A Winning Holiday Weekend Game Plan

A Winning Holiday Weekend Game Plan

The Halloween candy bowl is still full when November hits like a toddler on a sugar rush. Suddenly, plans for Thanksgiving and rivalry football games scream for attention. Don’t get your drumsticks and pompoms in a tangle; here are some tips – including some double-duty ones – for an easy Thanksgiving and game day.


Make Lists


Start menus and a shopping list now to avoid multiple grocery trips and especially the dreaded Thanksgiving Day forgotten item run. Remember to stock up on the basics for appetizers like sour cream, cream cheese, crackers, meats and relishes. But don’t stop with the grocery list. Keep written holiday and gameday menus handy to avoid finding that special cheese appetizer you bought is still in the fridge two weeks – and too far gone – later.

A list for indoor and outdoor house cleaning helps organize the tasks like fresh guest towels, straightening up the mudroom, blowing off the porches and other special occasion touches. Avoid the temptation to deep clean when there is a turkey to cook and a table to set. Speed cleaning is the key: scrub the areas your family and friends will use the most and give other surfaces a quick wipe. The focus will be on fellowship, not dust bunnies.




Create a warm welcome at the front door with autumn mums or pumpkins. A couple of pretty pots filled with interesting branches and twigs make an easy statement as well. When game day comes, stick some pompoms or other team gear around the outdoor décor to get guests in the spirit. 

Inside, line the table or buffet with small pumpkins and pinecones or place them in a basket for a quick centerpiece. Don’t forget the children’s table. Washable markers and paper placemats give them something fun to do while the grownups visit. 

Whether your meal calls for fancy china or paper plates, set the table or serving area the day before. 

Thanksgiving and game days call for comfort. This is a perfect time to bring out the snuggly throws and pillows because there’s nothing quite like a post-meal nap or a comfy spot for the game.


Nibbles for Days


Make appetizers and gameday food simple and in advance. Charcuterie boards are all the rage and many grocery and specialty stores offer pre-made combinations to transfer to your own board or tray. Add nuts, a homemade or store-bought dip or two, interesting crackers and some fresh or pickled veggies to keep everyone snacking before the big meal or during the big game.

Seasoned cooks know that preparation is the key. Cornbread for dressing, casseroles and meats can be cooked a day or two before and heated for serving (and that wonderful aroma that fills the house). Try to limit the items that must be cooked immediately before serving. If gameday calls for chili, make it ahead and use a slow cooker to reheat. Of course, game day is the perfect time to task the grill masters with the main course.

Take advantage of your family and friends’ generous offers to bring something and, perhaps, focus on desserts or beverages. Since those items are served with or after the main meal, it won’t matter if they’re not there early on.

Finally, consider setting up a beverage station away from the kitchen to improve the traffic flow. A family room corner or even an office can temporarily host the drinks, ice and glasses. If space allows, a coffee bar will be a welcome addition for those needing an after-meal or game caffeine boost.




A 2019 LendingTree survey of 1,000 Americans found one in three Americans planned to host Thanksgiving dinner feeding an average of 10 people, and would spend more than $300, on average, between food and décor. Factor in 2021 prices for even more reasons to reinvent your Thanksgiving food for the holiday weekend football marathon. 

Aunt Martha’s baked ham was a Thanksgiving Day hit and can score again as ham and cheese sliders on game day. Turkey and dressing transform easily into a casserole or yummy Thanksgiving Leftover Bites. These panko-crusted, deep-fried nuggets of turkey and dressing will be a winner no matter who’s team scores. For more ideas check out more Thanksgiving to football recipes here.




Plan a 30-minute respite before family and guests arrive. Put on some music and enjoy the quiet before the storm. Just a few minutes for yourself allows you to greet everyone with an unstressed smile. Houzz.com advises that you should embrace imperfection and accept help for a less stressful and more meaningful holiday. More important than all the preparations are the people and the memories. And don’t forget 365 days of bragging rights.