This was my first year having Thanksgiving away from my family AND my first since going vegan and zero waste. It was also the first together with my boyfriend. Lots of firsts! So I made sure to give myself plenty of time to prepare and account for different things.

Overall, I think the day was a success. Of course, it was a Friendsgiving and I only had to cook for 3 people, not an entire extended family, so zero waste was a relatively easy goal for this year. Not cooking a turkey also made the day less stressful. Since being in college makes it generally easier to host holidays, how can you also make it eco-friendly?


1. Get the guest list

Don’t procrastinate like you did for your term paper or studying for the midterm before break. Get a headcount from your friends; who is staying, who is going home, who has other plans? Whose house will be hosting? This year, it turned out only one of my close friends would be staying, so I offered to host at my place. 

Walking to the local co-op for Thanksgiving shopping (PC: t_luke_madenwald)

2. Make the menu

Next, I asked what people wanted to eat. I prefaced that I would not be making any turkey, since I wouldn’t be eating any and there weren’t that many guests. Not personally sustainable! I sent a list of traditional side dishes that would be a little simpler and mostly vegan, then asked them to list top 3 choices. Mashed potatoes (obviously), green bean casserole (not 100% vegan, but popular vote), and wild rice with cranberries and apples (my suggestion) won out. And now I had a menu!


3. Pre-Shop Checklist

I volunteered to make all the food (the whopping 3 dishes), at my place. First, I looked up the recipes too see what I would need. As a rule, I never go with the first recipe you find. I mainly use Pinterest to find recipes, and I don’t need the fluffiest, dreamiest, angel-like vegan mashed potatoes. Search around and see what best fit your needs and pantry, or omit certain items that aren’t crucial to the recipe’s structure. For example, the wild rice recipe I found called for apple juice and Dijon mustard. I didn’t have any apple juice, but I knew I would drink what we didn’t use, however I HATE mustard so I took it out of the recipe. The recipe didn’t suffer (in my opinion), and there was no unnecessary waste. 

Once you know which ingredients you are missing, ask your friends if they already have some at their house. I think one of the greatest benefits of Friendsgiving is that your guests are more local and are more likely to contribute to the meal. Unlike trying to ask Aunt Myra from Wisconsin if she has extra eggs she could bring over. My friend had a can of green beans, so that’s one less thing to buy at the store! Also, you could ask them to contribute drinks or dessert if they have something on hand (like, oh I don’t know, some beers that were leftover from last week’s party).

4. Shopping

So now you know what you absolutely need to buy. As you are mostly familiar with your local resources, plan ahead. If you need some produce, check out the farmer’s market the weekend before Thanksgiving. Things like potatoes and green beans will keep for longer, so you will probably be fine buying in advance. If you have a bulk section available, only get what you need, especially if it’s something you don’t usually eat. I don’t have a need for dried cranberries in anything else I usually make, so I looked at what the recipe called for and only bought that much from the bulk section. I didn’t bring a measuring cup with me, but I eyeballed approximately how much ½ cup would be. If you want, you could probably look up how much what you need weighs and use that to guide your purchase, as most places have a scale to use. If you don’t have bulk sections available, try to buy in glass or cans as these can be recycled.


5. Serving

Even though it means more dishes, avoid using disposable items for your dinner. Use your dinner plates, silverware, and cloth napkins instead. If you don’t have enough plates, ask your guests to bring some! Again, since they are more local than extended family, it’s easier to ask them to contribute.

Another one of my favorite things about college Friendsgiving, is that your guests understand you probably don’t have 10 dinner plates and 10 wine glasses to accommodate everyone! For me, it’s a lot more laid back and less stressful than trying to please all your family members and parent’s friends. Also, there’s usually less people and less food waste in general since it’s easier to gage what will feed 5 people than 25.


What is your favorite part about Friendsgiving? Least favorite? Which do you prefer: Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving with family?


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