Thanksgiving is special because the meal is the holiday, as opposed to the meal being a tradition used to help celebrate. As a result, we tend to go a bit overboard with food. These family meals are a wonderful way to celebrate and bring people together, but it adds up to a significant amount of food waste. A study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that well over 100 billion pounds of food is thrown away every year. Most of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills. But, by planning and following these tricks, you can be green and give thanks. Follow these six food waste reduction tips for an eco-friendly Thanksgiving meal this year.
Before you head to the store, make sure your pantry and refrigerator are clean, organized and as bare as possible. Take stock of what you have and make a list of what you will need. Once you get organized and have your list, use an online portion calculator to help you figure out how much food you will need. Because of all the side dishes and desserts, most families can go with a smaller turkey.
Save your scraps.
The peelings and scraps from cooking can be saved for many uses. One thing you can do with them is to make homemade vegetable stock. Save vegetable trimmings in a plastic bag in the freezer until you are ready to make a broth. Onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are key ingredients, but, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and peppers also add great flavor. To make broth, add the vegetable scraps to a large pot and add enough water to cover the scraps. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for one hour. When that is complete, strain to remove solids, then you are left with a flavorful broth.
Display smaller portions.
Most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, especially during the holidays. All the delicious choices will lead guests to load their plates with more than they can handle in one sitting. Unfortunately, a lot of that food will end up in the garbage. Help avoid this by setting out smaller family-style portions at dinner, keep the rest aside and refill as needed. Use smaller serving spoons and plates so guests can go back for seconds or even thirds, rather than one heaping plate that ends up being way too much.
One of the best parts of a Thanksgiving feast is leftovers. Tell your guests to bring reusable containers so you can send them home with some of their favorite dishes. Not only does this make them happy, it cleans out your fridge so aren’t stuck with a ton of leftovers you aren’t able to eat.
While Thanksgiving leftovers are a holiday must-have, they can get a little old if you are eating them day after day. To avoid leftover burnout and wasted leftovers, get creative. For example, throw your green beans into a breakfast concoction, make a modern pizza with mashed potatoes, use turkey in a soup, or maybe even an enchilada casserole.
Don’t forget about your freezer.
If you’re in doubt about powering through all the Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, consider freezing in clear, well-marked containers. When you’re sick of eating leftover turkey, make a turkey noodle soup or pot pie and freeze it so you can eat it later.
According to the NRDC, one pound of turkey meat uses up the resources equivalent of driving 11 miles to take a 130-minute shower. So it’s important to remember that when we waste food, we’re also wasting all the water and energy that goes into making it. Being prepared and resource conscience reduces waste, saves energy and increases space at our landfills and recycling centers, which makes for a greener and happier Thanksgiving for everyone. Stay tuned to our blog for more holiday recycling tips this season!