Recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40% of America’s food supply goes in the trash. Do we feel guilty every time we scrape a plate? Yes. Are there things we can do to make it better? Also, yes.
The food industry as a whole has begun to make this issue a priority, with many independent restaurants taking the lead in creative ways to ensure food does not go to waste. From recycling, to repurposing, to using those “ugly” vegetables after all, there are efforts underway to reduce the problem.
So, what can we do at home, especially during the somewhat glutinous holiday season? Here are a few tips:
- Make Leftovers Important: Look at your schedule before accumulating a lot of leftovers. If you aren’t going to be home except for that one big meal—due to a party schedule, travel, or other plans—think seriously about the size of the meal you want to prepare. Send leftovers home with guests, freeze what you can, or finish them up quickly.
- Use the Carcass: It’s not talked about a lot—like we just want to cut off the white meat and throw the rest away. But think about the broth you can make, followed by hearty winter soups that will stretch your food dollar and prevent waste. It’s easier than you think. Just put the turkey carcass into a large stock pot and cover it with water, adding any leftover onion or fresh herbs. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few hours, until all the meat has fallen off. Then you can toss the bones without guilt, and freeze the stock for use when you are ready to face turkey again.
- Save the Veggies: If you have leftover peas, carrots, corn, green beans—really, anything, just pile them together and freeze them for use in that soup you are going to make with that delicious stock! It’s too easy to toss when there is just a little bit left in the bowl, but when you add them all together, you might be surprised.
- Rethink Quantities: Baby Boomers are particularly susceptible to making larger quantities than needed. After all, years of feeding teenagers has suddenly been reduced to feeding one or two. Unless you are hosting a crowd, you don’t need a 20-lb. turkey anymore, and you can probably choose between sweet potato and mashed potato rather than both.
- Invest in Reusable Containers: Yes, it’s tempting to use plastic or throw away containers for quick clean up, but try using reusable, sturdy plastics or glass containers to store your leftovers that will be eaten the next day. Less packaging means less waste.
There are plenty more ideas but not everyone can do a compost pile. This is probably enough to get you thinking about your own waste-reduction plan, on whatever scale works for you.
We have enough to feel guilty about when we eat during the holidays. Reducing waste starts with awareness of the problem, so look around this year and see where you might be able to reduce even a little waist. I mean waste.