cooking tips & tricks

5 Steps for a Less Wasteful Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving can have a bad reputation for being overwhelming, filling your days with endless to-do lists, and filling your fridge with vertigo-inducing towers of leftovers. Our top piece of advice for planning a less stressful and wasteful Thanksgiving is to make a game plan ahead of time. That way you can break down a potentially overwhelming meal into meaningful and manageable parts. Ready to get started? Here are five steps to create an easier and less wasteful Thanksgiving this year.

Step 1: Clean your fridge

There’s no sight more soothing to a cook than a clean and neatly organized fridge—and let’s face it, you’re about to need all the fridge space you can get. Cleaning and organizing what’s in there will also put you in touch with everything you’ve got on hand so you don’t accidentally double up during a trip to the store. While you’re at it, take an inventory of what you have in the pantry. For inspiration on how to get started, check out our post The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up Your Fridge!

Step 2: Organize your containers

From prep work to packing up leftovers, you’re going to need a lot of containers. Save yourself the frenzy of searching for a matching set in the midst of clean up by surveying and organizing your supplies now. If you’re low, stock up on a few sizes you know you’ll want, ideally that all use the same lid so you don’t have to spend time searching for the right lid later. As with your fridge clean, this step is all about creating an organized foundation.

Step 3: Prepare to compost

Plan in advance to compost all of those vegetable scraps. If you have a compost bin out back, you’re golden. If not, read up on our composting 101 basics or see if there’s composting resources available to the community in your neighborhood. Farmers markets and community gardens often offer free composting services. Find a Composter is a good place to start looking!

Step 4: Plan for smaller plates

We all have eyes that are bigger than our stomachs on Thanksgiving. How could you not with so many awesome dishes to choose from? That’s why setting the table with smaller plates is such an impactful way to prevent waste. It encourages guests to take more modest portions their first time around and then go back for more later. A bonus: if they get up to get more food, the cooks involved feel extra flattered! Need help planning how much food to buy for your guests? Check out this amazing Guestimator meal planning tool from Save the Food!

Step 5: Anticipate your leftovers

For some families, Thanksgiving leftovers are a tradition in and of themselves, but for others, turkey and sweet potatoes can get old fast. If you’re in the latter camp, make sure to encourage guests to take home food with them to spread the wealth! Prepare for the load out by stocking up on extra containers that you don’t mind giving away. If you are going to be hanging on to most of your leftovers, do a little homework on some fun recipes that spice up leftovers before you start cooking.


  • Max D
    November 25, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    I’m a big fan of recycling sturdier takeout food containers. Often, the plastic three-slot containers I get from a variety of restaurants are easy to wash and store, and frequently stack together with containers from other restaurants. They are the perfect option for, "Extra containers that you don’t mind giving away."

    • Imperfect
      November 26, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Hey Max! This is a fantastic tip. We’re big fans of stocking up on interchangeable containers like this. It makes so much sense. Thanks so much for sharing!


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