As the calendar turns to December, it also heralds the season of delicious excess, with its turkey-induced belt-loosening and too many sweet indulgences.
But it’s also a time when food waste rises considerably, due in part to generous hosts and a desire to unwrap nostalgic recipes that may not have the fans they once did.
“It’s estimated that more than 18,000 tonnes of food waste goes to local composting facilities each year, much of it at the holidays,” says Russ Smith, senior manager of the CRD’s Environmental Resource Management team. “And, according to the CRD’s 2016 waste stream composition study, avoidable food waste, such as cooked vegetables, stale bread and meal leftovers, makes up about 10 per cent of our overall waste.”
That waste costs. According to the national Love Food Hate Waste project, each year the average Canadian household throws away about $1,100 of groceries that could have otherwise been eaten.
How can you avoid holiday food waste?
- Plan your portions. Reducing holiday food waste starts with rethinking how we shop. Few want to eat three-day-old turkey, so think about portions and your desired leftovers, then size your bird and sides accordingly.
- Break from tradition. Don’t buy Christmas food your family and friends don’t actually like – holiday meals are meant to be enjoyed, not endured! No Brussels sprouts fans? Serve a different vegetable to keep them out of your kitchen scraps bin. Turkey not their thing? Opt for a beautiful roast or ham instead.
- Clean out the fridge. Don’t shop too far in advance and before you shop, use up food that needs to be eaten to clear space in your fridge and freezer for new leftovers.
- Make a list, check it twice. Make a plan for your leftovers. Add ingredients you’ll need for turkey soup or sandwiches to your grocery list and try to choose ingredients that will have multiple uses. Want to serve cheese and charcuterie appies on Christmas Day? Choose items you can also use at your Boxing Day brunch.
- Save the fat. Rendered fat from your roast can be saved in the fridge for weeks to be used in future sauces, soups or stews. Even if you don’t save it, fats, oils and greases don’t belong in the drain. Pour cool grease or fat into a compostable container for disposal in your kitchen scraps bin (if your municipality offers this program) or, once full, place it in your garbage. Visit www.crd.bc.ca/fats for details.
- Send food out the door. Sharing leftovers is as much a part of Christmas as turkey fatigue and pumpkin pie. Ask guests to bring re-usable containers for leftovers.
- Step up your leftovers game. Get creative – after all, there’s more to surplus turkey than sandwiches, including curry, pot pie, casserole and even mashed potato gnocchi. Then use the carcass for a stock, a great base for soups, stews and risottos.
- Put it on ice. Get leftovers into the fridge one to two hours after serving dinner and freeze any food you won’t use within 48 hours. Frozen vegetables, for example, can be turned into a delicious future dip or used to make stock. Yum!