leftovers

Holiday Food for Thought

7 Tips for Cutting Food Waste Throughout the Holidays

Tis the season for parties, festivities, food and fun. The holiday season is here and many (including me!) are eager to eat, drink and be merry. Calendars are filling with concerts, ugly sweater parties, baking dates, families dinners, and much more. The season of fun and cheer is definitely here! (Rhyme intended. You’re welcome.)

While this time of merriment is wonderful, it’s also incredibly wasteful. As Americans, we are extraordinarily wasteful year round, but we definitely take it up a notch over the holiday season. According to the EPA, Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and the New Year’s holiday. This accounts for things like food, wrapping paper, ribbons, cards, and trees (amongst other things). And food is a big piece of the waste!  Americans throw, on average, 40% of our food resources each year, and the EPA estimates that food waste increases by an additional 33% during the holiday season!

Sad? Mad? Want to do something? Try these seven simple steps to trim the holiday food waste.  

  1. Make A Meal Calendar - Many develop a grocery shopping routine - buying the same foods and the same amounts every time we shop. However, with all the festivities and fun, you may not be home for meals as often as usual. Check your calendar and mark the nights you will likely be home cooking and eating. Also check with the rest of the household to know the quantities you will need. (We know everyone, including kid’s schedules, get crazy this time of year!).  Adjust your shopping list accordingly.

  2. Menu Plan & Stay Organized -  Not many of us are accustomed to hosting large gatherings frequently, so it may be difficult to determine how much food to buy for the number of people you are hosting. An important tip is to make menus, determine portions (check out this handy portion planner from the Food Network) , and create detailed shopping lists. It may seem cumbersome, but in the long run, it saves you time and money.

  3. Make a Few “Greats” Instead of 20 “So-So’s” - Many believe that in order for a meal to be special, the counter and plates must overfloweth with food. This is simply not the case. A few delicious, thoughtful, well-executed dishes are way more special and appreciated than a buffet of mediocre abundance. Also, when we do less, it presents an opportunity to really think about the foods and provide personal touches. We can spend time thinking about sourcing and preparation techniques that will enhance the dish and make it something truly special.

  4. Send Guests Home With Leftovers. Sometimes leftovers are inevitable. But is that such a bad thing? Leftovers can be awesome! If you know you’re going to have food leftover, buy extra tupperware you are willing to part with (preferably multi-compartment) and send a meal home with your guest. This can be your host gift, and your guests will be extreme grateful when they’re enjoying a delicious, home cooked meal the following day.  

  5. Make an “Eat Me First” Shelf in the Refrigerator. Download this simple “Eat Me First” printout from the EPA to adhere to one shelf in the refrigerator. Any food that is at or near the point of going bad, place on this shelf. Also place any leftovers on this shelf. It will serve as a frequent reminder for the whole household to choose these foods first. (Note: This is a great year-round strategy, not just for the holiday season.)

  6. Serve Desserts in a Mason Jar - It’s cute, trendy and if a guest has eaten more than enough that evening, they can simply put the lid on and take it home for later. It’s a lovely token for your guests, and also an important reminder that overeating is just as wasteful as throwing food away.

  7. Get Creative With Holiday Leftovers - Some foods are awesome stand-alone leftovers, while others need a little help in the days following the actual meal. Here and here are a couple of great blogs sharing creative ways to reuse and repurpose leftovers, beyond a turkey sandwich! A Leftover Thanksgiving Brunch Waffle? Yes please!

Got suggestions on more ways to reduce waste? Share in the comments or on social media with #FMUglyFood.

Wishing all a safe and sustainable holiday season!

Cheers from Megan M., and the Ugly Food People of the North