5 ways to cut down on Thanksgiving food waste

Whether you’re planning the menu, hosting the dinner, or coming as a guest, these tips minimize food waste and maximize savings.

This year, some 204 million pounds of Thanksgiving turkey meat – at a cost of $277 million – will get tossed in the trash. We should be ashamed of ourselves! Not only is it an insult to the birds who don’t exactly volunteer for their role in this debacle, but it’s also a tragic waste of the natural resources that go into raising the food and getting it to where it needs to be. Not to mention that one in eight Americans go hungry; what an embarrassing privilege it is to waste food, especially on a holiday centered around giving thanks.

But not to proselytize. Instead: tips! Everyone can use good advice on not wasting food, even preachy people like me, so I’m grateful for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s ( NRDC) Save The Food campaign that they are promoting in collaboration with the Ad Council. The idea is to help consumers waste less food – since 40 percent of food in America is wasted – and there’s no better time to start talking turkey, so to speak, than Thanksgiving.

The following tips from the campaign come from food-waste guru Dana Gunders – who is also an author and a scientist, which must be why these ideas are so smart!

Plan portions appropriately: Note for people that “there will be a lot of food” at the feast! If ten people come for dinner, and they all bring a dish for ten, that’s ten servings each person has to eat. And for fear of running out, most of us usually bring even more than that. Giving your guests permission to bring just a little less – perhaps enough for eight – will cut down on the overall excess. Consider buying a slightly smaller turkey as well.

Plan for leftovers: Who wants to get up and go shopping in the post-T-Day coma? If you’re a turkey sandwich fan, make sure you have bread. Turkey soup? Get those ingredients. You can find lots of tips on efficient meal planning here.

Share the wealth: Tell your guests to bring containers or be sure you have ample supply on hand so that everyone can leave with a bit of the feast for the next day. If you’re a guest, you don’t have to “be polite” and insist on bringing nothing home. Think of it in a different way – perhaps, instead, it’s rude to leave your hosts with the burden of eating all those leftovers!

Cook creatively: There are plenty of recipes to help use up all that leftover turkey-everything from the standard turkey sandwich to turkey banh mi. Whatever your mood, there’s a way to wrap leftovers into it. has a great ” scraps falafel ” recipe I love – perfect for the pile of potatoes in the fridge!

Don’t forget about your freezer: If all else fails, almost any extras you have can be popped into the freezer for enjoyment at a later time.

For more information and ideas, visit the

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