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University of Idaho Extension Dietitian Provides Tips For Reducing Holiday Food Waste

Table spread with holiday meal.
waranyu/Adobe Stock)

The holidays mean lots of big meals– and lots of food waste. But a few tips could help people put those leftovers to good use. Year-round, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates 30 to 40 percent of food is thrown away. 

Julie Buck is a dietitian with the University of Idaho extension office in Bingham County. She said one easy way to avoid waste from big meals is to plan ahead and know how many people are coming. Online portion calculators can tell you how much to buy. Buck also suggested learning to love leftovers. She said in her house, they are called "plan-overs."

"Don't plan seven days of menus,” Buck said “Plan for a day of reuse and rescue from your fridge, pantry or freezer. It's a great way to make sure that we're participating in the fullest in those food items that are becoming costly to all of us."

Buck said some food traditionally bound for the trash can be rescued too. For instance, stale bread can be made into croutons or stuffing, and vegetable tops and bones can be turned into soup stock.

There's another option for food before sending it to the landfill. It can help feed someone in need. Buck recommended checking with local food banks or pantries to see what their donation requirements are.

"It could be as small as that extra garden lettuce that you're growing,” Buck said. “So check in with them, find out what their criteria is, what days it needs to be delivered and in what form – if it's fresh, frozen. If it needs to be pre-washed and packaged."