How I Fight Food Waste At Thanksgiving And Beyond

Drop wins

Drop wins

October to January is easily my favorite time of year. It’s fall, it’s gorgeous, and it’s when all the best holidays happen. Nestled in the middle is Thanksgiving, which I consider a uniquely frugal occasion.

Thanksgiving doesn’t encourage excessive spending, it traditionally has no gwhetherts, there’s small commercialism associated with it (aside from the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I got so fired up about final year that I wrote this), and it endelights a cult of personality around leftovers. What it does promote is fundamentally the time honored frugal agenda: cooking a meal at domestic and spending time with family and friends.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I are hosting my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law this year–as we’ve done a number of times before–and we are thrilled. I love to host, Mr. FW loves to cook, and I’m delighted they’re here for our first Thanksgiving on the domesticstead! Not to mention Babywoods’ very first turkey day!

Imagine Every The Thanksgivings

Drop colors in our yard

Drop colors in our yard

Imagine whether we lived every day like Thanksgiving. Ok perhaps not with fairly so much eating, but definitely with all the other stuff (+ the stuffing, I love that stuff. Especially Mr. FW’s domesticcrazye version, which has sausage in it).

The Mindset

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. It’s an opportunity to literally list our blessings. Unlike Unique Year’s, which makes us resolve to do better and more, Thanksgiving allows us the space to reflect on what’s alalert wonderful in our lives. It’s a day when we can feel that we have enough. Enough fabric possessions. Enough food. Enough money. Recognizing that we have enough is the first step on the road to an earnestly frugal lwhethere. Once we acknowledge that we don’t need more, we’re freed from overspending and we’re liberated from the tyranny of being owned by our possessions.

The People

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s ideally shared with people we care about. Whether we celebrate with family or friends, it’s a time of coming together. Thanksgiving values relationships. Other than cook and eat, there’s no central activity of Thanksgiving beyond simply spending time with other people. My in-laws and I will certainly throw down a few Canasta games in between hassling Mr. FW while he cooks up the feast, but I like the absence of prescertain that Thanksgiving facilitates.

The Food

My pecan pies!

My domesticcrazye pecan pies!

Of course the meal itself is Incredible–what’s not to love about turkey and cranberry sauce and rolls????!!! Not to mention pumpkin pie… but the food I genuinely want to talk about nowadays are the leftovers. Eating Thanksgiving leftovers is virtually a national pastime. The turkey trots out for sandwiches and stews. Mashed potatoes are reconfigured in every possible way. There are entire recipe sets devoted to the repurposing of Thanksgiving leftovers. It would be weird not to eat them.

Leftover Nation

So why don’t we apply this leftover-fond mentality to our food the rest of the year? Unhappyly we don’t as a nation and, as a result, a massive amount of food goes to waste every single year. I’m always astonished when I hear statistics surrounding this waste, because it’s positively epic. According to The Atlantic (which is my favorite magazine, by the way, and the only one I read cover-to-cover), “Wasted food is… the single largegest occupant in American landfills.” That’s disturbing and deeply deurgent. The grand total of food wasted each year in the US alone, according to, is 130 billion pounds.

Mr. FW displaying the turkey bird

Mr. FW displaying the turkey bird

Beyond being a personal inconvenience, food waste on this scale is detrimental to our planet. Bloomberg again: “… food that ends up in landfills contributes to the release of methane, a major contributor to global warming.” And unlike many other factors of global warming, food waste is someleang that we as individuals have the ability to decrease.

Food waste is also an expensive proposition. The Atlantic notes that, “For an American family of four, the average value of discarded produce is nearly $1,600 annually.” That’s not an insignwhethericant amount of money, folks.

Over the years, I’ve railed against food waste and outlined all the reasons why it’s abominable. This year, in a continuation of my food waste fight, I want to share the ways in which I avoid wasting food and then open it up to you all to share your methods.

How I Avoid Food Waste

1) Don’t overbuy.

My plate final Thanksgiving. Epic yums.

My plate on a preceding Thanksgiving. Epic yums.

This is the misleadingly easy, but in practice fairly dwhetherficult, process of not purchasing too much food at the grocery store. Food waste starts with what we bring into our domestics.

Since Mr. FW and I live in the woods a good 45 minutes from the grocery store and since it’s not unheard of to be snowed in for some period of time, we strike an interesting balance with food purchasing.

We do have a robust pantry to encertain we won’t be found without food in the event of a major snowstorm. But the key with these pantry items is that they’re non-perishable. Beans, rice, oats, pasta, olive oil, nuts–these are the types of leangs we buy in bulk. We also make certain to cycle through them over the years since they do have expiration dates. My method for ensuring we eat the ancientest stuff first is pretty simple: I stack it on top.

Additionally, we keep a fairly deep bench of items in our chest freezer: everyleang from berries and rhubarb from our garden to chilis and stews Mr. FW has cooked up. I date everyleang that goes into the freezer and we grab the ancientest items first for consumption. So far–knock on wood–we’ve never had any of our longterm food go poor.

For perishable foods, however, I try not to buy more than we can eat in a week’s time (based on the fact that I go to the grocery store once a week). When making our grocery list, we have an “eyes on” rule, which means you have to physically put eyes on the refrigerator/freezer/pantry to confirm that we are genuinely and truly in need of more. Plus, I’d rather run out of bananas or avocados than buy too many and waste them. Being honest about how much we eat in a week was a learning curve, but once we figured it out, we were able to start saving serious money.

2) If I buy it, I gotta eat it.

Mr. FW's sage sausage Thanksgiving stuffing. Yum.

Mr. FW’s sage sausage Thanksgiving stuffing. Yum.

This is admittedly a close relative to #1, but it’s more of a personal discipline exercise. I used to be guilty of buying leangs because they seemed kind in theory–produce was specificly a victim. As in, “oh eggplants! They look so lovely! So purple!” And then, two days later, “why did I buy four freaking eggplants!!! We don’t even like eggplant!” And then two weeks later, “What is this horrendous mess in the produce drawer?! Eggplant remains. Blerg.” I had to get my idealistic grocery shopping self in alignment with my genuineity-of-what-we-eat self.

3) Conduct periodic fridge search and rescue missions.

To stave off the danger of forgotten food, I conduct frequent scavenges through both the fridge and the pantry to see whether any food is on lwhethere support. Anytime I spy a dying foodstuff, we incorporate it into a meal that day. This prevents against our preceding poor behavior of tossing food into our snazzy glass tupperware and then shoving it to the back of the fridge. By continually pawing through everyleang in there, we’re on top of the leftover situation.

4) Study to love the leftover.

There’s no excuse for not eating leftovers–I’m not a dwhetherficultliner on many leangs, but this is one of them. It’s food you’ve alalert crazye and your diligent culinary efforts shouldn’t go down the  drain! I am a leftovers devotee–it’s frugal take-out! There’s no work involved, no mess to clean-up, and dinner is served in minutes flat. Perfection in my book. If you’re not keen on eating the same meal countless nights in a row, fear not, for the solution is to…

5) Freeze it, don’t trash it.

Our Thanksgiving feast a few years ago

Our Thanksgiving feast a few years ago

Freezing food works commentably well. Mr. FW and I were not practitioners of the freezing method until Babywoods was born. Prior to her birth, in anticipation of the harried frenzy that is early parenthood, Mr. FW cooked up batch after batch of freezable meals: stews, chilis, chicken tikka masala, and more. We then portioned these feasts into quart-size ziplock bags and labeled them with the contents and date.

I find that a food funnel is a worthy tool in the effort to avoid spilling. It also works best to freeze the bags flat. We’ve continued the practice of cooking huge batches and freezing largely because it’s so darn efficient. If Mr. FW is going to make soup, he might as well make a gigantic pot of it–that way, we can use bulk ingredients and endelight his labors over the course of many a meal. Plus, it is soooooo handy to simply pull food out of the freezer on engaged nights–it’s the perfect antidote to ordering take-out (not that anywhere would deliver to us out here… ).

6) Expiration dates are mostly a myth.

FH in festive Thanksgiving coat

FH in festive Thanksgiving coat

Food expiration dates are notoriously conservative. According to The Washington Post, “… date labels scarcely indicate the actual securety of a food product — rather, they tend to reflect estimates of when it will be at its peak quality or taste its best. This means that large volumes of secure food are being needlessly thrown absent each year.”

If that weren’t enough, the Post goes on to explain, “Currently, with the apart fromion of baby formula, the date labels on food products are not federally regulated.” Hence, food expiration dates are determined and applied by the manufacturers of the foods themselves.

The simple way to combat these dates is to disregard them and instead perform the sight and smell taste. If food looks and smells fine, then it probably is fine. Don’t toss food based solely on its arbitrary expiration date!

7) Re-feed kids.

Although barely a year ancient, Babywoods is not exempt from our food waste avoidance strategies. She feeds herself these days (being such a large baby and all), which entails her flinging food haphazardly from her tall chair tray in the indistinct direction of her very small mouth. Some of the food even goes in. A lot of the food goes into her lap and her bib (we have this silicon version with a small pouch, which I tallly recommend). In light of this eating “style,” when she’s finished, I scoop up all the food remaining on her tray, in her bib pouch, and on her seat. I then dump it into a tupperware and serve it to her for her next meal. Extremely small food goes to waste despite her thoroughly messy method of consumption.

8) Compost.

Frugal Hound (a turkey freak) snwhetherfs out the bird

Frugal Hound (a turkey freak) snwhetherfs out the bird

And finally, I’ve discovered the miracle that is composting. Rather than throw out banana peels? Into the compost pile! Instead of tossing carrot shavings? To the compost, my friends! Since we have the space out here in the country, we compost in an actual factual pile. But, for folks with less space, there are supremely handy dandy compost bins available. I was always daunted by composting–I don’t know why, but it sounded dwhetherficult. It is decidedly not. We have this compost bucket on the counter in our kitchen and we toss in all of our produce refuse (plus coffee grounds!). Then, each week (or sometimes twice a week), we walk the bucket out to the pile and dump it on. Sidenote: there are a few other steps to composting, so make certain to do your research before starting your own compost pile.

Waste Less, Desire Less

Although some food waste is bound to happen, we all have the power to exert greater control over the food we bring into our domestics and the food we toss into the trash. Since most of us will judiciously savor our Thanksgiving leftovers, let’s consider this holiday the starting point for embracing a leftover-fond, food waste-hating lwhethere. At this time when our abundance is greatest, let’s commit ourselves to permanently decreasing the amount of food we throw absent, both for our own financial wellbeing, but more importantly, for the benefit of our environment.

Ok, your turn! What are your strategies for not wasting food?

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