Reduce Food Waste During the Holiday Season

Food waste is a huge problem in today’s society and what better way to give thanks during the holidays than by making sure as little as possible of your holiday feast goes to waste.

According to the the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40% of the U.S. food supply is discarded and over 100 billion pounds of food is thrown away every year. Likewise, most of that uneaten food ends up going to waste by rotting in landfills. Moreover, excess and scarcity rub elbows every day, with more than 41 million people lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

Along with the wasted food goes all the water, energy, pesticides, fertilizer, labor and other inputs that go into growing, shipping, processing, marketing and preparing it. When landfilled, wasted food also generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Reducing food waste starts in the home, and you can make a difference by taking one small step at a time.

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Holiday Tips to Reduce Food Waste

During the holidays, reduce food waste following these easy tips:

  • Give leftovers to guests.
    If the smaller portions trick doesn’t work and your guests don’t finish what’s on their plate, put the remainder into a reusable container, label it with the date and their name and give it to them as they are leaving. This helps you clean out a fridge full of leftovers that will go bad.
  • Save some usable scraps.
    Save vegetable peelings and trimmings in a plastic bag or glass jar in the freezer until you are ready to make a broth or stock. Make sure you wash all the vegetables before you peel, slice and chop.
  • Explore plant-based alternatives.Leftovers won’t go bad as quickly if you eat a plant-based holiday meal. On top of wasting less food, eating plant-based foods also contributes to less turkeys needed to be raised to be eaten. According to estimates by the National Turkey Foundation, 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving. This means that 20% of the 228 million turkeys consumed in the U.S. each year are eaten on Thanksgiving. And 22% of the turkeys Opens a New Window.  we eat come from Minnesota.
    Tofurky is made from ingredients such as wheat, water, organic tofu, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, leek and more. This alternative is healthy, doesn’t add grease or fat, doesn’t go bad as quickly and is a smaller portion.

Basic Tips to Reduce Food Waste

Reduce food waste by planning ahead and following these easy and practical tips:

  • Shop smart. Don’t buy too much food.
    When you go food shopping, make sure you don’t buy too much food that will go uneaten and rot in the refrigerator.
  • Divide food into smaller portions. Don’t over-serve food.
    Some people may have eyes bigger than their stomachs and load their plates with more than they could eat in one sitting. Using small plates can help with that. Likewise, don’t over-serve friends and family when you’re cooking meals.
  • Save and eat leftovers safely.
    Label your leftovers for safety and so you can keep track of how long they’ve been in your fridge or freezer. Then rotate them into your daily or weekly routine.
  • Store food in the optimum places.
    Storing food in the right place helps with their longevity. There are certain kinds of fruits and vegetables that do better at room temperature versus in the refrigerator. Food Republic has an infographic to help you pinpoint where your various foods should go, while Heart.org breaks down where to put your fruits and veggies to make them last longer.
  • Avoid clutter and better organization in your fridge, pantry and freezer.
    Forgetting food is there until it’s no longer safe to consume is a huge waste. Keep things neat and visible, and use the “first in, first out” principle: After you buy new groceries, move the older products to the front so you consume them first.
  • Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines.
    There are no federal requirements for putting expiration dates on food, except for infant formula. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates. Companies use “sell-by dates”, “use-by dates”, and “expiration dates” as a guideline to help you determine the freshness of perishable products. Dates listed on food don’t give much indication if a product has spoiled or not. The USDA has guidelines on how long to keep perishable items in the fridge here.
  • Donate to food banks and farms.
    Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you’re not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need. You can find local food banks through Feeding America and WhyHunger.

NRDC – Food Waste Reports

The NRDC works to make America’s food system more efficient and less wasteful. We help cities redirect surplus food to people in need. We inspire consumers to waste less food at home and equip them with the strategies to make it happen.

Cities are in a great positioned and are motivated to limit the amount of wasted food in their garbage and landfills. So to help cities waste less food, the NRDC has developed two reports and a series of case studies with support from The Rockefeller Foundation.