How to Save Food and Money This Thanksgiving

How to Save Food and Money This Thanksgiving

Halloween over, time to move onto the next holiday, Thanksgiving! Hope everyone had fun. The next few weeks normally rush by pretty quickly as the busy holiday season approaches. Many of us will be spending a lot of money be

There is a great irony when it comes to Thanksgiving. It’s a day to be thankful and show gratitude for what we have, but it is also one of the most wasteful holidays. The average American wastes so much food during this celebration due to the overabundance and lack of planning. If it’s not going to the waist, it is going to the waste bin.


Take a Pantry Inventory

Before getting tempted to buy all of those Thanksgiving ingredients, look inside your cupboards first. Chances are, there is that can of pumpkin from last year that won’t expire until next year. There might still be sugar that you can use or a can of cranberries that is worth using up. You’d be surprised at what you’ve pushed to the back of the cupboards. Challenge yourself to use up what you have.

If you live close to family and are hosting the main dinner, ask friends and family to see what’s hiding in their cupboards to be used up. I think many people will appreciate that you are trying to save food, reduce waste, save money and reduce the amount of stuff that others have in their pantries.


Be Careful with Bulk Buying

It’s so tempting to just do a Costco run and buy everything in bulk, but get realistic about how often you will actually use an ingredient. You don’t need a large tub of cinnamon or 3 large cans of pumpkin puree unless you have a pie production going on. Be honest with what your family eats, what you guests eat and how much of it you really need. While we’d like to think bulk will save us money (it does sometimes), it’s not the perfect solution. Many times we fail to plan and end up throwing away food later on. So while we do save money today, we just sometimes just delay wasting money.

This takes a bit of time and work, but sitting down, planning your menu and your ingredients can go along way to saving you money and reducing food waste. Do some quick calculations to estimate how much of an ingredient you really need. If you need help calculating how much food you need, check out the NRDC’s Save the Food Guestimator. Remember that guests will always bring food so plan for these extras as well.


Always Think of Leftovers

Starting today, I encourage you to ask your friends and family who will be attending your dinner to save sauce jars and other containers for leftovers. Remind them every few days to save and bring them to the dinner. Make it acceptable to take leftovers home. Make it easy to take leftovers home. Make it worth people’s time to take leftovers home.

When I was a college student, I was a big fan of bringing back food from home. Not only did this save me money, but it saved me time also. When I packed my food, I would make them into ready meals so that I could just pop one into the microwave and have dinner ready. I also did they post college at each family gathering. In the Filipino culture, we have this term called “baon”, it literally translates to “packed lunch or snack” and all Filipino families always encourage guests to bring food home. I think that’s why I’m not shy about taking food home. For me, it’s one less thing I have to cook and buy.

As the host, this also saves you time from having to managed all of the leftovers. It’ll save you from the pain of having to throw away food.

As you go through the prep process, it may make sense to freeze portions of food before it hits the table, especially if you know you’ve made a lot and you know it won’t get eaten in one sitting.

My personal tip: I cut pies in half. I serve half pies so that everyone can taste the different kinds without it being too overwhelming.

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Skip the Traditional Thanksgiving Foods

Thanksgiving traditionally has turkey, but my mom doesn’t eat turkey so we’ve never made it. I think the best thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s something that can be customized to your family and culture’s wants. Just because that Rockwell photo has certain kinds of food on the table, if it is not your cup of tea don’t serve it. Serve the food that will bring people together, that will having people come back for seconds and food that everyone will enjoy. Life is short, might as well eat what you like.


Thanksgiving should be an opportunity to spend a meal together as a family. Consider that each and everyone of your family members works hard to bring food to the table. This means time, resources and money were expended to create a meaningful table. Treat it with value so that food, money and time aren’t wasted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How are you saving money and food this Thanksgiving? Share your great tips below.

How to Save Food and Money This Thanksgiving

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