From preparing expansive food layouts to layering the house with sparkly decorations and exchanging gifts upon gifts, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year is a busy one. And as busy as it gets, often times we overlook how much waste is produced when we partake in such festive activities. Unfortunately, the jolliest time of year can also be the most wasteful time of year.
There’s a lot we can do at the individual-level to ensure we are celebrating the holidays fully while generating the least waste possible, and it all starts with food waste. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that Americans generate three times the amount of food waste during the holiday season than during other times of the year, and these readily decomposable organic materials produce the most methane when sent to the landfill. We have a few tips for reducing holiday food waste during your Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve party.
At the grocery store:
- Know before you go. Check your fridge and pantry to see if you already have some of the ingredients needed. Maybe you find a bottle of mayonnaise in the back of your cupboard and it is past the “best by” or “use by” date. Don’t toss it! These dates are misleading when it comes to safety. If you stored the unopened product properly then it is more than likely safe to eat and still in good quality.
- Go to the store with a list of what you need. Blindly shopping can lead to surplus ingredients in the kitchen that may go unused.
- Reach for the ugly piece of produce. Although perfectly fine to eat, grocery stores end up tossing out the deformed carrots or the misshaped apples, because people assume that if they look weird, they must taste weird. The quality is the same no matter how many extra lumps there are!
In the kitchen:
- Collect food scraps for compost. Food scraps are truly the gift that keeps on giving. Instead of scraping what’s left on your cutting board into the trash, start a compost bin or pile, and you’ll be fertilizing your garden with the best organic soil amendment in no time. Check out our blog about starting your own compost pile at home for tips! [link]
- Use the whole vegetable. If you don’t compost food scraps, then avoid discarding valuable parts of veggies or fruits altogether by using them while you cook. Skins and seeds contain valuable nutrients and can be used creatively in your dish.
During the meal:
- Have a buffet-style serving station. Not only is this easier on the host, but it also allows the guest to pile up their plate according to their hunger level (and hopefully they don’t overestimate it!).
After the fact:
- Compost some more! Have your guests discard the remaining scraps on their plate in a separate compost bin.
- Freeze leftovers. Leftovers make a great and effortless next day meal. If you have an abundance of leftovers that may take weeks to finish, put them in a Tupperware and stick them in the freezer for optimal freshness.
- Create new meals. If you get sick of eating the same leftovers for a week straight, try making new meals with what you have. Use leftover roasted veggies to make cheesy vegetable turnovers or creamy vegetable soup. Or turn that leftover meat into a turkey potpie or a ham casserole! The options are endless.
- Share the goods. Donate any canned or dried goods to local food banks and shelters to spread the love to those less fortunate this holiday season. To find a food bank near you, visit Feeding America’s Food Bank Locator.