Zero Waste of Time: How to reduce your food waste this holiday season

Over Thanksgiving, Americans will throw away about 204 million pounds of turkey. Photo courtesy of Juliette Fradin Photography.

By JULIETTE FRADIN — We are entering the holiday season, with its joys of spending time with loved ones, sharing experiences and memories around a table. The flip side of that coin, though, is mass consumerism, excesses, plastic everything and, sadly, food waste. In the U.S., 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste. Over Thanksgiving, Americans will throw away about 204 million pounds of turkey. That translates into about 6 million turkeys going in the trash. 

I know it is tricky to be zero waste during this time of year’s abundance, but there are ways to be more intentional and keep your sanity, at least in the kitchen, while keeping everyone happy.

Even though I am French, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the festive break that revolves around food and focuses on simply being together. (I won’t comment on Black Friday and all the flashy promotions sneaking in, though I will note that you can always opt out of that, as it is also Buy Nothing Day across the planet). 

To be more mindful about your food waste, have a plan. Start to think of a menu now. You can use a diner party estimator (check the Guesti-mator) to figure out how much food you’ll need to cook. Stick to your shopping list and hit the bulk aisle. We have many options around us, including Glut Food Co-op, the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, Yes! Organic Market, MOM’s Organic Market, Whole Foods and the Safeway at University Town Center. If you shop in the bulk aisle in these stores, you can fill your reusable bags, cloth produce bags, glass jars, metal containers and Tupperware. I have tried and tested each of these options out. Just make sure to go to the help desk and write down the weight of your containers before you fill them up. You want to pay for what’s inside only! If you can, shop more frequently to have less perishable food on hand that might go bad.

For your aperitifs or tea time, fill your cloth bags with tea cookies, brownies, snack foods, nuts and other nibbles from the bulk section and forego the plastic by doing so. 

There are some things you can make ahead like salad dressing, pumpkin purée and broth. (To make broth, stash vegetable scraps or bones in the freezer until you have enough. Cover with water, add a splash of vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain it, et voila!). 

Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables are the best foods for you and also best for the environment and local economy (visit your favorite farmers market). You can easily find milk in returnable glass bottles, and some shops will give you back $2 per bottle when you return them.

Take the time to make it yourself. There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh bread out of your oven or your kids’ (not so) helping hands and giggles when baking cookies. Don’t beat yourself up; making one thing is better than making no things.

After the party is over, utilize your freezer and repurpose your leftovers by donating excess food. Consider stocking Hyattsville’s Blessing Box on 43rd Avenue, next to Hyattsville Elementary School, with unopened, unexpired food. You can also join Spare Harvest, a company that connects people with spare food with others who want it. Feed animals with acceptable leftovers, and lastly, put your compost bin into good use.

And finish your plate. Send questions and comments to bonjour@juliettefradin.com.

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