Between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans toss out 25% more garbage than the rest of the year.
150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans, and other veggies will go uneaten. 14 million pounds of dinner rolls will get dumped. And don’t even let us get started on the meat!
It’s no doubt the holidays are tough on the planet, but there are simple ways to help turn those stats around. Here are 5 easy hacks to cut back on food waste over the holidays – and every day for that matter.
1. Freeze unused ingredients
We all have ingredients that just don’t make the cut for the holiday meal – whether it’s a surplus of apples for the apple pie, or herbs that start to wilt a little too quickly. Instead of tossing them in the compost bin, try freezing them!
By freezing leftover fruits & veggies, you’ll have year-round ingredients for delicious smoothies.
You can also try this trick with any leftover herbs to give them new life:
Grab an ice cube tray and toss a few herb leaves in each section. Pour in olive oil just over half-way, and then place the tray in your freezer. That way, you’ll have plenty of tasty herbs to use towards future recipes.
2. Turn sad veggies into stock
If you have leftover onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms that are past their prime, a great way to reduce waste is to transform them into a vegetable stock. Making stock is easy as can be, and will ensure you have enough stock for all your repurposed meals for weeks to come!
Here’s a handy guide:
- Wash your vegetables and give them a rough chop.
Toss your veggies in a pot over medium-high heat, and add enough water so that you can easily stir them – ideally 1-2 inches above your vegetables.
- Less water = more concentrated stock.
- Once almost at a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes.
- Strain your stock into a bowl or jar, and allow it to cool before storing in the fridge.
*If you’re not planning on using your stock right away, you can always freeze it for future recipes.
3. Turn sad veggies into stock
One of our favorite (and tastiest) ways to reduce food waste over the holidays is by transforming leftovers into creative new dishes. Repurposing food that would otherwise end up in the bin means food stays out of the landfill, and it also saves you time and money in the process!
Here are a few of our go-to recipes for repurposed meals:
Surplus veggies – chop them up and toss them into a next-day breakfast frittata!
Alternatively, leftover vegetables like potatoes, broccoli, carrots (basically anything you can think of!) work as perfect soup ingredients. Try making this creamy Broccoli and Potato Soup by Food and Wine using your leftover holiday ingredients.
Pasta – Pasta is one of those ingredients that’s delicious whether it’s eaten hot or cold, so the meal options are endless – from hearty casserole dishes to a tasty pasta salad!
Meat – meat is one of the foods that can go bad quicker than the rest, so this should always be at the top of your list to repurpose into new meals! The good news is that there is a long long list of options using your leftover meat. From taco salad, to sandwiches, to tossing it in a stir-fry!
4. Extend the lifespan of your produce
Another easy way to reduce food waste is by learning proper storage. Food can go bad far quicker if it’s not stored the right way, so here are a few helpful tips that can ensure your food stays fresh for longer!
- Store potatoes, onions, and garlic in paper bags to extend their lifespan.
- Treat herbs and veggies like carrots, kale, & asparagus – basically anything with a stem – like flowers by keeping them hydrated. They can be stored in a glass of water in the fridge which will help them stay fresh longer.
- Avoid washing produce before storing it in the fridge. By washing fruit & veggies, you’re adding moisture and inadvertently speeding up the decaying process! So our best tip is to wait to wash it until you're ready to eat it.
- Freeze your meat if you’re not planning to eat it within a few days of purchasing it. By storing it in your freezer, it helps keep it fresh for your holiday recipes.
5. Create Bread Crumbs Out of Leftover Dinner Rolls
There are only so many bread rolls any of us can eat, so if you find yourself with a surplus of rolls leftover from the holiday party, have no fear – there are plenty of ways to creatively reuse them!
Our favorite method is transforming stale rolls into bread crumbs.
Bread crumbs can be used in everything from homemade burgers, to casseroles, to eggplant parm! Simply toss your stale bread into a food processor and pulse until they’re at your perfect crumb consistency, and voila – bread crumbs for days.