8 Ways to Reduce Food Waste During the Holidays



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The holidays are a time of gathering around a table, indulging in comfort food classics and eating to your heart’s content. But unfortunately, the joy of eating is usually followed by loads of leftovers landing in the garbage bin. In 2016, nearly 6 million turkeys wound up in the trash during the holiday season, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). That’s nothing compared to the 40% of total food, or $218 billion, wasted year-round. But small changes can add up to big results over time, so make a pledge to curtail food waste this holiday season with these simple tips.

Create a Holiday Menu

Planning out meals helps you determine what you need to buy and what you may already have on hand. Make a shopping list for items that you don’t already have, and stick to it. Don’t make any impulse purchases because something looks tasty or pretty — chances are you won’t end up eating it.

Use Your Guest List

Every party host worries about having enough food for their guests. This year, dismiss your worries with the ‘guest-imator’, a handy tool from the NRDC that helps you create a menu based on how many people are attending your holiday feast. 

Eat Root to Stem

According to Whole Food’s 2018 Food Trend Report, eating root to stem is on trend for 2018. This movement encourages using the entire fruit or vegetable, including the less commonly eaten root and stem, in the cooking process. Here are some ways to incorporate lesser-used produce parts into your holiday dinner.

- Slice the stem of broccoli stalks thinly and roast in the oven until they become crispy.

- Add celery greens or carrot tops to pesto and toss atop pasta.

- Throw bitter beet greens into a salad with other lettuce and a sweet dressing.

- Roast squash seeds with olive oil and salt. They make a delicious crunchy appetizer.

- Use leftover stems, peels and cheese rinds as the base for a soup stock.

Repurpose Leftovers

If your leftovers tend to end up in the back of the fridge, only to be thrown out a week later, it’s time to switch up your routine. Rather than microwaving leftovers for a boring repeat meal, repurpose them into something new. Here are some fun holiday twists on leftovers.

- A turkey carcass makes a great base for a soup stock.

- Once the stock is ready, add any leftover shredded turkey to the soup.

- Throw old bread in the food processor to make crumbs. Toss the crumbs with olive oil and your favorite seasoning. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes to make homemade breadcrumbs, which make a great topper for mashed potatoes.


If eating old or unfamiliar food just isn’t your thing, turn it into fertilizer. Composting doesn’t have to be scary, and you can do it year-round. Using either a large freezer bag or storage container with a lid, collect all of your leftover food scraps. If you live in an apartment, keep the compost in the freezer to contain the smell and drop off the scraps at your local farmer’s market. Or, create your own compost heap at home by following these directions from the EPA.

Perform a Food-Waste Audit

Reducing food waste may sound nice in theory, but it’s even better when you actually see how much food you save from the garbage bin and how it affects your bottom line. Conduct a food-waste audit over a two-week period. The first week, eat and throw away food as you would normally. Put a chart by the garbage bin and mark down how much food you threw away and approximately how much it cost. The next week, try to minimize your waste and repeat the exercise. Once you see how much food and money you are saving, you may be more likely to try and reduce the waste at the holidays--a time when you can really use the extra cash.

Get Creative with Ingredients

You know that week between Christmas and New Year’s when kids are home from school and tend to get bored? That’s the perfect time to host your own Chopped cooking competition. The challenge: use whatever is left in your fridge to make a new dish. No grocery shopping allowed!

Utilize Past-its-Prime Produce

Fruit and veggies looking a little wilted? Rather than throw them away to make room for your holiday feast, add them to the menu. Pureed fruit makes a great base for holiday jams. And soft veggies are the perfect addition to homemade soups or sauces. Store either in a mason jar, put a ribbon around it, and you’ve got a homemade gift! 

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