Here are some statistics that will astound (and possibly horrify) you. According to America’s Second Harvest, over forty-one billion pounds of food were wasted in the United States in 2009. According to another study by the University of Arizona in Tuscon, the average American household wastes fourteen percent of their food purchases. As we all attempt to live more sustainably and find the satisfaction of enough instead of the waste of too much, looking at our relationship with food is a key component of that process. Of course, there’s not a more wasteful time of year as far as food is concerned than the holidays, in particular Thanksgiving. The entire holiday is structured around the idea of an abundant meal. But how much of that meal is ultimately wasted?

There are a lot of elements to why and how food gets wasted in the United States and during the holidays. The first perpetrator is “over buying.” Because it’s the holidays, the idea that at the end of a meal the plates may be empty isn’t even considered a possibility! The second major perpetrator is holiday food sales. It’s certainly tempting to stock up on mass supplies of food when prices have been cut for the holidays. Finally, the last perpetrator is an irresponsible use of leftovers. What can you do to help reduce food waste this holiday season? Here are five quick tips!
Don’t Overbuy! This is both the most simple and most difficult at the same time! However, think realistically about how much food you need for Thanksgiving. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that at the end of the meal there isn’t half of a turkey and three pumpkin pies left over. Buy what you need or just slightly more than you think you need.
Be Responsible About Leftovers. Realistically assess your leftover situation. How much of that leftover turkey are you really going to eat before you get sick of it and throw it out? Take the remainder that you won’t be eating soon after the holiday and freeze it to use later. Then, most importantly, really do use it! There’s no shame in thawing frozen turkey out three months later and making a pot pie.
Be Aware of Packaging. This isn’t so much about wasting food as it is simply about wasting. Do you really need to put all of your produce in individual plastic bags when you pick it up at the grocery produce aisle? You do not. So don’t! It’s just habit for most of us, but it’s completely unnecessary.
Donate. Your cooked or fresh food cannot be donated in most cases. However, canned foods and dried foods that you end up not using for holiday cooking can be donated to food banks. As any study will tell you, food banks haven’t been in as much need as they are now for years and years. Don’t let those canned and dried foods just sit around being wasted. Donate them.
Take a Walk Outside. This is particularly true if you live in a more urban environment. There are plenty of homeless people on the streets or in shelters who would be happy to finish off your perishable food this holiday season. Go out and hand it to them.
Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays because of the sentiment behind it. Got an idea on a way to be less wasteful this Thanksgiving? Friend us on Facebook and tell us about it.
Looking for ways to spend less and celebrate more this holiday season? Download our free holiday guide, A Very Postconsumer Holiday, for a complimentary how-to on doing just that!