Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and you know what that means: leftovers. And, this is just the start. All the holiday gatherings coming up, left unchecked, can lead to a lot of food waste. We put this little guide together to help you make the most of your leftovers and fight food waste at all of your festive feasts.
As with many parts of the Renewable Life, a little preparation can help a lot with our impact. When we host a big meal, we are already probably thinking about how many people will come, how much food we will need, and who can bring what dish. It can also help to think about which dishes work best as leftovers or as ingredients to combine into leftovers. A vegan or vegetarian dish or side like a grain salad will work as an option for more guests, and you can re-purpose it as a base to combine with any leftover turkey. A prepackaged frozen appetizer may not work as well as a homemade casserole as a side in next week’s lunch. It’s kind of like choosing clothes that work with any outfit: plan for dishes that can be combined and eaten in a wide variety of ways, and you will waste less of it after your guests leave.
You can also ensure that more of your delicious dishes are enjoyed if you think through a dish’s serving and storage needs. Does that side dish need a specific vessel or utensil, like a bowl for soup, or can it share plate space? Is that appetizer or dessert meant to be picked up alone as finger food, or will it be a part of a course? If you are anticipating lots of leftovers, can the dishes be easily stored in reusable containers, and do you have containers on hand to share the extras? Planning this out can help cut down on the amount of single-use paper and plastic that you need for the party or may even keep the dishes you need to clean to a minimum so that you can use washable dishes instead.
Choose ingredients and recipes ahead of time that use some of the same ingredients, that are more likely to be finished, and that can be recombined into exciting leftover creations. If your recipe calls for a small amount of fresh herbs, research how you can spruce up another dish with the remainder. Having a plan to recombine ingredients into new dishes will make leftovers easier to reheat and will help fight boring leftover repetition. Here are some of our favorite leftover-driven recipes to inspire you:
Leftover Turkey Chili
Fried Mashed Potato Bites
Pickle That Vegetable Tray
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
Of course, many of us will be guests rather than hosts at our holiday gatherings, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t get the most out of our post-festivity food. Most hosts are going to be perfectly willing and open to food waste fighting suggestions, but they may just need a little guidance. Reach out and suggest the ideas above or talk through your own strategies with them. Ask if there is any way that you can help facilitate smart serving and clever cooking. Have you stocked up on a collection of containers that you want to reuse? Bring them along and pass them out to other guests at the end of the evening. If nothing else, you can always follow the advice above for whatever you bring to the party.
There are of course many, many more ideas to fight food waste this holiday season but we hope this gives you a good starting point. Do you have a favorite leftover recipe or food waste-fighting tip? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.