Each year approximately forty-six million turkeys are purchased at Thanksgiving. That’s nearly 700 million pounds of meat! Sadly, more than 30% of that will get thrown away this holiday. When you consider how much water, land and energy was required to produce those turkeys and that one in eight Americans struggle with hunger, it leaves you feeling a little less than thankful.
Similar statistics hold true for all the vegetables required for our favorite side dishes too. When you’re mashing up that huge pot of potatoes, think about the fact that it takes about 30 gallons of water to grow one pound of them. Now imagine throwing nearly half of that right into the garbage. It’s not far-fetched. Because the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that we are throwing away about 40% of the food we grow.
Here are some ideas for reducing food waste this Thanksgiving. Because one of the best ways to be thankful for what you have is to avoid wasting it.
We can’t help but want to prepare a bountiful buffet of all our favorite family holiday recipes. We wouldn’t want to offend grandma if we didn’t make her sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and pineapple. And while some could do without the green bean casserole, others can’t LIVE without it! We worry we won’t have enough rolls for all 14 people, so we double up. And we can’t remember if everyone likes pumpkin pie, so we make pecan pie too!
Well, you know what ends up happening next. You spend an entire week preparing for the meal, an entire day (or two) cooking it and then everyone sits down to eat and after 20 minutes and three bites of each of the two dozen dishes, they are all completely STUFFED! Meanwhile, the table is still brimming with beautiful foods which are now suddenly leftovers. You’ll eat turkey sandwiches for lunch the next day, LOs the next night and then you don’t want to see another bit of gravy until next year.
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to resist the temptation to go overboard. Plan portion sizes more carefully and pick your favorite dishes that you really can’t imagine Thanksgiving without. If there aren’t any you can’t cut off the menu, consider making a little less of each.
Buy Canned Where You Can
Yes, we sell fresh fruits and vegetables but we are also big fans of cans. There are some instances where it can make a lot of sense to substitute in canned or frozen, especially if you are focused on helping reduce food waste.
Canned or frozen green beans are a great way to save; on waste and on money! This way if you decide not to make the green bean casserole, you can leave the canned green beans in the pantry for another night. Just try to select the brands with no added salt. Canned cranberries can be helpful as well. If you’re using them to make a Jello salad, the canned variety can be an especially good choice since you’re likely combining them with a bunch of other ingredients.
Embrace “Ugly” Food
Who cares if the sweet potatoes are misshapen on the outside if you’re only going to peel them and bake them anyway. All they require is a little more TLC. Help reduce food waste this holiday by choosing fruits and vegetables that might be cosmetically challenged. They are usually the ones that get tossed and cause dangerous greenhouse gases that are detrimental to our environment. Show your grocery store that you don’t want them rejecting loads of brussels sprouts just because they’re really small. You have the buying power to help reduce food waste.
Here are a few other food saving tips:
Leftover Buffet Bar
If you have a large group, stock up on take out containers and before everyone heads home, set up an area for them all to divvy up the leftovers so you’re not stuck with all of them.
Freeze It Friday
So turkey dinner might not sound good right now, but a month from now on that busy night after a long day at work, it will sound wonderfully delicious. Package them up in freezer safe, single serve containers (TV dinner style) and pull them out to warm up as needed.
Get Creative in the Kitchen
Some enjoy creating delicious dishes out of all their leftovers like placing yesterday’s turkey in tomorrow’s soup. Or using cranberries on top of the next day’s pancakes in place of syrup. The possibilities are endless. When all else fails, put them all together in one dish!
Here's one idea for using up those leftovers in a unique way. And here's a link to me cooking it live on Fox 8 Cleveland's, "New Day Cleveland" this morning!
SWEET POTATO AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS EGG CASSEROLE
Often I have produce that didn’t even make it into my Thanksgiving feast that I have to try to figure out how to use up before it goes bad. A couple sweet potatoes, half a dozen brussels sprouts, an onion. This dish is a great way to use up those items the weekend after Thanksgiving for a hearty breakfast or even for dinner. You can also add leftover turkey or the potatoes and Brussels sprouts you served at Thanksgiving that are already roasted.
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
½ cup cooked turkey (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cubed sweet potato chunks and Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and put in oven. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a large skillet add remaining olive oil, onion and mushrooms. Cook until onions are translucent. Spray a small casserole dish with nonstick spray or grease with butter or oil. Transfer onions and mushrooms to dish. Top with roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and turkey if you are using it. In a medium bowl crack the eggs and scramble them with a whisk. Add salt and garlic powder and mix well. Pour eggs over vegetables. Top with feta cheese. Bake in the oven about 30 minutes or until eggs are set.