Ah, the holidays…they’re all about spending time with your loved ones, laughing at old stories, and enjoying all that deliciousness on the table. Food is the cornerstone of any celebration, and it’s also one of our favorite subjects. With Thanksgiving around the corner, we wanted to outline several zero food waste tips that you can use in your own kitchen over the next few days, weeks – and beyond.
1. Meal Planning.
Most of us eat to our heart’s content and then still have heaps of food left untouched. Cooking to feed a crowd of revelers is not necessary, especially if you won’t have a large gathering. Find out the precise number of guests that will attend your holiday festivities and plan accordingly to reduce excess food. On top of that, you can use the online Guest-imator, a valuable tool that will help you calculate how much food you will need to keep your guests happy and full.
2. Rethink Traditions.
Roasting a giant bird or glazing a whole smoked ham for the holiday table are time-tested favorites but having a smaller menu will not make your celebration less special. Ask your guests what they are looking forward to eating, and if they are open to try new recipes. Then create a list of the food items you don’t have at home, and shop only for what you need. Chances are you don't have to buy a new bottle of vanilla extract or a jar of nutmeg that only gets used once a year.
You will also want to keep in mind that no one wants to show up empty-handed to a holiday feast. Ask your guests to bring exactly what you’re missing, and favor items with a long shelf life, such as sparkling water, wine, or beer. This strategy alone will reduce unnecessary waste and save you money on groceries.
3. Save the Scraps.
Those bones and veggie scraps will make a great stock, so take advantage of them! Set scraps aside when prepping your food, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to be used. Pop the container in your freeze if you think you won’t have time to use them within a week. You can see a recipe on our Instagram page, under the “Food Recovery” highlight reel.
4. Proper Storage.
Let’s talk canning, freezing, and refrigerating those leftovers! Break out your Tupperware and prep some meals for the following week. Freezing is also an excellent way to save leftover food for one of those lazy chilly evenings when you don’t feel like doing anything else than watching Netflix. A surprising amount of food freezes perfectly well, from mashed potatoes to apple pie. Learning how to preserve via canning is a fun hobby that gives you an oddly satisfying feeling of capability. Maybe someone in your network would be happy to spend an afternoon in the kitchen teaching you.
5. Dispersal is Essential.
This is the easiest and best way to get rid of leftover food fast! Invite your guests to bring some leftovers home with them at the end of the night. Ask them in advance to bring storage containers with them, or use this as an excuse to get rid of that stockpile of take-out containers you’ve been hoarding. You can also spread the joy by donating food that’s still good to unhoused neighbors or local food banks.
6. Compost It!
The final step on the journey to reduce your holiday food waste is your compost bin, or your compost heap if you happen to have one in your yard. Compost leftover foods, nuts and shells (except walnuts), seeds and pits, flowers & house plant trimmings, as well as any acceptable disposables such as unbleached napkins, paper towels, paper bags and cardboard boxes (unwaxed, undyed and ripped into smaller pieces).
If you don’t compost at home or have access to a pick-up service like CompostableLA, look into community compost drop-offs sites. A quick search on Google will reveal an array of community gardens and farmers markets where residents can drop off their food scraps for free or for a small fee. We recommend checking out Littlerless.com for a complete list near you!
Most Important Tip of All!
We aren’t fans of sustainability gatekeeping. If a certain tradition is meaningful to you and your family, then you should keep it! Living sustainably is a life-long commitment and has to continually work for you day in and day out. So be gentle on yourself – there’s no place for eco-guilt around our holiday table!