A Thanksgiving Conundrum: The Feast and The Waste

Image of stuffed turkeys bight orange and brown, A Thanksgiving Conundrum: The Feast and The Waste. Bushwick Bites: Brooklyn’s fastest-growing food publication.

The third Thursday of November, a date etched in the heart of every American, brings with it a bounty of roasted turkeys, buttery mashed potatoes, and tangy cranberry sauces. Thanksgiving is not just a day of gratitude but also a grand testament to America’s love affair with food. Yet, every year, this magnificent feast casts a long shadow of waste that remains long after the pumpkin pies have been devoured. With millions of tons of food ending up in landfills annually, it’s time for this cherished holiday to lead the charge in addressing the issue of food waste.

Let’s face it: preparing for Thanksgiving is akin to a tactical military operation. Charts, shopping lists, and rigorous scheduling are involved. However, despite our best efforts, we often find ourselves surrounded by leftovers that soon turn into waste. Is there a way to savor the holiday without the guilt of excess?

Absolutely. But it requires a shift in mindset and a touch of innovation.

Estimate, Don’t Exaggerate
One of the primary reasons for food waste during Thanksgiving is the exaggerated estimation of required portions. Understandably, nobody wants their guests to leave hungry. However, in ensuring this, tables groan under the weight of excessive dishes. Before you start cooking, take a moment to realistically assess the number of guests and their appetites. Websites and apps now provide calculators to determine the amount of food needed per person. Utilize them.

Embrace the Beauty of Leftovers
Leftovers are the unsung heroes of Thanksgiving. Instead of viewing them as a repetitive chore, see them as opportunities for culinary creativity. Turkey can be repurposed into sandwiches, salads, or soups. Mashed potatoes make excellent potato pancakes. And those veggies? They’re stir-fry material. By transforming leftovers, you not only minimize waste but also treat your family to a diverse range of meals.

Share the Bounty
If you still find yourself with an abundance of food, consider sharing it. Invite neighbors, friends, or anyone who might be alone on Thanksgiving. There’s no better feeling than sharing food and warmth, especially during these trying times. Local shelters or community centers often welcome donations during the holiday season. Reach out and make someone’s day a little brighter.

Understand Expiry and Best-Before Dates
A significant amount of food is discarded based on the misunderstanding of expiration and best-before dates. While it’s essential to be cautious, not all foods that have crossed their best-before date are inedible. Trust your senses. If it looks, smells, and tastes alright, it probably is.

Compost, Don’t Dispose
Inevitably, some food items, like peels or bones, will be discarded. Instead of sending them to the landfills, why not turn them into compost? It’s an eco-friendly way of returning nutrients back to the earth. If you don’t have a garden, many cities now offer composting services or community composting gardens.

Plan Your Shopping
Impulsive buying results in unplanned meals, which subsequently lead to waste. Stick to your shopping list. Buy perishables in amounts you’re sure to consume. Opt for loose fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones, allowing you to buy exactly what you need. Remember, the fight against food waste starts at the shopping cart.

Educate and Advocate
Use the Thanksgiving gathering as an opportunity to discuss the importance of minimizing food waste. Share statistics, personal experiences, and actionable steps. Encouraging collective responsibility can lead to more significant changes in consumption patterns, benefiting not just households but communities at large.

In the intricate ballet of Thanksgiving preparations, pausing to consider the environmental implications might seem cumbersome. Yet, as the guardians of this planet and beneficiaries of its produce, it’s a responsibility we can’t shirk. By making conscious choices, we can ensure that our Thanksgiving is not just a day of gratitude for what we have but also a reflection of our commitment to preserving it for future generations. This year, let’s feast responsibly. After all, what better way to truly give thanks than by honoring the bounty of the earth?

Author: Natasha Patel