Avoiding Food Waste this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday of abundance. Tables overflowing with turkey and tofurkey (for the weird cousins), grandma’s 20-ingredient stuffing, rolls and buns galore, that weird cranberry jello thing no one wants to touch, and at least, like, 10 different pies. Crowded around the table are family members of all shapes and sizes—some too small to reach the table or cut their own turkey, others so old bits of mashed potato blend into white beards. Among the family and the food is song, laughter, wine, and of course an argument or two (or ten) about politics with grandpa. Yet nothing is more abundant (as cheesy as it sounds) as the love in the room, family united by food for another year of giving thanks.

This abundance has only one foreseeable downside, other than jabbing fingers over the midterm results. Americans throw out on average 200 million pounds over turkey over Thanksgiving, along with millions more pounds of Thanksgiving fare and less-loved vegetables (or weird jello dishes). On Thanksgiving alone, Americans throw away $277 million worth of wholesome, delicious food; over the course of the entire year, that number reaches $165 billion, or close to $3,000 for the average family.

This is nothing less than a tragedy when one in eight Americans go hungry each day. This is an issue near and dear to the work we do here at Last Call, working with restaurants and grocery stores to ensure good food goes to those who need it, but what happens at the Thanksgiving table is ultimately up to you and your family. Here are some ideas for avoiding food waste this Thanksgiving you can share with the whole crew around the table:

  • Freeze leftovers! Freezing food can keep it good for months, saving it for when you’re next craving that turkey sandwich.
  • Spread the love! Send those sweet, mashed, and baked potatoes home with friends and family. While it is difficult to donate prepared food, there may be neighbors or friends in need who would love a fresh-baked casserole.
  • Use the Guest-Imator. This excellent tool helps you estimate the amount of food you need to prepare based on the number of people coming to your table (and the size of their appetite).
  • Create new, even better dishes with your leftovers. That weird jello thing has to have some use, right?

Using a few simple tricks and tools can massively cut down on the amount of food wasted over the holiday, and make more people (and the planet) happier in the process. If you have time, consider volunteering (preferably not on the actual holiday, as there is often an overabundance of volunteers) by delivering meals to people in need, working at a soup kitchen, or donating non-perishable items to your local food bank. There are many ways to give back, and give thanks, this Thanksgiving. Let’s all start by not wasting the abundance of food we put so much of our love into!