The holidays are a rare time when consuming 3,000 calories in one meal becomes socially acceptable. And with Thanksgiving behind us, there is still Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Chinese New Year, and numerous other holidays for which food becomes the centerpiece of celebration. But despite our gluttony, we still end up with mountains of leftovers (for which we have some great reuse recipes by the way), nearly one third of which, it turns out, ends up in the garbage.
A report issued earlier this year by the USDA reveals that Americans are wasting nearly 31% of the food they buy—and it only gets worse during the holidays.
It’s not just a household problem either. Restaurants actually account for 50–60% of the food waste, and most of which is still edible. Some businesses, such as Panera, donate unsold food at the end of the day to local charities and businesses.
That’s a step in the right direction, but we have to do more to provide for the almost 14% of households that do not get enough to eat to live healthy lives. Considering the United States throws out about 1,249 calories per day, per person, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Here are 6 ways to reduce food waste during the holidays and beyond.
1. Buy Less, Shop More
If you buy less each time you go to the store (instead of trying to purchase all the food you need for the next two weeks), you’re more likely to use it all. Plus, it helps you keep fresher vegetables and fruit on hand.
2. Check the Date
Ever bought milk only to realize when you got home that they expire the next day. If you’re buying something with a sell by or expire date, remember to do a quick check before purchasing.
3. Donate It
If you know you’re not going to eat that unopened food in the back of the fridge, donate it. You’ll be helping someone else out in the process! (Feeding America is a great way to find your local food bank.)
4. Use the Freezer
You can freeze more than you think. Bread, meats, pastas, and produce will all stay good longer in the freezer if you store them properly.
5. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning helps you not waste food because you know what you’ll be eating for the next few days and can be sure to use up the ingredients you have on hand. Plus, you can avoid buying items that aren’t on your list.
6. Use Those Leftovers
Eating the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner gets boring. That’s why you have to be creative. Instead of using the chicken for dinner the next day, try having it for breakfast, throwing it in a salad, or making soup. This will ensure variety.