How Can We Avoid Food Waste During the Holidays?

And so it begins. We might as well turn the period from Oct. 31 through Dec. 31 into one great big holiday and give it a new designation. Let’s call it Food-Waste Fortmonth! From the mountains of candy to Aunt Marge’s famous fruitcake, Americans waste three times more food than usual during this time of year. All told, we let 34 million tons of food go to waste each year! We are pigs.

In general, it takes a tremendous amount of water, land, and other resources to produce our food, whether it be spinach, sweet potato pie, or SweeTARTS. Throwing that food in the trash represents a huge squandering of those inputs, takes up limited landfill space, and gives back to the atmosphere in all the worst ways (landfills are notorious producers of methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change).

We all know how the ounce of prevention stacks up against the pound of cure. Let us strive to keep our Thanksgiving and Christmahanukwanzakah celebrations from becoming exercises in excess. To stop food waste before it starts, dearest readers, make sure to finish the contents of the fridge as you approach big family meals, so perfectly good items don’t go forgotten behind the incoming tide. Plan and shop for recipes ahead of time to match the number of guests, so you don’t end up with way, way too much food, and serve meals buffet-style instead of trying to guess how much tofurky Uncle Jim can put away. You get the idea.

You’ll have some leftovers, of course. Take care of them by hosting a day-after dinner, wrapping them up and sending them home with guests, freezing ’em for later, or donating them to the hungry. Extra canned goods or dry goods are generally best for donations, but some food banks will accept your turkey or stuffing too, so ask around. Finally, if you haven’t started composting yet, give yourself the gift of a compost bin and put your leftovers to work. Because no matter how hard you try, you might not be able to give away all of your mashed potatoes (or Aunt Marge’s fruitcake, for that matter).

Adapted from on-line magazine Grist.

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