How to Avoid the Food Waste Traps During the Holiday Seasons

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Holidays are coming! Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah - people are looking to spend time with their loved ones and families. Unfortunately, our garbage bin has become our extra family member. During the holidays we often end up cooking and serving for 20, even if we are just 8 people having a Christmas lunch. It's the same procedure as every year: we cook and serve too much, we overfeed ourselves - and we overfeed our garbage cans.

There are a lot of things which can be done to avoid the Food Waste Traps - and this November I will highlight many of them in my upcoming second TEDx Talk. However, this important issue cannot wait, so already now, here on my Huffington Post blog, I want to share some good life hacks with you and give you a guide on how to become better at not feeding your garbage can with your good edible food - based on my 7 years of experience working with reduction of food waste.

Trap no. 1: We need to get rid of these UFO's
While planning grocery shopping for the big Holiday Seasons, we tend to forget what we already have in our kitchen cabinets, our fridges and our freezers. Oftentimes we have those UFO's - Unidentified Forgotten Objects and Unidentified Frozen Objects. Spooky, Mulder!

Yes, UFO's are the perfectly good leftovers, left to die slowly in our fridges or in our freezers. So, remember to use those UFO's (before they go bad) and remember to make room in the fridge and freezer for all the new good leftovers from the Holiday Seasons. New leftovers must be stored carefully; remember to label them with date, freeze the food in smaller potions and have a certain place in your freezer just for the leftovers, so they won't get lost.

A good time in advance before the holidays, start using up and eating up those UFO's - it will save you money and extra trips to the grocery store. Keeping a healthy fridge and freezer is the rule number one to fight those food waste traps. Imagine the huge electricity bills we are paying to freeze the food, which ends up in our garbage!

Trap no. 2: We are scared of not having enough food

A common mistake is that we are always worried that we don't have enough food for our guests. A Danish survey shows that especially families with small children tend to buy and cook 30% more food than they actually eat. During the Christmas lunches, we tend to buy, cook and serve food for 20 people, even if we are only 8 people having a Christmas lunch. A good idea is to start planning the grocery shopping wisely: How many people have you invited over for Christmas lunch? How much do they actually use to eat? What are the typical leftovers from your Christmas lunch? How can you plan on incorporating the good leftovers in new dishes? Keeping a food waste diary is also a good thing, so you can keep track of your progress and learn from your earlier experiences.

Trap no. 3: We help supermarkets to take out their trash - and we pay for it
Yes, literally. Supermarkets are not the bad guys - they're just very very good at making us buying food that we don't actually need. So unless you are an aware and awakened consumer, you end up buying food to feed your trash. Bulk discounts is a huge food waste trap: buy 3 pay for 2 - waste for 3. It's what happens in the end, if you are not using all the food in time.

If you don't have the time to make a shopping list before you go grocery shopping, you can take your smartphone, open your fridge and take a picture of its contents. Thus, you have a simple and easy reminder of what food you already have. In the supermarket, if you don't want to be tempted to buy more food than you actually need, choose a smaller shopping cart or a smaller shopping basket, if possible. The bigger the shopping cart or a shopping basket is, the more food you are tempted to buy.

Trap no. 4: We serve too much food - and portions are too large
Earlier this year, during a food waste conference in Italy, a retail space management expert told me that not only shopping carts and shopping baskets have grown by 20% for the last 20 years, but also the size of our plates.

A good trick is to serve food in plates of smaller size. If you have a plate of smaller size, you can reduce food waste by 25%, since you are not tempted to fill up your plate with more food than you can actually eat. The same goes with dishes: serve the food in dishes of smaller sizes, and serve it gradually. There is no need to put all the food on the table at once, if you and your loved ones end up only eating half.

Good leftovers mustn't sweat on the Christmas lunch table for hours - be sure to get them back in the fridge as soon as possible.

Quality vs. quantity: try to get more out of less. For example, if you end up saving $90 USD per month by reducing your food waste, you can afford using this money to buy food of better quality, which is more expensive - but undeniably more delicious.

Trap no. 5: We forget that leftovers is a treasure - not a punishment
Leftovers are good - and free - food. Well, if you remember to use them. Start having a flow in your daily life, where you incorporate your good leftovers in your cooking. Leftover turkey, meat or fish can be used in pies, leftover porridge can be used in baking of sweet breads, leftover potatoes can be used in potato salad or an omelet - there are virtually no limits where you can use your good leftover food.

And perhaps we shall stop calling them leftovers, and start calling them bonus food. It's a bonus for your private economy, bonus for your time and bonus for the environment as well.

While storing your bonus food, try to keep it placed on one shelve in the fridge or a freezer, and remember not to mix it with other food while storing, so it's easier for you to use your bonus food in new dishes.

At last, we need to remember that the Holiday Seasons are not only just about the food. Holiday Seasons are all about spending time with our loved ones. The food, the gifts and the decorations are just helpful background features to create a great atmosphere for sharing time with the people we love and care about.

Love is all that matters.