5 Tips to Reduce Food Waste During the Holiday Season

By Theresa Evans (GBB Senior Consultant)

During the holidays, there are many joyful traditions to enjoy, especially indulging in delicious meals with family and friends. All that good food, however, can become a burden to our landfills and incinerators, as Americans waste an extra 25%[1] of the total food supply during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays each year. The two most significant contributors to this extra food waste include supermarkets and uneaten leftovers. Still, with a little bit of thoughtful planning, we can all work together to reduce our food waste this holiday season with the following simple tips:

  • Portion Planning
    • The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a free and easy-to-use digital calculator that takes the guesswork out of portion planning. To use it, a host plugs in the number of guests they expect to have and selects the types of dishes they would like to serve, and the “guest-imator[2] calculates the exact amount of food needed to prepare (for example, eight potatoes or a 10-pound turkey).
      • This helps eliminate unnecessary over-purchasing, which saves consumers money and prevents food waste before the eating even starts.
  • Creativity with Leftovers
    • While microwaving leftovers for a repeat meal is always a good option, leftovers also present an opportunity to get creative and try something new. Instead of discarding old leftovers in the trash, consider making:
      • Fritters from leftover mashed potatoes
      • Bread pudding from extra rolls
      • Soup stock from a turkey carcass
      • Chili from leftover meat and veggies
  • Proper Food Storage
    • FoodKeeper is a free tool that provides guidance on safe handling and preparation cooking tips, such as how to thaw and roast a turkey by weight.
      • Additionally, FoodKeeper advises on proper food storage through guidelines about food storage times. For example, a rotisserie chicken can be stored for four months in a freezer and still retain its original freshness and quality.
    • Clear glass or plastic is best for storing food in the refrigerator or freezer so that you can see what is inside. Use an airtight container or two freezer bags.
  • Donate
    • Utilize food rescue organizations in your community to safely donate excess prepared but unserved food. The following sites contain tools that allow individuals to search for local food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters that may be interested in accepting food donations:
      • Feeding America’s Find Your Local Foodbank has a map of member food banks.
      • Sustainable America’s Food Rescue Locator is a directory of organizations that rescue, glean, transport, prepare, and distribute food to those who need it in their communities.
      • allows users to search food pantries by ZIP code and shows the search results on an interactive map.
  • Compost Food Scraps (such as potato skins or egg shells)
    • Learn how to start composting at home with resources from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Or, look into local community compost or compost collection/drop-off opportunities within your town. Several cities and counties across the country are making composting an option for their residents.

No matter how you plan to celebrate this year, these tips and tools can help you reduce food waste while enjoying your holiday season!

For more tips on how to reduce food waste, see EPA’s website:

[1] The United States Dept of Agriculture.

[2] The National Resources Defense Council.

5 Tips to Reduce Food Waste During the Holiday Season