How You Can Cut Down on Excessive Waste This Thanksgiving

Americans waste one- third of food produced year-round, but you can help reverse that statistic after your Thanksgiving feast

The key is to not be afraid of leftovers.

The average American will consume 4,500 calories (about twice the recommended daily value) on Thanksgiving, but looking at that pile of leftovers in the fridge, we know that far more calories are wasted every Thanksgiving. In fact,  a third of food produced in America is wasted: that is, not consumed or recycled.

“A tremendous amount of resources go into growing our food, processing, shipping, cooling and cooking it,” food waste expert Jonathan Bloom told Food Tank. “Our food waste could represent as much as six percent of U.S. energy consumption. Landfills are the second largest human-related source of methane. Food is the second largest component of landfills. In a sense, we're aiding global warming when we throw food in the garbage.”

Here are some ways that you can fight food waste before, during, and after your Thanksgiving feast this week.

Open your refrigerator first. Know what you have in the fridge before you go out shopping, and only buy what you really need. (Hint: you probably don’t need to buy spices, garlic or potatoes, if your household is anything like mine).

Plan menus in advance. Know your numbers! If you’re only having 10 people over, you don’t need a 20-pound bird. Chances are, most of that meat would get wasted.

Serve smaller portions. We know, this goes against our American love of supersized meals, but you can probably cut down from 4,500 calories per person to 3,500 calories per person, and no one would complain much. Focus on quality over quantity of dishes!

Get creative with leftovers. Once you get to day six of eating turkey and cranberries dripping in pools of gravy, your eyes will start to glaze over. Resist the urge to throw away the contents of your Tupperware with creative tips from well-known chefs. Turkey enchiladas anyone?

Donate to the needy. Instead of wasting your food, why not donate to an organization like City Harvest that helps feed those in need?

Use food scraps as flavoring for delicious dishes. You can make a soup stock or gravy from many of the bones and giblets that would normally get thrown away. You can even grow a vegetable garden from certain vegetable scraps.

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi