Ask Eartha column: Don’t let Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste | SummitDaily.com

Ask Eartha column: Don’t let Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste

Eartha Steward
Ask Eartha

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that Americans will throw away more that 200 million pounds of edible turkey this Thanksgiving. Avoid waste by using leftovers in creative ways.

Dear Eartha,

Every year, my family seems to throw away a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers. Do you have any ideas to help us decrease our food waste during the holidays?

— Mallory, Breckenridge

Thank you for your question this week, Mallory! The Steward family loves the tradition of sharing a special meal with family and friends. But for many households across America, Thanksgiving has also become a day of culinary excess — it's not really Thanksgiving until you eat so much you're as stuffed as the turkey, right? Unfortunately, this mentality results in an astonishing amount of food waste. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that Americans will throw away more than 200 million pounds of edible turkey this Thanksgiving. That's equal to 35 percent of all the turkey purchased for the holiday. When we throw food away, we're also losing all of the resources that went into producing that food, like water, feed and fuel. This year, let us show how thankful we are for the food on our plates by wasting as little of it as possible.

Prepare a thoughtfully portioned feast. Reducing waste first starts with careful planning. Find out how many people to expect for your meal, and plan for one pound of turkey per person. Not only does this mean you won't have to use your entire collection of containers to store your leftovers in, but you also won't burn out on eating those leftovers in the days (or weeks) to come.

Think beyond the Thanksgiving menu. Avoid the monotony of eating the same leftovers days on end by getting creative in the kitchen. To give you some inspiration, here are a few examples of ways you can put those leftovers to new and delicious uses:

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Turkey: casseroles, enchiladas, turkey salads

Bread: French onion soup, croutons, bread pudding, turkey melts

Potatoes: turkey hash, shepherd's pie, potato cakes/latkes

Cheese: mac 'n' cheese, fondue, turkey grilled cheese

Vegetables: veggie chips, stir fry, vegetable soup, frittata, vegetable pizza

Sweet Potato: sweet potato pound cake and sweet potato fries

Pumpkin pie: milkshakes (trust me!)

Store your food properly. Make sure that you have enough containers to store your food, and don't let it sit out overnight. While you might be tempted to combine foods into one container, keeping items separate will make it easier to use ingredients in new dishes. Finally, share the love and the food by encouraging guests to bring containers so they can take leftovers home with them.

Still stuck with leftovers you can't possibly use? Rather than throwing food away to rot in our landfill where it creates methane emissions, turn it into compost. Composting is a closed-loop system, because it returns all the nutrients contained in our food back to the soil. If you don't have the space to set up your own backyard composting operation, consider joining the High Country Conservation Center's food scrap recycling program, which allows members to divert their food waste from the landfill. Subscriptions cost $15 monthly, $35 quarterly and $120 annually.

Emphasize giving. For those of us blessed with an abundance of food, it's also important to remember those less fortunate. Donating food to local food banks is an excellent way to help other families have great holidays, as well. Donations are accepted at each of these local food banks:

FIRC Food Banks: Located in Silverthorne and Breckenridge; donations can be made Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dillon Community Church Food Bank: Donations can be made Monday and Wednesday from 4:30–5:30 p.m. and Friday from 1:30–2:30 p.m.

Father Dyer United Methodist Church Food Bank, Breckenridge: Donations can be made Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to implement food waste reduction strategies in your household. This year, make sure every bite goes to your waist and not to waste!