How to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving

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How to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving | I LOVE Thanksgiving. It’s one of the few times a year that I get to spend time with family from afar and enjoy home cooked meals that remind me of my childhood.

But what I don’t like about Thanksgiving, aside from the history of slaughtering indigenous people for land and the fact that about 46 million factory-farmed turkeys are processed,  is the excessive amount of food waste.

We already waste nearly 40% of our food per year according to the USDA and when it comes to Thanksgiving alone, Americans will waste $277 million worth. Yea, it sucks. Oh and that’s about 200 million pounds of turkey wasted. Let that soak in.

It’s just too much and it’s time we become a little more mindful of our holiday consumption, starting with food.

How to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving

How to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving

Last Revised: 11/7/2020

If you’re hosting:

Get An Accurate Head Count

Knowing exactly how many will be in attendance allows you to prepare exactly enough food. Without so much excess, you can eliminate the need to figure out what to do with all of those leftovers in the first place.

Don’t Encourage Everyone to Bring a Side

Keep Thanksgiving Sides at a Minimum

I know it’s easy to include “Bring a side dish!” on the Thanksgiving invitation but that’s just inviting too much food. 30 dessert options? Come on now. I would ask only a few to help out with sides and desserts.

Keep it Simple

Come up with a menu and stick to it. The simpler the better. By keeping the menu concise, you eliminate the need for dozens of ingredients that could end up getting tossed. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.

Create a Leftover Station

Pack Thanksgiving Leftovers into Jars

Make it fun and easy for your guests to take food home by setting up a Leftover Station. Bring out the Quart sized Mason jars and fill them with leftover goodness for guests to take as they depart. Leave a few empty ones so that guests can fill their own. Leave the pumpkin pies in the fridge, though. You keep those babies to yourself. You deserve it!


Don't forget to Compost your Extra Thanksgiving Waste

You will always have those whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. If you can, set out a bin for guests to scrape their food scraps. Try to separate the meat out if you can – or if you’re like me and have ample room for composting in your yard, just throw it all in. I mean, it’s better than going into the garbage.

If you’re a guest:

Eat What You Serve Yourself

I know it looks all too delicious but, trust me, the food isn’t going anywhere. Pace yourself. Only get what you can eat so you have room for pie later.

Bring Your Own To-Go Containers

Related: Zero Waste Kit; Thanksgiving Edition

Leftovers from Thanksgiving are literally the best. I don’t think there is an argument to that, right? Eating leftovers from Thanksgiving not only prevents food from being wasted, it saves you money by not needing to buy groceries for a couple of days.

For everyone:

Get Creative or Freeze

Get creative with those leftovers if they begin to feel repetitive and “blah”. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes online that will spark some inspiration to transform that stuffing and cranberry sauce. My favorite way to transform those leftovers is throwing it all into a casserole. So. Good. But seriously, do Thanksgiving leftovers ever get old? Well, I guess if they do then freeze them for later. Simple as that.

Do you have any amazing recipes for leftover cranberry sauce? Asking for a friend…

For more tips on reducing your waste on Thanksgiving, check out 6 Tips for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving.

5 thoughts on “How to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving

  1. I just started on this journey and needed some help on how to go about thanksgiving – we’re hosting, and these are great ideas!! We still have a trash can in the kitchen as we transition but am definitely getting the compost bin front and center that day for folks to place their food scraps as well as asking them to bring containers for them to take home leftovers. Thanks!!

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