8 Ways to Reduce Thanksgiving Food Waste

Nov 2, 2016
8 Ways to Reduce Thanksgiving Food Waste

What happens after the big Thanksgiving meal? Most of your family enters the “food coma” stage, while you’re desperately searching for extra space in your refrigerator for the leftovers. What do you do with all that food? More importantly, are you sharing your ideas with your clients?

At the holidays, we tend to prepare way too much food. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans will toss about 5 million tons of food – a large portion of the more than 34 million tons we waste every year. Food waste is harmful to our environment, our communities and our health; it’s the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in landfills. Hunger affects more than 49 million Americans, but reducing food waste by just 20 percent would feed half that population.

How do we turn the tide? How can health professionals make a difference? It all starts at home – your home and your clients’ homes. Here are eight ways we can all do more for the environment this holiday season, plus a few creative recipes to prepare with all those Thanksgiving leftovers.

  1. Don’t overbuy.
    The most expensive food is what you end up throwing away. If you’re serving turkey, buy 1 pound per guest (if you do want leftovers) or ¾ pound per guest (if you do not want leftovers). Note that leftover turkey does make some great leftover dishes, and can be frozen for up to seven months.
  2. Cook with care.
    We get so busy with conversations or phone calls during meal preparation, we get distracted. Stay focused during this process. Burning or overcooking food leads to food waste.
  3. Serve just enough.
    Our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs, especially at holiday meals! Try using smaller plates so that you and your guests start with smaller portions. You can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry. This helps control food waste and your waistline.
  4. Save what will keep.
    Wrap and freeze leftovers. This will save you time on meal preparation later on.
  5. Clean out the fridge.
    Do you have “a little bit of this or that” in your refrigerator? Those are great to add into a salad or soup.
  6. Host a potluck.
    Assign certain favorite dishes to family members to bring to the big meal. Most people like to contribute, and this will prevent you from having so many leftovers.
  7. Share your leftovers.
    Surplus food can always be given away. You may take an extra holiday plate to an elderly neighbor or take surplus goods to a shelter. There are usually other people who can benefit from your leftovers!
  8. Repurpose your favorites.
    Leftover cranberry sauce? No problem. Add it to pancake or muffin batter; stir it in oatmeal; use it as a sandwich spread; make it a coating for pork roast – so many ways to use it.

Remake these family favorites with turkey instead of chicken:

With the rest of the meal, try these creative recipes:

Learn more about how our dairy farmers are reducing their carbon footprint and helping fight hunger in our region. And try out more of our favorite recipes!