Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the bounty we receive due the hard work of farmers and ranchers. Much of that bounty, however, is wasted in uneaten food, dumped leftovers, and disposable table settings. Americans will waste 25 million additional tons of food and materials during the holiday season. That is a staggering 1 million tons per week! Take simple steps to reduce your waste and respect the harvest this Thanksgiving.
Food is key component of all holiday celebrations. With so much good food, here’s how you can make sure that favorite comfort food is good for the planet too.
· Support a local farmer! Buy your holiday staples from local, sustainable farmers and ranchers who grow and raise healthy products.
· Before heading to the store, inventory your fridge and pantry to see what you have already. We all have cans hiding in the back corner we forgot were there. There’s not reason to buy more of what you already have.
· Plan your menu and have a head count. Planning your holiday menu and building a grocery list based on that menu cuts waste by lessening tempting purchases that don’t make it to the table. A head count will help you increase or decrease recipe measurements to the correct proportions, making it easier to buy just the right amount of ingredients.
· Repurpose turkey giblets, stale bread, and other “waste.” Remember Grandma’s to die for gravy? Chances are she used turkey giblets to flavor the family favorite. Using parts of the bird that normally go in the trash is a great way to pump up flavor while reducing what ends up in a landfill. Stale bread makes great croutons and breadcrumbs. That mound of veggie tops and roots? Make homemade soup stock and freeze for an easy addition to any recipe.
· Ask your guests to help you! If your guests are bringing sides, desserts, or are helping you prepare the meal, ask them bring those oh so good cookies on a reusable plate or bring their casserole in a recyclable container. In return, send everyone home with a plate of leftovers so they can continue to enjoy a delicious turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes days later.
Some people donate their leftovers to community food programs but this can be tricky. While a wonderful gesture your leftovers may end up in the trash instead of on someone’s plate. Food safety, allergies, and storage space are all concerns of programs, which may mean your donation goes uneaten. While working at A Place to Turn, I personally had to sort through countless boxes of expired canned goods that were given to us through donation drives and holiday collections. Tossing well meaning, but 5 year old canned cranberry, is heartbreaking. That food shouldn't end up in a dumpster, it should end up filling the belly of someone in need. Be thoughtful with your donations. You don't want your rusting can of pumpkin and nor do our clientele and their families. If you wouldn't eat, don't donate it.
Good intentions don’t prevent food sickness. I caution donating prepared foods but if you would like to provide for those in need, make a monetary donation. The organization you donate to will know how to use your gift in the most effective way.
There are many more ways to revamp our holiday traditions to make them even more delicious, less wasteful, and enjoyable for everyone. Do you have a creative way to reduce holiday food waste?