How to Save on Holiday Food

Let’s talk turkey. Every year, many of us buy too much food for the holidays. And once the holiday is over, we banish it to storage containers in our fridge, destined to never see the light of day. Food waste in this country costs all of us money – more than $370 per person, per year. Let’s try to turn that around. With a little planning, you can go from food waste to great taste. Let’s explore a few clever ways to set your table this holiday season and a few creative recipes to prepare with all those Thanksgiving leftovers. Here are my favorite tips:

Tip 1: Don’t overbuy. The most expensive food is what you end up throwing away. If you are serving turkey, buy 1 pound per guest (if you want leftovers) or 3/4 pound per guest (if you do not want leftovers). Note: Leftover turkey does make some great leftover dishes, and can be frozen for up to seven months.

Tip 2: Cook with care. We get so busy with conversations or phone calls during meal preparation, we get distracted. Stay focused during this process. Burning or overcooking food leads to food waste.

Tip 3: Serve just enough. Our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs, especially at holiday meals! Try taking smaller portions; you can always go back for seconds if you are still hungry. This helps control food waste and your waistline.

Tip 4: Save what will keep. Wrap and freeze leftovers. This will save you time on meal preparation when you don’t have time to cook later on.

Tip 5: Clean out the fridge. Do you have “a little bit of this or that” in your refrigerator?

Pull small amounts of foods into a salad or soup.

Tip 6: Host a potluck: Assign certain favorite dishes to family members to bring to the big meal. Most people like to contribute, and this will prevent you from having so many leftovers.

Tip 7: Share your leftovers: Surplus food can always be given away. Take an extra holiday plate to an elderly neighbor or take surplus goods to a shelter. There are usually other people who can benefit from your leftovers!

Tip 8: Repurpose your favorites: Leftover cranberry sauce? No problem. Add it to pancake or muffin batter; stir it in oatmeal; use it as a sandwich spread; make it a coating for pork roast – so many ways to use it.

To use your leftovers after Thanksgiving, remake these family favorites with turkey instead of chicken:

With the rest of the meal, try these creative recipes:

Discover more fun ways to fight food waste and try out more of our favorite recipes!

By Katie McKee, MCN, RDN, LD

Katie has always loved teaching others about the power of nutrition. She has a background in journalism as a reporter, writer and editor and has been part of the Dairy MAX team since 2015. When she's not working, Katie enjoys cooking and spending time with her young son and family. Learn more about Katie

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