This holiday season, let’s take the time to reduce food waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every year unwanted or surplus food amounts to close to 1/4 of what is filling our landfills. Unfortunately, much of that food waste increases during the holidays. Let’s be more mindful about the amount of food we let go to waste this Christmas season by making sure that food that is perfectly safe and edible is eaten.
Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Plan your holiday meals.
Planning your holiday meals is the ideal way to make sure you aren’t left with large amounts of leftovers that may or may not be eaten. This involves taking the time to research recipes so you know the exact food and ingredient amounts needed that can be tailored per person/family size, and most importantly, sticking to recommended portion sizes. Make a plan for every meal of the day and for snacks. The more specific you can be about your meals, the less food you will waste.
- Stick to your list!
Once you have planned your holiday meals and made a list of all the ingredients you will need, stick to your list when grocery shopping. Resist the temptation to make impulse purchases since such purchases will defeat the whole reason for planning.
- Store foods correctly to help them last longer.
Proper food storage can greatly help reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Make sure you know and understand the different ways to store certain foods so it all stays fresh longer. These methods include wrapping certain fruits and vegetables in plastic wrap or cling film, storing dairy products in the fridge, and keeping pantry items away from heat sources.
- Have a plan for leftovers.
Despite your best efforts, you can sometimes still end up with leftovers after holiday meals. You can often freeze them to eat later, or use them up by getting a bit creative in combining the leftovers with other ingredients to make a full meal. You might use leftover chicken in sandwiches or soups, or combine vegetables to make a veggie-filled stir fry, or bake a casserole with all the ingredients you have on hand. Take a few minutes to look at your leftovers and see what creative ways you can use them together to make a meal.
- Donate your leftover foods.
Finally, if you know you won’t be able to eat all your leftovers, donate what is still good to food pantries or soup kitchens to help those in need. Just be sure to get in touch with your local food rescue organization before dropping off your excess food.
Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be time consuming or hard work; it simply requires mindfulness and mindful decisions! If you need help or quick guides for storing food, making a grocery list just for your meal needs, or suggestions for planning your meals, the EPA has a great list of printable reference guides that you can print out and keep on your fridge or download to your phone for quick reference.