4 Ways to Reduce Waste This Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, most people’s minds turn to lavish turkey dinners, overflowing wine glasses, lit cigars and – if you’re the typical American family – at least one political argument among family members. However, this abundance and merriment comes at a cost.

Waste has long been a natural by-product of our “cornucopia of riches” holiday. But recently, a renewed emphasis on waste, and its role in environmental damage, has cast a shadow over the excess of Thanksgiving. It doesn’t seem right to waste resources and food simply to gather the family together.

Thankfully, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too. Here are five ways to reduce waste this holiday season – while still throwing a splendid, fun-filled and satisfying Thanksgiving.

Do Some Quick Calculations Before Buying Food

Most home cooks shoot from the hip when they buy food for a gathering. They grab the biggest turkey they can find, then follow it with heaps of bread, canned goods, yams and other Thanksgiving staples. If it can fit in the shopping cart, it’s coming home!

But this approach often leaves you with too much food. Instead, take a restaurateur’s approach to inventory: calculate the number of diners and the average weight of food per diner. For instance, the average person consumes one pound of turkey (bones included in weight). Therefore, if you plan of feeding ten, shop for a 10-pound turkey. You can complete similar calculations for side dishes.

Control Humidity to Reduce Spoilage

This is more of an autumn-related issue than a Thanksgiving-specific problem. Fall is notorious for its fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which can wreak havoc on dry goods and holiday luxuries.

To save your dry goods from potential spoilage, consider a home hygrometer and dehumidifier/humidifier combo. Aim for an ideal relative humidity (RH) between 30% and 40%. For finicky holiday luxuries like cigars, set up a humidor with Boveda humidity packs, which dial in the RH and keep cigars fresh in long-term storage. No one wants to smoke a dry cigar at Thanksgiving; controlling the humidity helps you reduce expensive wastage.

Get Creative with the Leftovers

Waste reduction is partly about reduction (see the first section above) and partly about reuse. We all remember “the three R’s” from school, right?

To reuse your leftovers effectively, get creative. Use that turkey carcass, typically bound for the trash bin, as the base for a fall soup. Throw spare bits of turkey into the soup and any excess onions, carrots and celery you have lying around from meal prep. As for the stuffing and turkey itself, make the Friends-famous “Moistmaker” sandwich; not only is it delicious, but it makes creative use of leftovers.

Box and Label Your Decorations for Next Year

Lastly, when the whole gathering leaves, resist the urge to sweep everything into a giant garbage bag. If you don’t already reuse your decorations, consider boxing them up for next year. Grab a box (if you ask nicely at the grocery store, they’ll usually give you a produce box), and label it “Thanksgiving decorations.” Put all those table settings, cornucopias, unused napkins and wall decorations in the box and tuck it somewhere out of sight.

With these four straightforward tips, you can ensure that your Thanksgiving is light on waste – but still heavy on fun and satisfaction.


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