Tips for Reducing Your Food Waste This Thanksgiving


#WhyWasteFoodWednesday is a call to action to take those almost-in-the-trash food items and turn them into delicious meals!

At least 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year around the world—in fields, during transport, in storage, at restaurants, and in our homes! If each individual made a call to action to stop their own food waste–the planet benefits, we have less hunger, and your own grocery bills will go down through the savings.

UN Food & Agricultural

How to Reduce Food Waste at Thanksgiving Dinner

Food waste is a year-round concern, and the large Thanksgiving meal can present a challenge. You’re buying many more ingredients, and you’re making large-scale recipes with lots of potential leftovers. You may be preoccupied with the business of the holiday season, so keeping your food waste in mind can become a small concern. But there are easy ways to reduce food waste and, therefore your environmental impact, even around the holidays. Here are a few tips geared toward Thanksgiving dinner.

Plan How Much Food to Make

Until you know how many people you’re cooking for, you’ll be unable to plan portions accurately. Press for answers and get people to commit. Not only will this ensure you’re not overcooking, it will also benefit party planning in general.

Make an Entire Thanksgiving with Fewer Ingredients 

The variety of dishes is a key part of Thanksgiving dinners. Part of the problem is that it can mean separate lists of ingredients for every recipe. But it’s ok if there’s some overlap between your courses; it’s smart, thrifty, and eco-friendly, because it means less packaging and less of a chance that you’re going to have lots of half-used bottles and cans hanging around your fridge or pantry waiting to go bad. Even better, synchronizing ingredients and flavors can make your meal seem like a well-thought-out package and make you look like a genius menu planner. 

Use Every Ingredient Wisely

After you’ve shopped and before you reach the leftovers phase, there are ways to make smart use of the extra bits of various ingredients. A great read is a piece by Food editor Joe Yonan’s; “root-to-leaf and seed-to-stem cooking.” He shows you how to use the more expected seeds and the less expected peels of butternut squash for a crispy garnish that would work on any soup or salad. When you have peels left from an apple pie, toss them with cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice and then bake them to make crisps. At the very least, hang on to scraps for vegetable broth. Freeze the scraps, or make the broth and then freeze that.

The same line of thought applies to whatever meat you may be serving, as well. Rendered or strained fat can be refrigerated and saved for roasting vegetables or sautéing ingredients for hash made from leftovers. Get the most out of your turkey carcass by simmering them with some aromatics for an outstanding stock to be used in future soups. Giblets included with your turkey can become part of the dressing or gravy. Extra pie crust or crust trimmings can be brushed in butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, twisted into any shape you want and baked for a quick sweet treat.

How to Use and Store Leftovers

Even if you’ve calculated the exact amount for the number of people at your Thanksgiving, you’re probably going to end up with at least some leftovers. And, to many, leftovers are an important part of Thanksgiving.

To prepare, have lots of containers for packing up food on hand. Your usual glass or plastic hard-sided options are perfect. If you’re planning to send guests home with food, consider asking them to bring their own storage containers. That way, no one is scrambling when it comes time to pack up.

And be mindful of how long food is put out for. Perishable food, including turkey and many sides, can be left at room temperature for 2 hours. Even less is better, so as soon as everyone is done eating, start cleaning up, as much of a drag as it can be. Eat your refrigerated leftovers within four days. If you need to buy yourself more time, go ahead and freeze them before the four days are out, though ideally sooner for the best quality. Hand out leftovers to guests when they leave.

Krystal, B. (2022, November 10). Advice | how to reduce food waste at Thanksgiving dinner. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 14, 2022.

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1 Comment

  1. Rich Hamilton.
    November 20, 2022

    My employer provided all the employees a free 18 lb. Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving. We have other plans and would like to donate the turkey to a good cause. The turkey is still frozen.

    If this will go to a good cause, I’d like to help. You can call me at 562-212-0759.

    If I don’t hear from you by Monday, I will redirect the offering.

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