Reduce wasted food during the holidays Reducing

Large Dinner Party? Holiday Planning Can Reduce Wasted Food

Carin Miller

It’s the holiday season and time for seasonal gatherings, merrymaking events, large meals, and excess food. Did you know that the average American throws away approximately one pound of food per day?

The holidays include plenty of food and with a little bit of planning and creative reuse, you can reduce or eliminate wasted food.

Plan Accordingly

Make sure you’re planning the right amount of food for the number of guests you’re hosting. The NRDC’s Guest-imator allows you to input the number of guests, and even helps you plan for the number of leftovers you’d like to have. Using this information, make a detailed shopping list and stick to it.

Minimize Waste While Cooking

Consider leaving peels on potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. You’ll get added nutrients and fiber, as well as less waste. If your family must have the traditional mashed potatoes with no skins, consider freezing the potato peels as well as other vegetable scraps like ends and/or peels of celery, carrots, and onions. Freeze these scraps and use them to make a vegetable broth later. Just search the internet for “vegetable broth from scraps” and find a recipe that works for you.

Challenge Your Guests to Have a Clean Plate

It’s tempting to overload one’s plate with mounds of food, but sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Encourage guests to take small amounts to start, knowing they can always have seconds, thirds, or more! Once it’s on someone’s plate, it won’t be saved and will have to go in the trash.

Send Leftovers Home with Guests

Be prepared with containers to package leftovers. Now is a great time to reuse the plastic tubs and plastic takeout containers you dutifully washed and saved. No need for anyone to return the containers to you.

Learn Proper Food Storage for Leftovers

The FDA has a handy printable chart with proper refrigeration and freezing times for different foods.

If you don’t think you’ll eat all your leftovers right away, consider freezing them so you can enjoy them on a day when you don’t feel like cooking. Make sure you label all your leftovers with both the item and date. Keep a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie near your fridge to make labeling easier.


If you have any extra non-perishable canned goods or other packaged foods, consider donating the excess to your local food bank. Find a food bank.


Finally, consider composting any food scraps that cannot be avoided. Starting a backyard compost bin keeps organic material out of the landfill, where it will take up space and produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Plus, your garden will benefit from the finished compost. It’s easy to do, and we can help you get started.

How will you reduce food waste? Before your next big holiday meal or celebration, consider how you can plan to reduce the amount of food waste you generate and your landfill contribution.

About the Author

Carin Miller is the Education Specialist for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.