A staggering statistic from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the amount of waste produced during the holiday is often shared this time of year.
The original 2006 report, though outdated now, warns us that the US usually increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day to 1 million tons. (1) It’s great to see an increase in awareness over the past decade since the holidays can easily be a time of excess food preparation, paper, and packaging materials for all of us.
It’s not just around the holidays either. It’s something we can all work to improve year-round. There are many ways we can actively and consciously reduce food waste.
Reducing food waste could look like purchasing less food each week because you have a pantry stocked with bulk items, making the food you purchase each week more efficient. In addition, a little menu planning goes a long way with purchasing just enough food but not more than you’ll need during holiday busy schedules, traveling, and entertaining.
If you have extra food items at home around the holidays, share extra pantry goods or food in general with community food shelters, your neighbors, and loved ones.
Create recipes with leftovers
Another great strategy to utilize extra food around the holidays is to make delicious leftovers! Leftovers for holiday meals can be as straightforward as heating up the food and duplicating the holiday meal as is.
But, sometimes we get a little bored and want more variety from all the holiday foods on the table and stocked in the fridge.
Here are a few ideas to utilize common holiday food favorites:
Bread: freeze for later, cut and bake for homemade croutons, soak for homemade french toast, and use for sandwiches
Roasted veggies: add all remaining roasted veggies like butternut squash, mushrooms, Brussels, etc. in a big salad with beans and pumpkin seeds for a roasted veggie salad
Animal proteins: add them to a leftover “pot pie” recipe with other holiday fillings.
Freeze leftovers or extras for later by properly freezing them! This is a great strategy for busy people and families by creating your own homemade “TV dinner”.
Composting food is the best last step of the process with holiday food waste. Instead of placing food in the trash, add it to your compost which is the most sustainable and regenerative option you could do.
All the food you enjoyed for the holidays, can nourish the soil for your at-home garden or can be given to local gardens if you use a composting service.
Be sure to checklists of what food items can be composted and what can’t before composting.
If you have compost at home, a compost bin on the countertop or a local composting service that can pick it up at your house or it can be dropped off.
Reducing holiday food waste is easy when there’s a little planning ahead mixed with leftover strategies so nothing goes in the trash or goes to waste.
(1) Standford University - Frequently Asked Questions: Holiday Waste Prevention