3 Ways to Break Our Addiction to Food Waste This Holiday Season

Expert Jonathan Bloom shares helpful tips and astounding information.

table with Christmas desserts
Is your holiday spread a little too impressive? (Photo: Erik Rank/Getty Images)
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

While preparing for the holidays this year, we’ve been putting some thought into how we can be more thoughtful in our consumption. We dig the growing DIY gift trend, and ABC News’ “Made in America” push to spend money on items that will help create jobs here in the U.S.; but there’s another area of more traditional consumption that we’ve been pondering too: food.

Holiday feasts by their very nature are celebratory, bountiful, even gluttonous, but leaving behind heaping helpings of carefully prepared, delicious food to be scraped into the trash bin isn’t cool. We know we can do better, and given the fact that nearly 40 percent of the food produced in America isn’t eaten, we’re pretty sure it’s an area where you can improve too.

But where to start? We went straight to food waste expert, Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, who shared his top three straightforward tips:

1. Celebrate abundance, not excess, says Bloom. Get a decent guest count so you know how many friends you’ll be serving. If you’re making 10 pies for three people, it’s too much. “We go overboard in an attempt to be festive and to be good providers, but toning that down a bit will help,” he says.

2. Reduce plate waste by allowing guests to serve themselves. “The excess on people’s plates isn’t going to be saved,” says Bloom. Light bulb! He’s got a point. That extra roast beast can be repurposed into an amazing stew or savory casserole, but not if it was sitting pretty on your Uncle Bob’s plate first.

3. Be proactive with your leftovers. Apparently, plenty of American’s have a weird aversion towards leftovers. Why? We’re not quite sure, but Bloom says up to 50 percent of leftovers carted home from restaurants end up lonely and forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. “If you take pizza out of the equation, that number goes even higher,” says Bloom. He recommends being generous with guests who will covet those tasty tidbits by loading them up with lovingly packed (reusable) to-go containers. For any remainders? Break open a cookbook, scour the Internet, call your grandma, whatever it takes to get creative and repurpose them into other meals. “It’s easy to say save your leftovers, but that’s only half the battle. Using them is important as well,” he says.

Bloom also wanted to leave you with this holiday stocking stuffer. When the holiday rush is winding down, and you’re ready to settle down and watch some college bowl games, just remember: We squander enough food in America to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim every day. That’s more than 150 billion pounds of food a year, with a price tag of $240 billion.

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