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On the spectrum of food waste, you have a range of possibilities to consider during holiday meals. There’s the toddler who tosses mashed potatoes and green bean casserole on the floor. There’s the teenager who skimped out on the feast when you thought they would go back for seconds (and maybe even thirds). And there’s your partner who just refuses to eat leftovers.
Then there’s you: the one who becomes the food waste preventionist, thinking everyone should eat all the food now — even if they’re stuffed to the gills — so it doesn’t go to waste.
The good news is you don’t have to be that person. It’s easy to be ready for all food waste possibilities and prevent them ahead of time. These simple things that we can do as both shoppers and eaters that will help cut back on the amount of food that goes to waste this holiday season.
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PRE-PLAN YOUR LEFTOVERS
When you are making your holiday feast menu and working on your shopping list, plan your leftovers at the same time. Most shoppers buy a larger turkey, ham or beef portion knowing that they will use some for leftovers.
Write out two or three breakfast, lunch or dinner meals that you could make using the leftover meat from your holiday feast. Not only will you have a post-holiday meal plan, you can also ensure every little bit gets used.
BUY THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MEAT
One of the trickiest parts of planning the holiday feast is determining how much meat to purchase. There are a number of factors to consider, such as the number of people, the ages of your guests and how many leftovers you want to have. Use these estimates to help you determine the right amount of meat to purchase for your meal:
- Turkey: 1/2–1 pound per person
- Beef Roast: 1/4–1/3 pound per person
- Ham: 1/3–1/2 pound per person
- Salmon: 1/4–1/3 pound per person
Before you head to the store, list the exact amounts of your holiday meal ingredients. Once you are in the store, resist the temptation to grab all the colorful and tempting items from the holiday displays. If they are not on your list, don’t buy them — especially if they have a short shelf life.
FREEZE BEFORE YOU TOSS
Before you resort to tossing leftovers in the trash or down the drain, ask yourself if the food can be frozen and used later.
Many of the main, side and dessert dishes that have been cooked for the holiday meal can be frozen for later. Freeze pie slices, shredded turkey meat, gravy, cooked stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole to either be eaten on their own or used in other recipes.
Divide leftovers into individual single-serve portions and freeze them in small containers or baggies. This will make it easier for you or a family member to reheat them later, even on the go.
THROW A LEFTOVERS PARTY
If you hosted a holiday feast and you’re storing a ton of leftovers, it’s time to get creative and start texting neighbors and friends to invite them to a leftovers party. All you have to do is reheat and set out all the leftovers, and then challenge everyone to come up with their own fun combinations of leftover foods.
Set up a few categories — such as Best Use of All Leftovers, Best Presentation of Leftovers or Best Combination of Flavors — and give out prizes (or just bragging rights) to those who comes up with the most clever and tasty combinations.
Everyone has a deliciously fun time and you get rid of all the leftovers in one shot!
SWAP SHREDDED CHICKEN FOR TURKEY
Stop Googling “leftover turkey recipes” and think beyond the gobbler. While there are many great ways to use leftover turkey, think about your favorite recipes that feature shredded chicken. Shredded turkey can be easily substituted for shredded chicken in just about any recipe.
SO MANY TURKEY SANDWICHES
When all else fails, eating your one millionth turkey and cranberry sandwich (or ham and swiss cheese slider) is sometimes just part of the holidays — and enjoy it!
Focus on the $ 7–$ 10 that you’re saving if you bought lunch at a restaurant, and be grateful for the delicious feasts and leftovers you’ve been able to enjoy this holiday season.
Erin Chase is the founder of 5DollarDinners.com, The $ 5 Meal Plan & the popular Grocery Budget Makeover video course, and author of the $ 5 Dinner Mom Cookbook series. When not whipping up delicious, frugal meals in the kitchen, she can be found out of a run, chasing her boys around the neighborhood, or taking escape from the summer heat in the pool. She lives with her husband, 4 boys and 1 furry boy in San Antonio, TX.