Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate all that is good in our lives and to spend it in the company of friends and family while enjoying great food. It is also a time to reflect on the bounty of our food supply. Each year, as I put away the leftovers from my Thanksgiving dinner, I marvel at the abundance.
I also can’t avoid pausing to consider how much food is wasted in this country.
USDA estimates that on average, American consumers waste about one-fifth of food that is available to them, equivalent to about $371 per person annually. That’s enough money to buy about 21 whole turkeys for each person in the country.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could make reducing food waste one of our Thanksgiving traditions? A tradition we practice throughout the year?
Reducing food waste starts with meal planning.
Before you start shopping, take stock of what you have in your refrigerator and cupboards so that you don’t end up tossing extras. A friend of mine uses an “Eat Me First” bin, so that the most perishable items are not lost at the back of the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving, using up the food currently in your refrigerator is particularly important to clear room for all of those Thanksgiving ingredients and post-Thanksgiving leftovers. Careful menu planning and portion control helps to minimize waste. When buying a turkey, USDA recommends allowing for one pound of turkey per person.
Thanksgiving leftovers can be substantial, particularly when the gatherings are large. Take time to make sure leftovers are refrigerated within two hours from when they are hot and have guests leave with something tasty to take home and eat later. Leftovers can be delicious and the reason for gathering once more with friends and family.
Many of my friends host Leftover Parties the day after Thanksgiving, which can sometimes spark debate among the partygoers as to whose pecan pie was better. “The Friday after Thanksgiving is like a de facto National Leftovers Day – it’s the one day of the year where almost everyone enjoys leftovers,” says Jonathan Bloom, a food-waste author and blogger. Of course, if you don’t have time to party with leftovers, you can simply store them. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days or safely frozen for up to a year.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to begin food waste reduction strategies in your household that can gradually become habit for every day of the year. No one wants to throw delicious Thanksgiving food into the trash or compost bin, but shouldn’t we treat all food that we eat with the same amount of respect year-round?
So here’s a toast to a Happy and Food Waste Free Thanksgiving.