Our Zero-Waste Thanksgiving (November Recap)

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I started seeing a lot of posts on food waste. Some of the facts were just plain staggering: 204 million pounds of turkey wasted, $293 million in food tossed out on just this one day alone. We had already decided to skip the turkey and host a meal that we hoped would be consumed in its entirety on Thanksgiving Day – no leftovers – but reading these ridiculous stats gave us another idea.

Regardless of whether or not we clean our plates, the sad fact remains – the holidays are just one (albeit extreme) example of food waste. Every single day, grocery stores toss out perfectly good food because it looks bad, because one apple in the bag is rotten, because it’s close to expiration, or believe it or not, because they no longer have shelf space for that particular item! Living next to a grocery store, we see this all the time. If you’ve followed our blog for very long, you know that we are unashamed of the fact that we often rescue food from the dumpster. It’s our tiny contribution to saving the planet and feeding our neighbors in need.

So for Thanksgiving we decided to make our meal from rescued food. This included both dumpster finds and anything on the last chance/quick sale rack of our local grocer. In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, we visited the two grocery stores next door almost every day. From the dumpster,  we managed to score a 10# bag of Russet potatoes, 2 dozen eggs, a pound of carrots, 7 yellow onions, 2 red onions, a 3# bag of Granny Smith apples, a bag of brown ‘n serve rolls, an orange, and a 16 oz. bag of fresh cranberries. From the quick sale rack, we purchased an organic Spring Mix salad ($2.99) and a bag of flour ($1). We were able to rescue almost every item on our menu, with the exception of a chicken, fresh tomatoes, and a cucumber.

With these items, we created a delicious dinner consisting of 2 chicken pot pies, a garden salad, a cranberry-apple compote, deviled eggs, rolls, and an apple pie. (And breakfast the next day – fresh cranberry muffins!).

The dinner was a success and almost every bite was eaten that day (the exception was the salad, which we munched on for the next two days, and the deviled eggs, which became egg salad sandwiches). We feel really good about what we were able to rescue and the folks we served, they were more flabbergasted by the amount of food we found than they were about where it was found. In fact, I’ve even had 2 requests for another “Dumpster Apple Pie” LOL.

Thanksgiving may have been the highlight of our month, but along with our frugal food adventures, we were also able to make progress on our other goals.

  • We added 47.4 miles to our walking total. We stand at 845.2 miles for the year.
  • We enjoyed 14 completely meatless days (or 71 vegetarian meals) this month.
  • We earned $107.80 (cash) and $85.63 in Amazon gift cards through side hustles.
  • We decluttered 7 more items, mostly winter coats, which we donated to charity.

I have most of the month of December off from work and lots of ideas of how I want to spend that time. Reading, relaxing, and trying some new recipes (probably using rescued foods) tops the list. Spending time with loved ones and taking in some of the sights and sounds of the holidays comes in a close second. And of course, there’s one final round of decluttering left to do and a lot of walking, if we want to reach our goals for the year!

How will you spend your December?

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Thinking Outside the Gift Box

It’s holiday shopping season again. We popped into Kroger and Sam’s Club over the weekend to do a couple of side hustles and whoa! both places were almost too crowded to walk though. The back aisle of Kroger, near the turkey bin, was impassable and there must have been a smoking sale on fuzzy blankets at Sam’s because we saw two different shoppers with carts full of them.

While everyone else was spending money, we were earning it (and sampling snacks from the food demos along the way). We made $49 through Easy Shift and Field Agent and both surpassed our goal on the Shopkick app – to each earn a $25 Amazon gift card. Add that to the hotel audits we did on Wednesday evening and we hustled our way to an extra $123 this week. Not bad for the first full week of what we like to call RetailMania, that time of year when people buy all manner of stuff for no other reason than they are expected to.

Sadly, we are not immune to the gifting phenomenon. My nephew has already circulated his wish list. My sister has asked for ours. And yes, we did hit the Dollar General 3-day sale on Saturday looking for building blocks for a certain little someone on our Christmas list. The blocks were 50% off – or $7.50 – by the way, and fit very nicely into the extremely small budget we set for gifting this year. How small, you might be wondering. Let’s just say this…we’re paying for ALL of our gifts with the change we collected throughout the year – all $57.07 of it. That’s approximately $10 apiece for the five members of my family, not including each other. Angie and I don’t usually exchange gifts. Rather we stuff each other’s stocking with little inexpensive edible tidbits, like tea or chocolate, which is paid for out of our grocery budget.

We’re doing this experiment, not because we’re cheap (even though we are), but to challenge ourselves to think outside of the (gift) box and find new ways to stand by our values, while also honoring our family’s tradition of gifting presents for Christmas. We did try talking our family members into joining the fun but none were willing to be “that frugal”. My mom, though, has set herself a strict budget of $150 (down quite significantly from the $600 she spent last year) and my sister and I made lists for each other, from which we are supposed to choose only one gift to give. Our list, by the way, contained only food items and thrifty experiences, like a Red Box gift card or passes for bowling – things that would easily fit a $10 budget, since we didn’t want to expect more from others than we were willing to spend ourselves.

There are a plethora of great gifts out there under $10 but we wanted to get creative and do something from the heart. So on Sunday, we sat down with our crafting supplies and started creating. I had seen these cute reindeer washcloths on Facebook a few weeks back and knew they were something that would be fun to do.

Each reindeer cost 92 cents to make. The laughs that came along with making them – priceless. Inside of each deer is a bar of hypoallergenic soap (25 cents at Dollar Tree). The instructions for folding the reindeer can be found here.

Since reindeer are social animals (I’m just guessing here), we decided to make each one a friend. 

The snowman companion is filled with a homemade peppermint foot soak. The jars were collected throughout the year from buying salsa at the Farmer’s Market, so they were essentially free; bringing the cost of each snowman to $1.07. Together with the reindeer, they make a holiday themed spa kit. Toss in three 27 cent gift bags and we spent just $6.78 of our $57.07 budget on three gifts. For fun, on the top of each snowman we added a “coupon” for free refills. Angie makes peppermint foot soak all the time and we’re more than happy to share. On the bottom we included the recipe, just in case someone wants to make their own.

We have a few more ideas up our sleeves for the remaining budget so stay tuned!

Do you make handmade gifts for the holidays? How well are they received? What’s your favorite projects to create?