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6 Ways to Reduce Food Waste This Thanksgiving

Turkey going into oven for Thanksgiving food waste blog

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and, for many of us, that means gatherings with family and friends. Those holiday get-togethers may be extra special this year, given that most celebrations were virtual last year.

No matter how big or small your gathering may be, let’s take a moment to think about how we can reduce our waste!

We’ve all been there…

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each year, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food. That’s about 1,160 pounds of food. And on Turkey day alone, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation reports we’re tossing 200 million pounds of turkey, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 million pounds of stuffing… and when packed in landfill without sunlight and oxygen, it all takes longer to biodegrade and emits methane gas more potent than carbon.

Here are 6 easy steps to reduce some of that waste and save money in the process:

Woman grocery shopping with child for reducing Thanksgiving food waste blog

  1. Plan Your Meal in Advance

Make a grocery list! This will help so you don’t buy more than you need. It will also, hopefully, cut down on the number of trips you make to the store. For help thinking through it all, we like Save The Food’s Meal Prep Mate and Party Guest-imator calculator.

If you’re cooking a turkey, a good rule of thumb is to plan for a pound per person, or a pound and a half if you want leftovers. If you’re having a smaller gathering this year, but don’t want to cut back on your favorite side dishes, consider cutting recipes in half. Another option, have your guests bring a side dish. This will help the host save both time and money.

Vegetables in baskets

  1. Eat Less Meat

The meat industry is actually the number one source of methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change. That’s according to Harvard University’s EcoOpportunity Team. This year, try filling your plate with more healthy sides and less meat.

Here’s a few places for inspiration:

Woman with food looking at computer for ways to reduce food waste at Thanksgiving blog

  1. Reduce and Reuse

I’m sure we are all familiar with that guest (who me?!) whose eyes are bigger than their stomach. They fill their plate full of Thanksgiving goodness, but half of it ends up in the garbage. Let your guests serve themselves so they only take what they want. To avoid someone overfilling their plate, use smaller plates.

To cut back on plastic use, set the table with reusable dinnerware, glassware and napkins.

If you’re going to a restaurant or ordering carry-out, see if you can bring your own to-go container.

Need more environment-friendly food storage options? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! Click here.

Leftovers in eco-friendly reusable food storage

  1. Get Creative with Leftovers & Save the Scraps

When it comes to leftovers, place food in clear containers marked with the contents and dates. This will help you remember what’s in the fridge and how old it is. If you have guests who want leftovers, let them choose their favorite dishes so their take-away containers will be foods they will actually eat and enjoy.

If you freeze scraps like vegetable peelings and meat trimmings you can use them later for broths and soups.

You can also use scraps or leftovers for other meals. Here are a few ideas:

  • season potato peelings and bake them into chips
  • sauté extra chopped onions to make some recipe-ready caramelized onions
  • take extra rolls or bread that is getting stale and make bread pudding
  • use leftover mashed potatoes to make fritters
  • turkey bones could be used for homemade turkey stock
  • you could make turkey chili with extra turkey meat
  • extra buttermilk or cream could go into a French toast batter

Food scraps going into compost bucket

  1. Compost

Some of the foods you don’t eat may be able to help the environment. Do you have a garden? Composting food scraps can help it grow. You could also look for a local community compost collection or drop-off.

Composting returns nutrients to the soil and allows food to break down naturally. Just remember to only compost organics and keep produce stickers, plastic bags, utensils etc. out of there! Snag our countertop compost bags and check out our composting blog for more on how to get started.

Food going into donation box for low waste Thanksgiving blog

  1. Donate

Do you have extra canned goods that haven’t been opened? Consider donating them to your local food bank to help those in need.

Those are just some examples of how you can help reduce waste this Thanksgiving. By keeping food out of landfills you can help the climate, your community and your wallet. In this season of giving, let’s give back to the environment! And in the process, you might even get a new favorite recipe or tradition out of it.

Here at Sustainable Travel & Living we’re so thankful for your support that let’s us try and make a difference together. Happy Thanksgiving from our team to you and yours!