By Michelle Pugle
You’ve worked hard all year long. Your holiday season should be relaxing and filled with fun times with friends and family.
You don’t want to be worrying about food waste.
But here we are. You know as well as I do that household food waste tends to spike during this most wonderful time of the year. I mean, it almost feels inevitable. We invite visitors and attend events and bring and get gifts, all of which are activities associated with the sharing of food. After all, that’s what we do.
We love coming together and celebrating the season with good food, drink, and dessert. Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by an incomprehensible amount of waste. This waste is sometimes unavoidable, but in many cases, it’s entirely preventable. All it takes it a bit of planning with the planet in mind.
The past few years have seen an overhaul in how holidays are handled from an eco-friendly perspective. It’s easier than ever to have a truly green holiday season.
Here are my top tips for reducing food waste this holiday season:
Plan, plan, plan
Whether you have company coming or not, it doesn’t matter. If you’re home this holiday season, you need a list before going to the store. I’d recommend making a plan each time you shop, based on weekly menus.
Making flexible weekly menu steers your shopping and reduces the risk of random buys we know we’ll never use.
Knowing what to buy also streamlines your grocery shopping experience and helps you stay on budget.
Prep ahead of arrivals
Have a quick food convo with guests before their arrivals. Ask them if they have food restrictions and any preferences. This prevents unnecessary waste and reduces the likelihood of your guests asking to go out for dinner, brunch, or lunch.
Stick to a list
When you decide what items you need, write them down, do a double-check of your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and bring the list with you to the store.
When you’re tempted to grab an extra bag of something or stock up for company’s sake, remember you’ve already made your list with your menu in mind. You can also always pick up something last minute, rather than overstock and waste.
Take advantage of bulk stores
If you’re doing any holiday baking or serving some candies and snacks, head to the bulk stores first. You’ll save money and avoid overstocking your pantry.
Remember to bring your own reusable containers and bags. This way, you can portion out exactly how much sugar, flour, chocolate, and other goods you need and you avoid wasting plastic bags.
Portion and freeze
Even those who live alone can take advantage of buying larger portions of meat, seafood, cheese, and baked goods. You just need to be prepared to portion out servings, seal them, and freeze them after grocery shopping.
Choose pickled, canned, frozen, and dried grocery items
Yes, fresh is best, and when we buy fresh, we should follow the other tips on this list.
However, another viable way to reduce food waste and cut grocery costs is to buy pickled, canned, frozen, and dried grocery items. These have longer shelf lives and are less likely to spoil before use.
Remember that less is more
Resist the urge to over serve at brunches, luncheons, and dinners. I know it’s hard because we use an abundance of food to seem hospitable and welcoming, but it’s really not in anyone’s best interest. Your guests will overindulge before dessert and spoil their sweet tooth, leaving you with too many leftovers.
Gift leftover desserts
If you end up with lots of goodies after the holiday season, don’t hesitate to share the love with people you know. While your friends and family may be sick of sweets, maybe your neighbours, the local library, or the like would appreciate them. If not, remember to use your freezer as your friend. You can enjoy holiday treats in July!
Use proper storage containers
Proper storage containers extend the shelf life of whatever you’re preserving. Glass and stainless steel work best, but you can also wrap items in beeswax paper or store them in silicone freezer bags.
Don’t overwhelm guests with choices
Too many sides and sauces and such will lead to the “little of everything” plate. While it’s enjoyable, it’s also easy to find a lot of leftovers if you don’t portion properly while planning. People will sample rather than serve themselves anything substantial.
Make leftovers into new dishes
I know a whole lot of “I don’t like leftovers” kind of people. For me, with a little creativity, it doesn’t even feel like you’re eating leftovers at all, but that’s besides the point.
Good food needs to be eaten.
Try mashing leftover potatoes and making little patty pancakes with other ingredients like chives, cheese, fried mushrooms. You can also toss leftover potatoes into a bowl with mayo, dill, carrots, celery, and egg for a creamy salad.
You can also turn yesterday’s stir-fry into today’s Chinese food and transform leftover rotisserie chicken into a hearty soup.