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Cooking on Thanksgiving: 5 Tips to Avoid Food Waste

Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Image via Wix

Now that most adults, and children over age 5, have received the COVID vaccine, people feel more comfortable hosting traditional Holiday festivities. First up Thanksgiving, which falls on Thursday, November 25th this year. And what’s Thanksgiving without enjoying a variety of good foods with great company.

This Thanksgiving in particular is a great opportunity to reunite and celebrate with friends and family and share all that you are thankful and grateful for. It’s a beautiful time of the year to kick start the Holiday Season. However, I am often disappointed with the huge amount of food that ends up going to waste, once everyone is sick and tired of eating the leftovers.

Once everyone have eaten, and even gone for a second plate, it's time to clean up and figure out what to do with the leftovers. I don't know about you but it’s usually a struggle trying to find space in the fridge to store all of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Further, it's time consuming and exhausting to labor over the stove for hours cooking all of that food, only to watch most of it go into the garbage. I know some people really enjoy cooking and hosting and get plenty of joy watching others enjoy all of the delicious foods that they made and if that’s you, God bless and I enjoy eating it! However, often time people don’t think ahead of time whether realistically anyone can finish eating all of that food without some of it going to waste. Albeit delicious food, our eyes often deceives us on how much we can actually eat.

During the holidays or any time, it’s a good idea to think about how you can keep household food waste in check. Growing up, I remember my mother getting so annoyed when she saw us throwing out food—there was always a speech about how some kids in some other parts of the world was hungry and here you are so privileged throwing out food. Those speeches have stuck with me into adulthood. Still, I admit I could do a better job avoiding food waste in my household, but I am at least conscious of the issue and making an effort to do better.

This is why I am sharing few tips below for how you can minimize food waste this Thanksgiving and any other time of the year:

  1. Plan your meals. For example, ask your family what is their favorite dish(es) and cook those dishes that you know people will love rather than all of the “traditional” Thanksgiving dishes just because. You don’t have to fall into the hype of making a whole bunch of dishes that no one in your family particularly enjoys.

  2. Donate extra cans and non-perishable foods to food banks and shelters to help those in need (e.g. consider donating cans of green beans, cranberry, and pumpkin pie filling, rice, dry beans etc.)

  3. Invite others over for dinner or consider going to someone else’s for dinner rather than cooking yourself. The latter works great if you live alone or have a small family. You can also share food with friends and neighbors especially the elderly who may live alone or students who couldn't travel home for the Holiday.

  4. Host a pot-luck style Thanksgiving where guests bring one or two dishes. You can discuss in advance the type of food each guest will bring, ranging from the main course to desserts. You can also get take-away food containers so everyone can take leftovers home. A potluck Thanksgiving is also less stressful because you won’t have to labor over the stove for hours making multiple dishes, but instead can focus on just a few dishes, the decor and creating the right ambiance for your guests.

  5. Cook less food. You can still make all of the classic traditional Thanksgiving dishes but maybe focus on cooking less. So that it's not about the variety but the quantity. While you don’t want to leave anyone hungry or run out of food on Thanksgiving, you can make a “reasonable” amount of food rather than cooking for an entire football team, when your family and guests consist of only a few people. Once you confirm headcount, cook enough food for everyone to be full and have a plate of leftovers. The less food you make will ultimately results in less food going to waste later.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and bon appetite! Share your favorite Thanksgiving dish(es) in the comments section below.


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