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#SaveTheLeftovers This Thanksgiving

November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and for those of us fortunate enough to enjoy a tasty Thanksgiving meal, it can be a holiday that produces immense waste if you are not careful. The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimates that around 172 million pounds of turkey, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes, and 30 million pounds of stuffing will head into trash cans in a single day.

We’ve put together some tips so you can enjoy Thanksgiving, without worrying about the negative effects of throwing away the food you worked so hard to prepare! After all, it’s not just the food that is wasted, but the water, labor, energy, and resources as well! 

Plan Ahead

There are few things more delicious than leftovers at Thanksgiving, but nothing more sour than having to throw away pounds of food after you have spent hours preparing it!

Make a list of the food items and sides you will be preparing. If you’re having guests, make sure everyone knows what they are bringing. This will help prevent impulse buys or overstocking on ingredients you might not even use. 

Practice the pound-per-person rule when picking out a turkey. Each person will likely eat around a pound of turkey the day of. If you want leftovers, aim for a pound and a half per person.

Prepare With Scraps In Mind

As you trim the herbs, cut the vegetables, and slice the bread for your stuffing, keep in mind that you can reuse many of the scraps and prevent more from ending up in the trash. Vegetable stems can be saved and used for broths. Just wrap them up and freeze them to save for later. Animal bones can also be used for broths so you can enjoy those delicious holiday flavors even longer. Plus this is an excuse to get creative! Potato peelings can be seasoned and turned into chips, and extra onions can be caramelized and saved for your next homemade treat. Have stale bread? Make croutons out of them or bread pudding. There is always a way to incorporate food scraps into something delicious with just a quick search on the internet. 

Whatever you can’t keep, please consider composting before throwing it away! For more info on composting at home, check out our guide to getting started composting on our blog. Food that ends up in a landfill takes a much longer time to decompose and produces methane, a highly volatile greenhouse gas that can be avoided just by composting the food instead. 


Most Americans say one of their favorite parts of Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers afterward, so make sure they get eaten! After all, there is no better way to show gratitude than by cleaning your plate! 

If you are having guests, prepare to-go containers so that everyone brings a plate home and you don’t get stuck with more pounds of green bean casserole than you know you can eat!

For the leftovers you do keep, label them with the date and move the older leftovers forward in the fridge. Work through the oldest leftovers first, making sure to always keep them in the front of the fridge where you can see them. If stored properly, many foods retain their freshness and nutrients longer than you might think. Remember, use your senses of sight and smell before assuming the food is bad! FoodSafety.gov is another great resource for gauging how long your leftovers will last.

By eating your food instead of throwing it away, you can help protect our environment, all while saving the money and time you spent buying and preparing your Thanksgiving feast. 

And finally, share these tips! 

Let your friends and family know how they can help prevent waste this Thanksgiving. Every turkey leg saved and scoop of cranberry sauce that ends up in a belly instead of the landfill contributes directly to the health of our community and our planet, so do your part! 

If you’d like to be more directly involved in food recovery, check out our volunteer opportunities, or help us keep our trucks on the road by donating to our Colorado Gives Day fund! Your donation goes even further by helping us receive more of the 1 Million+ Incentive fund on December 7th.