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How to Prevent Thanksgiving Food Waste

Thanksgiving is one of the two largest meals of the year (along with Christmas). Your dinner may feature turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, green beans, salad, casseroles, pies, cookies, cakes, and the list goes on. That’s a lot of food getting eaten, but there is also a lot of food that goes uneaten!

Did You Know: Close to $300 million worth of turkey is thrown away every year! That’s enough turkey to feed every needy household in the U.S. many times over.

If you want to know how to prevent Thanksgiving food waste, here are a few tips to help you out:

Make a leftovers plan – To ensure that nothing goes to waste, have a plan for any leftovers. You may have a plan to make cold turkey sandwiches the next day, or make a delicious turkey broth or soup. You can turn the mashed potatoes into a shepherd’s pie, serve the sweet potatoes as a dessert, and turn the green bean casserole into a delicious blended soup. Make a plan to ensure none of the leftovers go to waste.

Cook less – This may be sacrilegious to some people, but it’s one of the best ways to reduce Thanksgiving food waste. If you only cook enough, you won’t have to worry about leftovers! Get rid of the less popular dishes, and only cook food that you know will be eaten. It’s always nice to have leftovers, but it’s better to clear your plate than throw away leftovers.

Get a head count — How many people are ACTUALLY going to attend the dinner? Are you expecting any of your family to bring a plus one, or do you know the head count for the dinner? Once you know how many people are attending, you can cook for that many people exactly.

Send food home – Instead of keeping all the leftovers to yourself, why not send the food home with your guests? You can buy a few Tupperware containers to pack all the leftovers in, and have your guests take the food home to enjoy the next day. If you spread out the leftovers between the guests, everyone will only take home a little bit–enough to eat, but not so much that food is wasted.

Size the dishes right – Are you cooking an enormous turkey to feed just five or six people? Do you have a 20-potato bowl of mashed potatoes? Are you serving three pies to people who have just eaten far more food than they should have? Don’t overdo it on the dish sizes, no matter how much you enjoy cooking. Make your meals just large enough for your family to enjoy, and no more! It will reduce food waste drastically.

Freeze what you can – You may not want to freeze mashed potatoes or candied yams, but you can certainly free ham or turkey leftovers. Carve the meat away from the bone, place the meat in plastic freezer bags, and set aside some to freeze. You can always defrost it down the line and use it for soups, stews, casseroles, and sandwiches. You’d be amazed by how delicious it is weeks after Thanksgiving!

Empty your fridge – Want to make sure you have enough space for all of your leftovers? Empty out your fridge in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Make sure to eat all of your old leftovers, and leave the fridge empty of any Tupperware containers. That way, you’ll have more than enough space for the new leftovers you are going to store after Thanksgiving is over.

Follow these tips, and you’ll drastically reduce Thanksgiving food waste!


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