Photo: Andreana Bitsis

How To Mitigate Food Waste This Thanksgiving

Food waste is a huge, increasingly-visible problem in America, and perhaps no where is there a greater opportunity to address it than during America’s most gluttonous food holiday. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we cobbled together a list of ideas for how to mitigate food waste at the holiday table– some are less obvious than you would think.

Consider a Free-Range Turkey

According to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, free-range meat helps warm the digestive system and increase the speed and efficacy of metabolism (and therefore digestion, which would seem key on a day like Thanksgiving). You likely already know about the superior nutrient profile of grass-fed, pasture-raised, and free-range meat, but these practices also come parceled with massive environmental benefit, as free range turkey is raised on less grain (or none at all) and so has a smaller carbon footprint. Plus: according to Civil Eats, 80 percent of all antibiotics used in this country are used on factory-farmed animals, according to an FDA report. You don’t want to support that system, trust us.

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Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Laura Braun

Make Bone Broth

Bone Broth is one of the healthiest foods for your gut, and it’s also easy to make– especially when you have a huge mass of leftover turkey bones laying around. Get the most nutrients out of your holiday feast by making a simple Thanksgiving broth to cleanse with later. Simply throw leftover turkey bones into a large pot with 2-4 quarts of water (depending on size and desired yield of bone broth) and bring to a boil. Then, lower to a simmer and cook for an addition 8-9 hours (put it on the back burner the next morning when you get up, and it will be ready to consume or freeze come dinnertime). For an added nutritional punch, throw in a few pieces of fresh ginger and a dash of turmeric.

Andreana Bitsis

Freeze The Leftover Drippings For Future Sauces

Leftover grease from cooking a turkey (or really any meat, for that matter) can be used in place of butter in any savory soups, stir-fry, baked goods like biscuits, or sauces like Alfredo that would benefit from a little savory, umami kick.

We love cooking broccoli and whole garlic gloves in leftover turkey grease and spiking it with soy sauce and a dash of red pepper flakes for a delicious, healthful twist on a south asian classic. Fat from the grease helps your body absorb vital nutrients in the broccoli, like Vitamin K, which is vital for skeletal and hematological health.

Buy Ugly Produce

Buying ugly produce is always a good idea– so consider purchasing the ugliest potatoes, squashes, and pumpkins you can imagine this holiday season (you’re just going to mash them up, after all). We particularly love colorful heirloom potatoes like Adirondack Blues, Red Gold Quartz, Purple Peruvians, which– for what it’s worth– yield blue mashed potatoes. (Consider mashing a few of these for the kids’ table– they taste the same as regular potatoes, but the blue color is sure to impress, confound, and dazzle. Plus: buying heirloom produce safeguards genetic variety in plants, which is essential for the survival of the human race (a topic you probably want to avoid at the holiday table, but worth noting, regardless).

Photo: Andreana Bitsis | Styling: Laura Braun

Eat The Greens, Shoots, and Tops

Carrot greens, beet greens, turnip greens, and the like can be cooked and roasted just like kale or any other green (with even more nutrients). Many people miss opportunities by throwing away the greens attached to most common thanksgiving tubers, so don’t make that mistake! Cut them off and rinse ahead of time so you have greens ready to sauté for your next meal. Check out our recipe for carrot top pesto, here.

Make The Stuffing From Leftover Bread (If You Don’t Already)

Stuffing was designed as a way to mitigate the food waste of leftover bread that has gone stale, so consider skipping the boxed stuff (which is loaded with preservatives and excess sodium anyways) and make your own.

Drink Biodynamic Wine, Craft Beer, Local Spirits

What happened to produce with the farmers market boom is now happening in the realm of spirits when it comes to craft beer, biodynamic wine, and small-batch spirits. Worldwide, many seasoned winemakers and small producers are abandoning chemicals and using other methods to keep their vines healthy— just ask your local booze shop staff about what’s locally-produced in your area, and take it from there. You’re sure to find something good that will impress your guests from out of town.

Crumble Up Leftover Desserts and Mix with Ice Cream

We don’t often think of “dessert” as contributing significantly to food waste (mostly because there usually isn’t a problem eating it all), but you can prolong the self life of wet pies like apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and pecan but mashing them up and mixing them with vanilla ice cream. Then, refreeze the ice cream in the original containers and voilà — homemade ice cream that would make Coldstone Creamery proud. Incidentally, this is also a good way to create bespoke flavors specific to your taste, and it goes without saying that you can do this with vegan or other alternative icecreams specific to your nutritional needs. Try mixing a little extra cinnamon and granola in with leftover apple pie to make “apple crumble ice cream” that actually tastes homemade (because it technically is).

Make Bread Pudding From Leftover Rolls, Eggs, and Milk

A classic “peasants bread pudding” recipe goes like this– 5 eggs, 5 cups of milk, 5 pieces of bread, 5 scoops of sugar, and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon on top. (You should remember the 5-5-5-5.) Simply beat the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla together and pour it over ripped up pieces of leftover bread in a glass brownie pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for ~approximately 50 minute or until the top is stiff and gold-brown. This recipe can be made long after bread has already gone stale, as long is it is not moldy.

Gather All Leftover Water Glasses & Water Your Plants With It

This is a good idea for anytime you host anything. Have tons of leftover, half-drunk bottle of water? Or did you pour a glass of water for everyone at the table and most people just stuck to their wine? Because water is a precious resource, don’t just pour it down the drain! Consider using this water to water any houseplants or plants in the garden outside. (You can also do the same with leftover ice cubes– instead of putting them in the sink to melt, drop them at the feet of a bush in your garden or inside a potted plant and let the roots reclaim the water as it melts.) Not only is this a great way to conserve water, but the greenery in your life will benefit in the event you forgot to water them during the holiday hustle.

Make Sandwiches From Leftovers

Everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving hack and Friends reference is a veritable Turkey Day tradition. Consider following Monica Geller’s lead in including an extra piece of gravy-soaked bread in the middle of your turkey, cranberry, and stuffing sandwiches for an added dose of flavor and moisture (as you may recall, Ross called it the “moist-maker”). For a modern twist on the classic, try melting in some cheese and adding avocado– or add bacon and tomato for a “Thanksgiving BLT”.

Want to support food waste mitigation? Check out Toast Ale, a UK-based company that turns unwanted bread into craft beer, or read about this cool startup that’s turning fruit waste into natural cosmetics.




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