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Creative Ways to Avoid Food Waste During Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season

Written by Sarah Robertson-Barnes for The Zero Waste Collective.

Between family gatherings and a steady stream of holiday parties, we are in the season of bountiful feasts, endless appetizers, and a sugar mountain of desserts. Festive food and drink are an important part of celebrating the holidays, but food waste shouldn’t be. Avoid wasting food and money this holiday season with these creative ideas!

Plan Your Menus

Planning ahead is the key to avoiding waste in most areas of our daily lives, but especially when it comes to food. Be deliberate about planning your menus, right down to the last cookie. Choose simple but hearty dishes, versatile appetizers, and a few treats. Make a grocery list and stick to it.

Plan for Your Leftovers

Think ahead to what your leftovers might turn into. Soup and shepherd's pie are winter favourites that can be made out of the bits and bobs remaining from your holiday dinner. Choose recipes that can become an ingredient in a new dish - squash, potatoes, and rice are especially good for this.

Have a Potluck

Consider a potluck style meal for informal gatherings. Encourage homemade items for added holiday cheer and less packaging. People get to share their signature dishes with the added bonus of bringing it in a travel container!

Serve Less, But Better

We all want to make sure there is enough food and drink at our gatherings so that guests feel loved and welcomed, but be realistic about portion sizes and resist the urge to splurge.

Replace appetizers as they begin to run low, rather than leaving out the whole lot to possibly spoil if uneaten.

For formal dinners, consider a buffet-style that allows people to serve themselves. This helps to minimize uneaten food left on plates that are unlikely to see a second life as leftovers.

How to Avoid Waste with Leftovers

There is just something about the tasty plate of leftovers the day after a big holiday meal, isn’t there? If you don’t think you’ll get through all your leftovers, even after making a new dish with them, you have some options to avoid them going to waste.

Freeze your leftovers in portions for a quick add on to dinners in the future. Or consider asking your guests to bring their own “to go” containers to your gathering and send them home with a delicious meal for the next day.

Don’t forget to use your scraps! Turn your vegetable peels and ends into liquid gold by making broth. Save scraps in the freezer while you are prepping, and use them to make soup stock later on in the season. Compost the remains along with any unusable leftovers.

For more tips on going zero waste, read the book and head to zero waste 101!


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