In manufacturing, like home life, reducing or eliminating waste improves your bottom line and overall efficiency. This year, try reducing the 8 wastes generated at Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll thank yourself later.

Thanksgiving is a few days away. The holiday is a wonderful time to celebrate with turkey, friends, and football, but it’s also one of the most wasteful times of the year. About 40% of all food purchases, valued at $160 billion in the U.S., is wasted each year. 

Defects – Embrace the ugly fruit. Americans on average prefer to purchase produce that is cosmetically attractive. As a result, grocers enforce high cosmetic standards on farmers and produce distributors. Sources report 25% of fruit is wasted before it even makes it to the supermarket because it fails to meet these standards.

Excess Processing – In manufacturing, excess processing refers to doing more than required to produce a quality output. A common form of over processing for Thanksgiving dinner is excessive peeling, cutting, and shaping produce and other ingredients. Sometimes peeling vegetables is required because of how they are processed in a supermarket or the bitterness of the skin. However, common ways vegetables are prepared during Thanksgiving are no-peel no-deal. For example, “it’s okay to leave the skin on: roasting, mashing, and, depending on the variety, grating or chopping raw”.

Overproduction – Factories avoid generating more goods than they can sell. Overproduction is another popular form of waste both in manufacturing and during the holidays. There’s a reason Thanksgiving is not a popular time to start a weight loss program. Oftentimes, more is more and gluttony is king during this holiday. With a little coordination and planning, your lunch can still have all of the traditional dishes you love without some of the leftovers you don’t. Guest RSVPs are more than a social grace, they are key to planning. Outside of unforeseen circumstances, try to get a clear head count and cook for satiety.

Waiting – Lean manufacturers often look for ways to reduce idle time amongst operators. You might want to reduce waiting and idle time at your Thanksgiving dinner for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re not scheduling cooking, some of your dishes will be done before others, and items will need to be reheated before everybody can eat. This means you’ll either need to use your oven to reheat food, or there will be a queue at the microwave as individual plates are heated back up. Additionally, missing a scheduled time for dinner encourages snacking. If your guests are snacking while watching football, they may not eat as much of the Thanksgiving dinner you planned to serve, resulting in more leftovers, and potentially more waste.

Inventory – Like overproduction, excess inventory is a wasteful extra. To help reduce this type of waste, make a dietary preference list for Thanksgiving guests. Consider your guests preferences and restrictions before recipe selection. Inventory waste isn’t just about the amount of food. You should probably skip the pecan pie if most guests are allergic to nuts. Easy fixes include calling guests to reduce duplicate dishes at potluck style lunches, cutting recipe amounts in half, and finding recipes that overlap with raw ingredients to improve shopping efficiency.

Moving – Moving, or transportation, is another waste opportunity in manufacturing. Moving inventory, tools, or other materials more than you need to can result in damage to these materials. It’s easy to see the potential for this waste during Thanksgiving. A twenty-plus pound, steaming stuffed turkey is a challenge to move. Getting hot plates to their final destinations safely can help reduce the risk of waste during transport. Also, carefully carving the bird and transporting meat to a guest’s plate can help prevent “moving” waste.

Motion – According to lean principles“The waste in motion includes any unnecessary movement of people, equipment, or machinery.” Bring ingredients and tools to a centralized place to reduce errands and adjustments during your meal prep.

Non-Utilized Talent – Survey attendees and guests and find some supporting sous chefs. The more people collaborate on the prep, bring specific dishes, and help with related activities like setting tables, the more efficient and lower stress the Thanksgiving dinner.

Bonus: If you still have leftovers, try making a Thanksgiving inspired croque madame, or mashed potato waffles.

This Thanksgiving, try reducing waste with these tips. You’ll save food and brush up on lean principles. Let us know if you have other tips to reduce waste, and we hope you have a great Thanksgiving!