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Waste Less, Enjoy More This Thanksgiving

Turkey Day can celebrate plenty without wasting food.

When the original Thanksgiving diners got up from the table in 1621 to loosen their belts, nutritionists estimate that they had ingested about 550 calories per person, the equivalent of eating a burrito from Taco Bell. Flash forward 400 years, and Thanksgiving dinners now pack a 2,000-to-3,000-calorie punch. And while the Pilgrims struggled to grow enough food to survive, the United States now produces so much food that we waste 40 percent of it—about $100 billion worth a year.

As the country turns its collective attention to food tomorrow, perhaps we can use the holiday to make a statement about our food waste problem by taking steps to conserve, starting with how we shop. Before you head to Costco and buy the largest bottle of vanilla extract possible, consider whether you or someone you know has leftover holidays staples in the pantry from last year. And consider donating this year's leftover non-perishable goods to a food pantry. Another tip: make a shopping list and refuse to buy anything that's not on it. This will scare off the temptation to succumb to sample-inspired purchases at Trader Joe's.

When you finally arrive at the Thanksgiving table, limit what you put on your plate. That way, you won't end up with a plate full of food that's been grazed by salad dressing and cranberry sauce and is unfit to rejoin its casserole dish in the fridge. Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving, after all. Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, recommends the following on his blog to make the most out of them: Ask guests to show up with to-go containers. Otherwise, the host may end up with more leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce than she can turn into Thanksgiving sandwiches. Plan recipes ahead to keep you excited about your leftovers' possibilities, so you don't get sick of three-day old sweet potatoes. (They're great in quesadillas.) And don't be lazy: Pack up Thanksgiving leftovers before descending into a football-and-food coma. That way, they'll keep longer.

Even food scraps can be turned into vegetable stock, and don't forget to compost. Follow these steps, and it's possible to celebrate bounty without being wasteful.

Image via (cc) Flickr user Notions Capital

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