Food waste is a problem year-round, but multi-millions pounds of food can be wasted during the Thanksgiving holiday.

In 2021, about 305 million pounds of food, valued at $400 million, went to waste, ReFed, a non-profit working to end food loss, said in a news release.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that a family of four can waste 1,160 pounds of food, valued at $1500, daily.

As you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner, experts from the USDA recommend following these tips to help you save money and food this holiday season.

Plan your Thanksgiving meal

Make a list of the ingredients you will need to cook Thanksgiving dishes. Research shows that creating a list can help shoppers resist impulse buys.

Save food for future dishes

Californians can use food scraps like vegetable peelings, chopped onions, or meat trimmings for future meals like soups or broths.

Donate food

If you have extra cans of vegetables, pie filling, or cranberry sauce, that food can be donated to a local food bank.

Here is a list of food banks across California.

Turn leftovers into creative dishes

Turning your Thanksgiving leftovers into new dishes can give the illusion that you are eating a fresh meal.

That day-old turkey can be turned into a turkey sandwich, extra bread and rolls can be transformed into bread pudding, and leftover stuffing can be molded into bite-size portions and deep-fried.


If you grow tired of Thanksgiving leftovers quickly, the extra food can be donated to your local composting bin. Places like Farmer’s Markets and community gardens will take compose donations.