Use this food-serving calculator to make just the right amount this Thanksgiving

 turkey

Planning a big holiday meal, like the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday for those of us in the US, can be stressful. First, you have to choose which dishes to make, running the risk of angering family members if you stray too far from tradition. Then you have to determine how much of everything to prepare. The biggest concern is running out of something mid-meal - every cook's nightmare. And while it is fun to have some leftovers, when you are forced to serve turkey for a solid two weeks after the big day, you might regret your decision to roast that extra bird. 

That's where a nifty online calculator offered by the Natural Resources Defense Council comes in handy. Called the Guest-imator, the tool helps you decide how much of each dish that you should make. The Guest-imator asks you to provide various inputs as to the number of guests, whether they are small, average, or big eaters, how many leftover meals you want, and what type of meal you plan to serve.

Once you have entered all of the variables, the calculator will tell you how much of each food you should serve. The tool is geared for Thanksgiving, but since you can customize the menu, it will work for any large gathering. You can email the results to yourself and others, and the customization tool allows you to add things like who will be responsible for making a certain dish. 

The goal of the calculator is to reduce food waste. An estimated 40% of food in the US going to waste (much of it before it even reaches consumers), so the tool is a valuable resource. The rest of the site where the Guest-imator is located provides tips on food storage as well as providing recipe ideas for using fruits, vegetables, and other foods that might otherwise go to waste.  

I am notorious for making far more food than is necessary for our Thanksgiving meal. I tried the Guest-imator to see what it recommended. From the results I obtained, it looks like I have ordered too much turkey once again. I now plan on freezing one of the turkey breasts for a later date. I must admit that I find the portion sizes of the calculator to be a bit small - and there is no way I'm only making one pie. But maybe I can cut back a bit on some of the sides. Maybe. 

Photo of the ever-popular  Crisp-skinned butterflied roast turkey with gravy from indexed blog Serious Eats

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