Welcome to micro-Thanksgiving: a smaller, simpler, equally-filling affair. 


If you’re following CDC recommendations to downsize your family Thanksgiving celebrations this year, your feast may look different than it ever has before. But there’s still plenty to be grateful for! Whether you’re doing the holiday outdoors, solo, or with a partner (slash member of your pod), the feast can still be indulgent, over-the-top, and delicious. Plus, no nagging distant relatives to shake their head at the unwashed sweatpants you’re eating in. It’s 2020, after all: you deserve all the comfort you can get. Don’t be afraid to go all out for your micro-Thanksgiving this year, whatever that means to you. Here’s how.  

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Embrace the Smaller Dish Sizes

Not only does a giant bowl of cranberry sauce or an enormous tray of stuffing not look the most appealing (passed around a table or on Insta), but these oversize condiments are overkill when you're serving Thanksgiving for two. Instead of whipping up a whole batch of sides, cut the recipe in half or in quarters. If the recipe requires baking, here’s your time to shine! Use ramekins, mini pie tins, small bundt cake molds, or other small oven-proof dishes to create single-serving sides (like mac and cheese, creamed spinach, or green bean casserole) for those dining in a socially-distant manner. They look super cute, too. Pop them in the oven as needed, or even freeze some for a fresh holiday meal whenever you want. 

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Prep Early and Efficiently

An entire feast for two is still plenty to prepare, especially if you don't have help. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a multi-course Thanksgiving spread, make a game plan and stick to it. List all the dishes you want to eat on Thanksgiving Day, and start chopping ingredients, prepping proteins, and mixing stuffing early on in the week. That way, when the holiday comes, you can relax more and work less. Because it’s just you, consider mixing your prep work into your Thanksgiving week meal plan. Can you make a spinach salad one day and prep the creamed spinach that afternoon? Can you roast some sweet potatoes for a grain bowl and mash the rest as a Thanksgiving side? Is the grain from your rice bowl a good stuffing addition? Be strategic, and look for ingredients that can do double duty to limit waste and your kitchen workload. 

A Whole Turkey Is Wholly Optional

There’s no hard and fast rule that says you need to cook an entire turkey on Thanksgiving, especially if you just don’t want to. Why bother? Instead, take the day to focus on one complicated cooking project, like nailing the perfect pumpkin pie, and consider just cooking turkey legs, drumsticks, or breasts.

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Outsource the Cooking

If you don’t feel like cooking on a weekday holiday, you have plenty of other fuss-free options. Several restaurants around the country are offering catering and takeout, and 2020 is certainly an excellent time to share your gratitude for a local chef by purchasing food from them (tip well, it’s a holiday!). Several Thanksgiving meals as well as components are also available online. Homesick? Order some regional specialties, like spicy Cajun deep fried turkey from Louisiana or Southern-style mac and cheese from Nashville’s Loveless Cafe.

Consider Alternative Proteins

Absolutely nothing is typical about 2020, so why should your Thanksgiving table aim to replicate years past? Sure, a sense of normalcy can be comforting, but maybe now’s the time to create new traditions that will resurface in the future, and perhaps spark memories that will make 2020 not 100 percent terrible. Meat eaters can consider swapping out an oversize bird for individual cornish hens, a roast duck, or the turkey pieces mentioned above. You can also swap out poultry and splurge on another luxury meat, like lamb shanks, filet mignon, or a nice veal chop. Lobsters? Why not! Wagyu steak? You deserve it. Consider making a whole fish your Thanksgiving signature, and maybe it will be a surprise hit when the family reconvenes in 2021.

Share Your Leftovers

Not sending guests home with doggy bags may just feel wrong, but that doesn’t mean you can’t safely share your extra food. Many cities have installed community refrigerators to serve as safe spaces to leave and pick up food for anyone who needs it (check if prepared food is allowed). See if anyone in your community may need a hot meal on Thanksgiving—essential workers, unhoused people, and busy or sick neighbors may appreciate a wrapped and socially-distant delivery. Drop off goody bags for close-by friends and family, or consider purchasing dry ice at a local ice cream shop to overnight your homemade specialties to a distant loved on on Friday morning. They’ll never forget the Saturday they unboxed a chilled homemade turkey leg and individual serving of corn pudding.