Thanksgiving, one of the most wasteful times of year, when we all come together with too much of a good thing. I am guilty of it myself, and I have seen it over the years at various Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter celebration meals that I have attended. While cooking a twenty pound turkey may be a tradition in your family, if there are only eight people coming to dinner, you need to think in advance about what you are going to do with all that food that is left over after everyone goes home.
Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the United States will waste about five million tons of food. In just one year, Americans waste about 34 million tons. That’s a lot of turkey, pie, and dressing going in the trash. Food waste is not just a moral issue, but also an environmental issue. “A tremendous amount of energy and resources go into growing, processing, shipping, cooling and cooking our food. Food waste could represent as much as six percent of the total U.S. energy consumptione ach year.
So, what can you do to prevent wasting so much food? Here are some things that you can do starting today:
- Plan your menu. Writing out even a simple meal plan each week can help you save both food and money. Knowing what you plan to cook and eat lets you shop for specific foods and cuts down on impulse buying. Unless you have a freezer, you’ll wind up wasting excess foods bought without a plan for when to use them.
- Shop your pantry first. Once you have your menu planned, shop your pantry, freezer and refrigerator first. Go over your meal plan and check off the items you already have on hand. Taking inventory of your refrigerator and pantry to see what you have already before heading out to the store will save money on your grocery bill, and will help you use up the foods before they spoil. We all have cans hiding in the back corner we forgot about. There’s no reason to buy more of what you already have.
- “Sell by” and “best by” dates are not necessarily the dates that foods go bad. Some products may still be good long after their expiration date. Trust your senses before that throwing food away just because the “sell by” date is past. Some foods can be good for a couple of weeks before they are no longer usable.
- Freeze giblets, stale bread, vegetables for using later. The tops, peels, and roots of many vegetables can be used to make broth or for seasoning in soups and stews. It only takes a couple of minutes to chop and save onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, and other vegetables. Put them in a large zip lock freezer bag, and take out just what you need when cooking later. Do the same with turkey or chicken giblets, backs, and necks; and ham that is leftover.
- Love your leftovers. Look for recipes that use your leftovers creatively. The internet is full of recipes you can use for leftovers. You don’t have to eat turkey sandwiches or turkey salad for days!
- Donate to the hungry. If you still need to get rid of excess foods before they go bad, think about donating to your local food bank or a shelter for the homeless.