge of bringing the cranberry relish that she loves and wants instead of my cranberry sauce. The person who’s celiac is in charge of the GF dinner rolls so that she knows they are safe for her to eat. Another person is asked to bring drinks. Green salad is another thing that’s easy to delegate.
Copy your menu, then work out a schedule of when those things should be prepared. Mine is provided below as an example. How much can be done in advance? The turkey needs to be roasted on Thanksgiving day, but almost everything else can be done ahead.
Everyone’s standards of cleanliness are different. Mine are generally, “clean enough to be healthy; messy enough to be happy,” so I do a little extra right before the holidays. No matter what your personal standards are, if you try to clean your entire house the day before company comes, you’re going to flare and miss out on the fun of having people over. Spread the work out over the next two weeks so that everything gets done without you wearing yourself out. I do a scaled-down spring-cleaning in the fall to get ready for holiday company.
Getting it All Done
Choosing a couple jobs a day makes all the cleaning and meal prep realistic instead of flare-inducing. Make yourself a little calendar and spread the jobs out over the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Here’s my plan:
This lets me do just a few jobs each day so that I’m not too tired, and it gets things done Thursday morning with minimal effort. I’m able to sit and visit with family and friends instead of rushing around, stressed about getting everything done.
Serving the Meal
Gone are the days of multiple serving dishes so that both tables are set completely. Gone are the days of taking forever to fill everyone’s glasses. Gone are the days of taking two hours to clean up after dinner. Life is so much easier now! I serve Thanksgiving dinner buffet-style. The plates go in a pile on the counter. People get their own drinks. The food is arranged so that everyone can walk through the kitchen to fill their plates, then head to a table to sit and eat. The table isn’t too crowded; there isn’t a side-board set up to hold the salad and dressings that won’t fit on the table. Cleanup goes much faster with half the serving dishes. It’s much less work this way and everyone still enjoys a nice meal together.
Thanksgiving, like the rest of life with RA, goes much more smoothly when we learn to pace ourselves.