Three ways to avoid food waste during Thanksgiving

Introducing loaded leftover Thanksgiving nachos from American Dairy Association North East

Thanksgiving time is here and what better way to celebrate than with the three F’s: family, football and food.

What’s almost as good as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is the copious number of leftovers that will hopefully last until December; however, in America we have a massive food waste problem, and more likely than not, most of those Thanksgiving leftovers will go bad and end up in the trash before you can actually gobble them up.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away nearly 200 million pounds of turkey during Thanksgiving, which doesn’t include all your favorite side dishes like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans and cranberry sauce.

“During the holidays we generally see an uptick in food consumption. But with that also comes an increase in food waste as well,” said LaChell Miller, RDN, CC, a Nutrition Specialist with American Dairy Association North East. “Fortunately, there are many simple ways to cut down on that waste, which not only helps the environment, but also keeps a few more dollars in your wallet.”

So, what can you do to reduce your food waste this year?

  1. Think Before You Shop: First, think about what you prepared last year and scale appropriately. If you made too much of any item, make less of it this year. When it comes time to head to the grocery store, Miller suggests that you “plan first by creating a list. Then only buy what you need.”
  2. Plan for Storage Options: Regardless of what you do to cut down on the amount of food you buy for Thanksgiving, you will inevitably have leftovers. When you do have extra food, “have a game plan,” says Miller. “Try sending your guests home with reusable containers so they can continue to feast on leftovers in their own homes.”
  3. Recycle Leftovers into a New Recipe: Chances are by the third day after the holiday, you’ll be fed up with having hot turkey sandwiches and mashed potatoes. So, here’s a unique nacho recipe that will surely score a touchdown with your guests during Sunday football by combining all of your Thanksgiving leftovers into one dish. The recipe below will not only recycle your leftovers but will also surprise your family with your culinary creativity.

Loaded Leftover Thanksgiving Nachos

Ingredients

  • 12 oz bag of tortilla chips
  • 1-2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 cups turkey meat, including skin
  • 2 cups cooked brussels sprouts or other green vegetables
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash
  • 3 cups sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup gravy, warmed
  • 1 medium jalapeño pepper, sliced thin
  • Cranberry sauce, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Fresh parsley, for serving

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cover rimmed baking sheet with layer of tortilla chips. Dollop half of mashed potatoes across chips and top with half of turkey meat. Scatter half of sprouts and squash over turkey and top with half of cheese. Bake 5 minutes, until cheese is just melted.
  2. Remove from oven and repeat layers with remaining chips, potatoes, turkey, vegetables and cheese. Top with drizzle of gravy and jalapeño slices. Return baking sheet to oven and bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
  3. Top with dollops of cranberry sauce and sour cream and garnish with parsley.

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