How to Reduce Holiday Food Waste


The temperature is dropping, and the holidays are here! The holiday season is always a great chance to gather and share a meal with friends, family, and loved ones. While we enjoy each other’s company and cooking, we want to be cautious about contributing to one of the country’s biggest waste issues—food waste.  In the United States alone, 40 percent of food gets tossed every year, amounting to $162 billion in waste annually, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. This is about 20 pounds a person per month, and more than ⅓ of our food! The tragedy of food waste is two-fold: not only are we wasting food when millions go hungry, but there is a cost both to individual families and the economy at large. About 21 percent of agricultural water consumption and 2.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food waste. We are consistently wasting labor and natural resources by pumping water into food that fills landfills. 

These facts may seem bleak—but don’t worry. It’s easy to reduce your food waste. Here are some tips on how to reduce your food waste this holiday season and beyond.

Make a List (and check it twice!)

The first step in reducing food waste is to only buy what you need! We’ve all been guilty of buying produce that dies in the fridge before being used. Planning out your meals and grocery list ahead of time will keep you from buying food that will ultimately be thrown away. When meal planning, consider foods and ingredients that can be used across different meals and recipes. Check out our guide to Low Waste Cooking for more tips!

Expiration Dates versus Sell-Buy Dates: Know the Difference!

Does the sell by date on your food say yesterday? The dates that you see marked on your food are decided on by manufacturers, not by health experts—meaning those margins are intentionally tight in an effort to get you to buy food more often. According to the FDA, only baby food is officially required to have expiration dates. The variety of labeling practices, including “best-before”, “sell-by” and “use by” cause confusion for many customers. Trust your gut—if it still looks and smells good, you should be good to go!

It Worth it to Buy in Bulk?

It’s tempting to buy in bulk for the savings—but make sure you will use all of it! If half the product will end up in the trash, it’s best to buy a smaller portion.

Resist Beauty Standards

That’s right—our pervasive beauty standards apply to food as well! Irregularly shaped produce is considered less valuable by most farmers, and often gets tossed aside. Consider a service like Misfits Market or Irregular Produce to give oddly shaped but perfectly good produce some love!

Love Your Leftovers

Have leftovers even after eating leftovers? Get creative! Is there a way you can repurpose those leftovers into a new meal? How about a soup, stir fry, or panini? This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and indulge your craving for something new—without throwing anything away.

The Season of Giving

Everyone appreciates a home cooked meal! If you have extra food you won’t be able to eat or use, consider sharing it with friends, family, a family in need, or your local community fridge!