Thanksgiving Leftovers, a Terrible Food Thing to Waste

San Diego, California - For a lot of us, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is all those leftovers—gravy-covered turkey sandwiches, mashed potatoes and pie for days!

But too much of anything can be a bad thing, even Thanksgiving leftovers. Every year, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. is wasted, often by being tossed out as trash into landfills, even as many Americans don’t have enough to eat, according to the National Resources Defense Council. In addition, the average four-person household spends $1,500 a year on food they end up throwing out.

So this Thanksgiving, the County of San Diego wants to offer you some free tips on how to cut down on food waste (too many leftovers), maybe save you some money, and for good measure, even offer some recycling tips to help protect your home, or at least, your pipes!

Reduce Food Waste—Shop and Plan Wisely!

The easiest way to reduce food waste, during the holidays or just day to day, is to not cook too much, right? Plan ahead, shop smart and serve just enough food to make everyone happy! Of course, that sounds easy, but can be hard to do. How do you know how much food is enough? has a “Guest-imator” that can help you calculate how much food you need to prepare, based on how many people you’re serving and how much they typically eat—even for Thanksgiving. And yes, it can even calculate having leftovers if you want them!

Freeze or Find Ways to Re-use Leftovers

Of course, even the best planners can end up with leftovers sometimes, especially at a big event like Thanksgiving. But you don’t have to let them go to waste. If you’re having guests, provide to-go containers so they can take them with them. Re-think your leftovers and use them as ingredients for new meals. For example, leftover meat and vegetables can make a great soup, or casserole. Or turn mashed potatoes into potato pancakes. And of course, you can freeze leftovers to use in future meals.

Cutting Food Waste and Recycling Can Keep Your Pipes Clean

Believe it or not, cutting food waste and recycling can even protect your house! That’s because cooking oils and grease can gunk up your plumbing and even cause sewage overflows if you discard them down your sink’s drain. Making sure you’re not over-preparing food can cut down on the amount of cooking oils you’re using. And keeping used oils out of your plumbing by collecting them and recycling them can keep your pipes clean and your house protected. Contrary to popular belief, mixing used oils with soap, or pouring hot water down the drain after discarding oils in the sink, doesn’t prevent fat clogs that can back up your pipes.

There are free drop-off locations for used cooking oils all around the county. Just collect cooked cooking oils in a secure container with a lid and label it “used cooking oil.” Don’t mix chemicals or other liquids in with them. To find the nearest drop-off location, visit the County’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database,, or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784)

To learn more about reducing food waste, visit the County’s Solid Waste Planning and Recycling website. And have a great Thanksgiving!