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7 Ways to Reduce Holiday Food Waste

holiday food

1. Make Less

We tend to overdo it when it comes to quantity at holiday gatherings, and taking the time to estimate how much food you’ll need can mean less wasted – and less to clean up – when the party’s over. Get a rough head count and try to think about how much each person will really eat. If you’re having 12 people, do you need four pies and a few dozen cookies? Probably not.

2. Reuse those leftovers

You can go beyond the old day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich and stretch leftovers into a satisfying meal or side dish. Need some ideas? Check out these 6 ways to revamp your leftovers!

3. Send it away

Stock up on containers that you don’t mind giving away, and send your guests home with some of the leftover food. If you want to avoid plastic, Mason jars are great for stashing wet leftovers and they’re not so expensive that you have to get them back. You can wrap dry foods like breads and cookies in natural wax paper to send them home with your guests.

4. Embrace the freezer

As you’re putting away leftover food, portion it out and stick it in the freezer. You’ll be happy to remember that squash casserole on a busy weeknight!

5. Embrace ugly produce

Much of the waste in our food system happens before produce ever makes it to the grocery store. It gets discarded because it’s an irregular size or shape – not because it’s rotten. There’s not much that we can do about that as consumers, but one way to keep some of that ugly produce out of the landfill is to support small farms and shop at your local farmers market.

Related Reading: Why aren’t we eating ugly produce?

When you get your veggies from the source, you can opt out of the food system that’s built on a mountain of waste. When you’re making a pie or casserole, who cares if some of the apples were misshapen or the carrots had two legs instead of the usual one?

6. Donate it

Food banks and homeless shelters need donations more than ever around the holidays. Next time you’re faced with a mountain of leftovers, wrap them up and make a donation! Not all organizations will take unpackaged food, so call ahead to make sure they’ll accept your leftover pumpkin pie.

7. Get (pot)lucky

A pot luck is much easier to host than a meal where you’re doing all the cooking, but it can also help you reduce waste on the back end. Ask guests to bring food containers, and at the end of the evening, you can all divvy up the leftovers! That way, no one is stuck with more than he or she can eat, and less food goes to waste.

What do you guys do to reduce food waste during this food-filled season? Let’s keep the ideas going in the comments!

Read more: Christmas, Food, Green Kitchen Tips, Hanukkah, Holidays, Life, New Year, Thanksgiving, , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
8:53AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013


1:25PM PST on Jan 2, 2013

Thanks for info!

9:42AM PST on Dec 28, 2012

the freezer is one of the best ways for leftovers. you'd be amazed how many foods stay tasty when frozen. and those that don't hold up as well can be mixed with fresh products and you'd never know.

2:17AM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Thanks for the information.

10:40AM PST on Dec 21, 2012

Thank you

1:39AM PST on Dec 18, 2012


12:10PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

I compost and the dog eats well-only foods that will not hurt her

11:10PM PST on Dec 8, 2012

Buy what you eat, and eat what you buy. Voila. Little waste.

1:17PM PST on Dec 5, 2012

good tips

7:32AM PST on Dec 5, 2012

Noted &thanks for info.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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