by Daniela Baker
According to Feeding America, a U.S. based nationwide network of more than 200 food banks and food rescue organizations, we waste over forty-one billion tons of food throughout the United States in 2009. Last week, Jocelyn mentioned a study by the University of Arizona in Tuscon, which found that the average American households waste approximately 14 percent of all food purchases. It is critical to review our relationship with food as we strive to create a more sustainable environment and reduce overconsumption.
When it comes to food, there's probably no more wasteful time of year than the holidays, and Thanksgiving in particular. The focal point of the entire holiday is sharing a large meal with family and friends. The holidays are a prime time to focus on reducing food waste, so what can you do to reduce food waste this holiday season?
1. Limit Your Purchases
Before you shop, be realistic about how much food you'll actually need for Thanksgiving dinner. Estimate what you need and then buy only slightly more. For example, if you think you need four pies, buy five, not eight "just to be sure!"
The exception to this rule is with frozen or canned goods. Since those have a longer shelf life, it's OK to stock up. Just make sure you keep an eye on the pantry and freezer and use what you have, so they don't spoil.
2. Use Leftovers Responsibly
Be realistic when assessing your tolerance for Thanksgiving leftovers. You'll probably get tired of turkey after a couple of days, and end up throwing the remainder out. It’s a better idea to freeze any remaining leftovers you won’t be eating after a couple of days.
The key is to really use it! Frozen turkey even several months old can still make a great pot pie for Easter celebrations!
3. Be Conservative with Packaging
This one isn’t so much about food waste as about waste in general. There really is no need to individually bag every produce item separately as you pick it up from the produce aisle. It is just a force of habit but certainly not necessary. Save some plastic and leave those potatoes loose!
Opting for whole foods, rather than heavily processed and packaged foods is healthier for your body and produces much less waste.
4. Donate Leftovers
While most food banks won't accept cooked or fresh food for donation, you can donate canned and dried foods. With the current downturn in the economy, more and more people are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families. Don’t let those canned and dried foods go to waste, donate them!
5. Tour Your Neighborhood
This may be easier for those who live in urban areas, but walk down any block and notice the number of homeless people living on the streets or in shelters who would be so grateful for your leftovers this holiday season - and all year round. They'd probably appreciate a turkey sandwich made from your leftovers a lot more than you would, right?
Daniela Baker is an eco-conscious mother of two and blogger at CreditDonkey. She helps families compare grocery credit card cash back at her blog. With Thanksgiving around the corner, she hopes this post will help you live a greener life.
The Thanksgiving Table. Creative Commons photo by lanemcfadden