Enjoy the Feast, Temper the Consumption
If you are one of my American readers, I expect that tomorrow you will join family or friends for a feast, sitting down to a table laden with at least twice as much food as all of you can eat in one meal. Whether you are going traditional with a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie or getting more creative with your menu, there will be plenty of food to enjoy. I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving.
If you instead live in another wealthy country and tomorrow is just another Thursday for you, I expect that you will gather for a similarly grand feast to celebrate another holiday in the coming weeks or months.
I do not want to dim your celebrations, but I can’t help offering some advice. As you prepare for Thanksgiving (and other family gatherings), consider how much food you really need to provide. A page from my local city newsletter says, "Worldwide, it takes 2.5 billion acres of land just to grow the food we waste."
It’s too late to buy a smaller turkey but you might want to dial back the sides and desserts. If there are five or more dishes at the buffet, guests aren’t going to eat a heaping plateful of each. I understand the desire to make sure there is enough for everyone, but that isn’t usually the problem.
Bringing less food has the side benefit of not encouraging overeating. Another tip for those who don’t want to stuff themselves to the point of discomfort: drink plenty of water and eat more slowly. Take time to enjoy the food and conversation. There will be enough left for seconds if you are still hungry.
Regardless of how much food the host and guests make and how much everyone chooses to eat, there will be leftovers. If you’re the guest at someone else’s house, you can bring reusable containers to take home extra food (with the host’s permission, of course). To reduce waste, I advise you to only take home what you and your family will eat in the coming days or what you can freeze for later. If you’re the host, I suggest encouraging guests to take home leftovers that your family will not be able to eat.
If you’re serving turkey, what are you planning on doing with the turkey carcass? Making stock is not difficult if you have a large stockpot (at least 6 quarts) or a slow cooker. Once you’ve carved up the meat to feed your guests and fill reusable containers with leftover turkey, place the carcass in the fridge.
The next day, it’s time to make stock. Grab a couple of onions and carrots and cut them into large chunks. You don’t even need to peel the carrots. Celery stalks or turnips are also good additions. Put the vegetables and the carcass into the pot, add about 3 quarts of water or enough to cover the carcass, and bring it to a boil or turn on the crockpot to high. If you brined the turkey you might not need to add salt. Otherwise, a teaspoon or two is about right. Put in herbs like fresh parsley or rosemary if you happen to have them.
Simmer the stock for 2-3 hours (convert as appropriate if using a slow cooker) and then strain it into a container and refrigerate. You can save bits of meat that have now freed themselves from the bones for use in turkey soup or any other recipe that needs cooked turkey. Toss the rest of the strained bones and vegetables into the compost bin if you have one and if meat is allowed. For backyard composting it’s best to avoid putting in meat and bones if you don’t want to attract raccoons and other animals to your bin. But if you live in Seattle or another city where curbside yard waste collection accepts all types of food waste, you’re in luck.
Homemade stock only lasts a few days in the fridge, so you can follow my lead and freeze the rest in ice cube trays. It will last for many months in the freezer and you will always have stock handy to thaw as needed. Throughout the year I save up vegetable scraps—carrot peels, ends of onions, mushroom stems—in a container in the freezer to make vegetable, poultry, or fish broth.
Since the beginning of November, I’ve been tracking how much waste my family generates. We empty the kitchen compost container once or twice a week and toss about 2.5 pounds of food waste into the large bin each time. I’m also tracking garbage and recycling.
Why am I doing this? If I measure waste, I will have a baseline to compare against when reducing consumption. I will also include my data as an example in my upcoming book. It’s an interactive workbook where readers can learn about what to toss where and complete worksheets that will help them in their journeys.
Want to learn more? I invite you to join my beta reader group. Please send me a message expressing your interest and asking any questions.
I am thankful to you, my readers and fans. I hope that I can inspire you to reduce food waste. Happy Thanksgiving!