For most people, the holidays are a special time for gathering with friends and family, eating good food, and celebrating both the year past, as well as the one to come; however, if we aren’t careful, it can also turn into a record-breaking season with, quite literally, tons of wasted food, which, ultimately, arrive in our landfills. Certainly, 40% of U.S.- produced foods aren’t eaten, and during the holiday season, that number increases by 25% compared to other months. Not only does such squandering result in wasted resources, such as money, labor, time, transportation, and water, it also produces methane gas that releases into our atmosphere, which is a leading force of global warming. If you aren’t familiar with the effects of methane gas, simply put, it traps heat into our atmosphere beyond what carbon dioxide traps, thereby, causing a massive shift in global climate change. Fortunately for us, we can take action to reduce our food waste and divert valuable nutritional resources from ending up in landfills just by making a few simple shifts in our holiday habits! Whether you are hosting a dinner party or just cooking for two, we can all benefit from these practical tips for reducing food waste during the holidays.
The first tip is to prepare, cook, and serve your holiday meals with a plan in mind, for, many times, it is the lack of planning that leads to over-buying, spoilage, and, thus, food waste. One way to avoid this unfortunate fate for your food is by following recipes that calculate the specific servings that it yields. Servings can easily be adjusted to one’s precise needs by using a convenient online tool provided by All Recipes, a popular recipe website. Once you know the ingredients needed, make a list, and be sure to stick to it. Another helpful online tool to gauge how much to buy is Savethefood.com’s ‘Guestimator’. This tool allows you to estimate how much food one needs to buy based on the number of guests one is feeding and accounts for other factors as well. In my experience, it is always practical to make only a little more food than one may think necessary for the sake of leftovers or second helpings (but not too much, or one becomes wasteful!).
Another easy tip is to reduce the serving sizes by using smaller serving dishes and serving spoons in order to limit the amount that people serve themselves; after all, they can always go back for seconds, but they can’t return unfinished food!
Thirdly, it is always good practice to prepare for those yummy leftovers that I alluded to earlier. You can go about this a few ways: Provide reusable dishware for your guests that wish to take home any leftover food; purchase freezer safe dishes to freeze leftovers that you won’t consume within three days preceding the meal; create fun new dishes out of leftovers. That last point is especially important for ensuring that all the previously-prepared food is eaten and enjoyed!
Donating unused food from the holidays is another excellent way that we can keep food from entering the landfills, all while spreading holiday cheer to those who may need it most. Many food pantries are especially in need during this season and would gladly accept food donations, but first, call your local food pantry before donating to make sure that it can accept all your food and dining items.
Lastly, what better season than 2020, the year of new hobbies, to start a compost pile for all organic matter leftover from holiday meals? A compost pile is something that you can continue to cultivate and, ultimately, integrate into a greener new year for you! For more information on composting, please visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.
Let’s make it a waste-free holiday this year starting with our holiday cuisines by incorporating some of these tips into our annual holiday traditions and carrying them on throughout the new year!
Ilacsd. 10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste, Save Money, and Protect the Environment this Holiday Season. I Love a Clean San Diego. November 3, 20202. https://www.ilacsd.org/2020/11/03/10-tips-to-reduce-food-waste-this-holiday-season/
Allrecipes Staff. Recipe Conversion Basics. Allrecipes. June 05, 2015. https://www.allrecipes.com/article/recipe-conversion-basics/
EPA. Composting at Home. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home