The Makings of a Zero-Waste Thanksgiving
Every year in America, we throw out more than 400 pounds of food per person. In the season of giving thanks and giving back, Hungry Harvest is bringing the mission to end this food waste to your Thanksgiving table. Starting next week, we'll be offering all the staples for your holiday feast (except the turkey) in our rescued produce add-on marketplace. In anticipation of our Thanksgiving marketplace, we asked some of our Hungry Harvest Heroes to share their tips for making a holiday full of meaning, and low on waste.
Ideas for a Zero-Waste Holiday
It’s unfortunate that, on a day that centers on giving thanks for the abundance of food many of us have, so much goes to waste. Did you know that Americans throw away million 200 pounds of edible turkey a year? In order to really appreciate the bounty on the table, it’s important to consider the waste implications of our holiday preparations. Making a conscious effort to reduce waste can help strengthen these feelings of gratitude. Here are four simple tips to help you in moving toward a “zero-waste” Thanksgiving.
1. Keep it simple
Try to limit “fancy” recipes as much as possible during meal prep. Most people tend to enjoy the classics, so a dish that requires too many exotic ingredients may not be worth the headache. If your family doesn’t mind, mashing potatoes with the skins on can save scraps that would normally be tossed in the trash. Broccoli stems can also be used to add more crunch to any dish that calls for the crown.
2. Compost and freeze what you can
Any food remnants that accumulate during cooking should be easily composted. Set up a bin for guests to dispose of uneaten bits (be sure to check that they are still able to biodegrade). If you don’t compost yourself, it’s likely that a nearby organization does.
Leftover vegetable ends can also be frozen to make a delicious (and cheap) broth.
3. Repurpose remaining foods
Leftovers are a staple of this holiday. Some people cherish their post-Thanksgiving sandwiches more than the actual meal! However, there are a ton of other options available to make the best of what remains. Leftover peas and carrots can make a delicious pot pie filling. Potatoes and turkey make a wonderful post-meal soup. Stuffing can turn into croutons when placed on a cookie sheet and browned for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cranberry sauce makes a beautiful addition to oatmeal. Mashed Potato Pancakes are sure to be a hit when feeding a crowd for brunch the next morning!
4. Plan ahead with your Hungry Harvest order
Along with peace of mind, planning out a specific menu a couple of weeks in advance will ease day-of pressure for cooking. With the “customize your box” feature at Hungry Harvest, you can select certain ingredients that you know you’ll need (potatoes, anyone?). Formulating a meal around the likes/dislikes of your expected audience is key. For example, typical guidelines suggest one pound of turkey per person.
Keeping your sides as plant-based as possible will also help lower the carbon footprint of your dinner. The Hungry Harvest website is a great resource for creative recipes for veggie-packed dishes. Bring on the Brussels sprouts!
With these four tips, you’re well on your way to reducing waste and fully embracing the meaning of the season.
Tips for a Waste-Free Thanksgiving Feast
1. Downsize the Turkey
We’re not turkey eaters anymore, but obviously a lot of people are. When we did eat turkey, we always got one that was too big and ended up throwing away at least half of it. Either we couldn’t eat it all and it ended up going bad in the back of the fridge, or we’d freeze it and forget about it until it was covered in freezer burn. Whichever way our leftovers went bad, it was just a super sad situation. If you don’t have too many people, there’s no requirement to roast a whole turkey. You can roast a chicken, or if you really want turkey, you can just pan roast a breast.
2. Amp up the Veggies
If you’re not wedded to turkey, you can also just make a million sides. Let’s be real: the sides are the best part of Thanksgiving! We get our vegetables from Hungry Harvest, so we avoid waste by rescuing produce that’s too ‘ugly’ for stores (but honestly, most of the produce is perfect). We find out what we’re getting a few days in advance, and then we plan how to make the most of our box. Last year we made mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, sweet potato gratin, fried brussels sprouts, and the obligatory cranberry sauce. Since we were using the produce we would have gotten anyway, we also didn’t spend any extra money for our Thanksgiving feast.
3. Save your scraps
We keep a bag tucked in the freezer door to save veggie scraps. Once it’s full, we put the scraps in a big pot, cover them with water, add herbs and garlic to taste, and simmer on super low for a few hours until we have a perfect veggie stock. You can use the stock right away or freeze it to use later. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to do this, and you can even throw scraps in the slow cooker and have stock ready in time to make gravy. If you have a turkey, do this the next day with turkey bones instead of veggie scraps.
4. Leftovers Can be for Anytime
I know some people don’t love leftovers. It definitely gets old eating the same meal over and over again for a week. That can drive anyone to give up and order a regrettable amount of Chinese food that just makes the leftover problem worse (not that we’re speaking from experience, we just heard this from a friend). One way to repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers so they still feel fresh and fun is to have them for breakfast. Toss some turkey in an omelet, make mashed potatoes into cakes and top them with a poached egg, or make one of our favorites: sweet potato pancakes topped with cranberry sauce. Just pop ¾ c mashed sweet potatoes with 1 ½ c pancake mix, 2 T oil, and 1 c. water.
We hope these tips help you and your family and friends have a beautiful zero-waste Thanksgiving! Keep the tips coming and let us know how you'll fight food waste this holiday!