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Reducing food waste during holiday season and year-round

By Sarah Ransom

Agriculture in Johnson County

The United State Department of Agriculture estimates that in the United States alone, around 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted. For the average family, this would break down to around $1,500 of wasted money on food annually. One of the ways to reduce this loss both of the actual food and loss of finances is to work to reduce waste. During the holiday season, it is easier to make a few small changes to help diminish the excess loss of food.
Plan your menus carefully and make a grocery list. Be sure to check and see what food items you have on hand before starting to plan your menu. It is always easier to start planning with what you have. If you need additional items, be sure to check your pantries, cabinets, freezers and refrigerators to make sure you do not already have items you are getting ready to purchase.
Remember – if a food has a “sell-by-date” that has already passed, it does not mean the food is bad. Check out the USDA Food Product Dating Fact Sheet for more information. Also, do not forget to plan according to how many you have coming over! An easy way to reduce food waste is to only prepare enough food to feed everyone. It can be hard to estimate the proper amounts, but by carefully considering how much food needs to be prepared will help reduce amounts of food wasted or leftovers.

In the United States alone,

around 30-40 percent of our

food supply is wasted.

When the meal is over, be sure to properly store food that was not eaten. Leftovers can provide many lunches and suppers after the celebration is over. The FoodKeeper app for your phone is a free resource regarding storage times for foods.
Use all of the edible parts. Many people cut off the stems of their broccoli, kale, or tops and bottoms of celery – all of these parts are edible.
When you squeeze a lemon, use the extras for making flavored water, the peels for zest or to make fragrant scents throughout the house. Using vegetables in soups is also a great way to stretch the food a little further. Save the bones from your turkey, ham or chicken for making stuffing, soup or stock with them
once you have removed the meat.
When you are having parties, or if you end up with too many leftovers – plan what to do with them. Have take-home bags or plates for your guests or bake only half of your casserole and give the other to a neighbor who may need a little extra something, or donate unused foods to local food banks. If you want to have a fun exchange as well, encourage guests to bring their favorite recipes or favorite things to do with leftovers and swap ideas and recipes. It is a great way to add a twist to your usual leftover meals.
When all else fails, and you have to throw some food out – don’t pitch it in the garbage. Start composting. Composting can provide a lot of nutrients back to the soil, and various foods make garden vegetables grow better in the follow year. Avoid adding meats and dairy to your compost items, because these rot quickly and produce unwanted smells and invite unwanted guests. Composting proper foods is a
great way to give back to the earth.
Take time this year to become more aware of food waste, but be especially sensitive around the holidays. Make this holiday season a time of great financial savings, helping the environment and great food.