New Dinner Party Planning Calculator Can Help Hosts Waste Less Food This Thanksgiving

Free “Guest-imator” uses proprietary algorithm to determine proper portions

NEW YORK, NY – Just in time for Thanksgiving, a new digital calculator is taking the guesswork out of portion planning to help hosts reduce the massive amount of food, money and resources that go to waste around the holiday. The “Guest-imator” is the latest waste-busting consumer resource from the Ad Council and Natural Resources Defense Council’s Save The Food national public service campaign.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, yet it’s often unintentionally wasteful as well,” said NRDC senior scientist Dana Gunders. “Hosts can have the best intentions, but planning a meal for a large group is still tricky. This calculator can help cooks prepare enough for turkey-cranberry sandwiches the day after the feast, but avoid a stockpile of past-due leftovers a week later.”

Created pro bono by SapientRazorfish, the Guest-imator is designed to eliminate unnecessary over-purchasing, saving consumers money and preventing food waste before it starts.

VIDEO: See the Guest-Imator in action

The easy-to-use tool allows users to properly plan how much food to buy and serve for holiday gatherings and other large dinners. To use it, hosts plug in the number of guests they expect to have and select the types of dishes they plan to prepare, including mains, sides and desserts. They can also indicate the number of leftover meals desired.

From there, the Guest-imator calculates the amount of each food to prepare (i.e. eight potatoes or a 10-pound turkey), taking into consideration not only the number of portions needed, but the number of dishes offered, and whether the dishes being served are heavy or light. As the host adds or eliminates dishes or guests, the calculator also updates its calculation.

In 2016, 6 million turkeys—a value of roughly $293 million—ended up in the trash.  That amount of discarded turkey requires an estimated more than 100 billion gallons of water—enough to supply New York City for 100 days. And when it comes to climate pollution, it wastes emissions equivalent to driving a car across the country 800,000 times.

Year-round in the U.S., up to 40 percent of all food goes uneaten annually, at a cost of $218 billion. Consumers are responsible for 43 percent of this waste—more than restaurants, grocery stores or any other single part of the supply chain. It’s a problem that costs the average family of four at least $1,500 per year.

“Consumers want to cut back on food waste, but they aren’t always sure how to do that,” said Peter Wagoner, Associate Creative Director at SapientRazorfish. “That's why we zeroed in on meal planning, particularly for the upcoming holidays, and created the Guest-imator. It uses a proprietary algorithm to make sure you don't prepare too little or too much. Plus, it incorporates a little-known food prep secret: the more dishes you prepare, the smaller each one needs to be. Because guests usually end up sampling multiple things and therefore have less of each."

Save The Food is aimed at combatting food waste from its largest source—consumers. In doing so, Ad Council and NRDC seek to reduce the massive amount of money, water and energy that is wasted when food is thrown out.

“As awareness about food waste continues to grow, ‘Save The Food’ is becoming a go-to resource for consumers looking to make changes and eliminate waste,” said Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman. “Our goal with tools like the Guest-imator is to make the guiding principles of food waste reduction accessible to everyone – from the grandmother who regularly cooks for her extended family, to the young professional who’s hosting his or her first big dinner.”

Visit for more tips, tricks and recipes to reduce food waste.


The Ad Council
The Ad Council brings together the most creative minds in advertising and media to address the most worthy causes. Its innovative, pro bono social good campaigns raise awareness. They inspire action. They save lives. To learn more, visit, follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.

Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​

SapientRazorfish, part of Publicis.Sapient, is a new breed of transformation partner designed to help companies reimagine their business through radical customer centricity. With more than 12,000 people and 70 offices around the globe, our capabilities span growth and business model strategy, new product and service innovation, enterprise digital transformation, IT modernization, omni-channel commerce, customer experience strategy, change management, digital operations, digital innovation, data strategy and advanced analytics.

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