The December holiday rush is here. If your schedule is as packed with holiday parties and big Sunday meals as your pantry is with food waiting be cooked, make giving your leftovers some love part of your plan. Americans waste almost 30% of their food by letting it go bad before it is prepared, throwing away useable food scraps from cooking, or leaving leftovers untouched in the fridge. The US Department of Agriculture has started a Food Waste Challenge as a call to individuals, families, schools, and companies to plan to make the most of their food so that less of it goes to waste. You can join the challenge by planning your meals wisely in the height of the festive food season. A few simple tips to keep in mind even beyond the holidays are to:
- Only shop for what you need whether that is to feed your family for a week of balanced meals or to make one dish for a potluck. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of rice, scoop out just that amount from the bulk bin at the grocery store rather than buying a whole package of many more cups than you will use.
- Save money by saving scraps from the meats, veggies, and grains you use in your main dishes – these can be thrown together into a pot to make a stock, stew, or soup to keep the belly warm and full the next day
- Plan for each party so that the dishes you make are ones you can refrigerate or freeze for your family to eat later if there are leftovers
- Enjoy the freshest foods first. Munching on or cooking with any extra produce first (before extra dry and canned foods) is a great way to make sure you won’t forget to use up the ingredients that are likely to spoil soonest.
So if you end up with some extra ingredients this holiday season, just consider them gifts of inspiration for the next dish you’ll enjoy. If you’re not sure what to do with that pepper, rice, onion, etc., try searching our recipe collection by the food you want to finish or the meal you want to make.