Reduce food waste for your gathering this season

Our community celebrates a diversity of holidays during this time of year and one commonality among holiday gatherings is food. While feasts and large meal preparations can run the risk of producing food waste, they also present an opportunity to be proactive and creative in our approach to food in an effort to reduce waste.

Monthly Topic Overview

Food waste significantly increases from November to New Year’s. Why? Several major holidays take place during this two-month window that involve gatherings and celebrations oftentimes centered around food. This creates a unique environmental impact during the holiday season.

As food wasted has immense social, economic, and climatic impacts, choosing to reduce food waste is a great way to have a positive impact on your local community.

Reduce food waste with these tips:

  • Make a shopping list: 
    • Take a moment to plan your shopping list before leaving for the grocery store. When making the list, check your refrigerator and pantry to identify which ingredients you already have to avoid buying duplicates. Think through how many guests you will be serving and how that translates to the quantity of food needed.
    • Making a list for holiday meal shopping provides you with a game plan when you walk in the store. This can keep you on track and lessen the chance of overbuying, plus it may reduce stress during a busy shopping season.
  • During meals, take only what you will eat:
    • Be mindful of your serving size. Give yourself, or ask for, small portions. You can always go back for seconds!
  • Share leftovers with holiday guests:
    • Having guests over for a big meal? Send them home with leftovers packed in to-go containers.
  • Use up leftover ingredients: 
    • Four recipe types that help to use up leftover ingredients are soups, sauces, casseroles, and smoothies! These categories allow for a lot of flexibility in terms of ingredients, which is great when we don’t always know what we might have leftover.
    • Find recipes based on your available ingredients at home with Supercook or Big Oven.
  • Freeze, freeze, freeze!: 
  • Keep an eye on the refrigerator: 
    • It can be easy for a container of strawberries or carton of milk to get unintentionally pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten about. On a weekly basis, reorganize your refrigerator and move items that need to be eaten soon to the front to ensure they get used up.
  • Compost the unavoidable food waste items. We will always have turkey bones, eggshells, coffee grounds and other types of food that we do not traditionally eat. Handle these materials in an environmentally-friendly way with composting.
    • Compost at the curb: If you live in a single family home up to a 4-plex apartment building, you receive curbside composting for food and yard waste. Learn more here:
    • Compost at the Landfill’s Compost Facility: Service area residents that do not have access to curbside composting can take food waste and other organic materials directly to the Iowa City Landfill’s Compost Facility. Learn more here:

Try your hand at Save the Food’s “Guestimator.”

You can input your menu, the number of meals you want leftover, and the number of guests you’re having down to how big of an eater each guest is! Use this information to put together the next holiday meal you host and see how well the “Guestimator” did.