8 Smart Ways to Reduce Holiday Food Waste

You’ve bought it. You’ve cooked it. You’ve eaten it. Now, make sure you don’t waste it. Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture says most people waste 30 percent of the food they buy, that doesn’t have to be you! Here’s how:

1. Make less. Resist the urge to make too many appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts. The more different things you make, the more waste will occur. Better to have three casseroles that are all consumed, than five casseroles that leave a lot of extra on the table.

2. Take less. Didn’t your mother always say, Only take what you can eat? You can always go back for seconds, thirds, even fourths. But start with a modest serving, because once food gets on your plate, whatever you don’t eat will be thrown away.

3. Send leftovers home with guests. This is a no-brainer, right?

4. Divvy up leftovers between fridge and freezer. Don’t put all the leftovers in the refrigerator. You’ll get tired of eating them before they’re gone, and you’ll end up throwing them away. Better to split them in half and freeze some for another meal in the next few months.

5. Put fridge leftovers in reheatable containers. Make it easy to reheat the leftovers by putting them in glass containers (better than plastic) that can easily be microwaved or transferred to the oven. You can also put some in smaller containers you can take to work for lunch.

6. Eat fridge leftovers within 3 days. Make sure you eat the leftovers you’ve put in the fridge within three days. After that time, they might get a little funky and need to be thrown out.

7. Label and date freezer leftovers. Most prepared food can be kept frozen for around 3 months. Label it (tuck a dated paper note into a bag or aluminum foil, or adhere masking tape to the outside of the box) and put it away. If you’re using a freezer container that you can’t see through, make sure to label the contents, as well.

8. Compost. When you’ve eaten or stored what you can, compost the rest. Even if you don’t want to start a compost pile, you can easily compost coffee grounds. Just sprinkle them around the base of bushes and trees.