Five Steps to Less Waste on Thanksgiving Day

November 21, 2017

Retailers can help guide shoppers, especially on Thanksgiving Day, in making a few adjustments for less food waste.

You’ve heard the statistics! An estimated 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes to waste. Consumers can have a significant impact on this with their shopping behaviors and how they handle food at home. Innovators around the world are rapidly creating ways through technology and science to cut back on waste, but in the meantime, retailers can help guide shoppers, especially on Thanksgiving Day, in making a few adjustments for less food waste. 

1. Planning is the key. Be as certain as you can about how many guests will be attending your feast, and do the math. In the frenzy of shopping, you don’t want to overbuy just because you haven’t added up exactly what you need yet. Factor in what kinds of eaters your guests are. If anyone is a vegetarian, that means a smaller turkey. Are there any food allergies or diet restrictions? Who is a light eater, and who is a big eater? You’ll also save money by strictly sticking to your list, and hey, maybe then you can splurge on a more expensive bottle of wine, a fancy coffee, or a a fresh bouquet of flowers for the table.  

2. Carefully consider ingredients. We’ve all been there. You have one dish that calls for one stalk of celery, so you buy a pack, and the rest eventually ends up in the trash. With dishes that use an ingredient that isn’t needed for any other dishes, you can either shop for the smallest size/portion, or let’s say in the case of the celery you ask your neighbor if they are in the same situation and suggest sharing. You can also Google substitutions, and you may find that something else you have works just great.

3. What’s in your fridge and pantry? Before you go to the store, assess what you already have. Do you already have four apples that are close to turning that could be used for that apple pie? Are you making stuffing? Check out your bread situation, because bread that’s a little dried out makes the best stuffing anyway. For every ingredient on your list, see if it’s already in your house. 

4. Share the leftovers. If you find yourself rearranging your fridge and thinking like a Tetris player, maybe you have too many leftovers for your household to keep. Send your guests home with their own care packages from your feast. And keep just enough for yourself that you don’t get too sick of eating the same thing. Also, consider using your leftover turkey for a soup, gumbo or healthy, bone broth. 

5. Donate unused groceries. If you find that even though you planned, you still ended up with too many canned goods and shelf stable items, head over to your local food pantry where they can definitely use these items to feed people. Or for things you cooked, or produce you didn't use, do you know anyone in your community that is elderly or food insecure and may not have had the means to prepare a nice meal for Thanksgiving? Pack up some food for someone and make their day with a delivery. 

Remember that Thanksgiving Day is a day we offer up our gratitude for the bounties of life. We all enjoy the traditions of a feast, the turkey, the reunion of family and friends, so it’s the perfect time of year to remind ourselves to take a mindful approach to our food and the care of our planet.