How to have a waste-free festive family dinner this year

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

Since surviving a heart attack, I’m smugly happy to announce that my consumption of heart-healthy fruit and veggies has increased nicely.  I should preface that by explaining that I grew up in a Ukrainian family where we considered dill pickles to be a vegetable course.  So veggies are not my favourite food.

Sometimes, when shopping for that lovely fresh produce at the market, my “eyes are bigger than my stomach” – as my mother used to say – and the veggies at the very back of the produce crisper in the fridge can begin to resemble slimy, mushy compost instead of tonight’s dinner. My distress about this slime is why I like what Wasted Food blogger Jonathon Bloom is doing. 

He writes about why we waste food, why it matters, and what we can do about it. He also reminds us that we actually waste more than 40% of the food we produce for consumption. What’s wrong with this wasteful picture?

At Thanksgiving, Jonathan launched his Be Thankful, Not Wasteful campaign. Here are a few ideas from him on how to stay conscious about what you throw out before, during and after your next big family feast:

  • Celebrate abundance, not excess: Don’t take too much when you serve yourself. You can always take seconds. Keep in mind that the average festive turkey dinner with all the trimmings today comes in, conservatively, at almost 2,500 calories. And remember, what’s on our plates is seldom saved.
  • Distribute the bounty: If you’re the host/chef, suggest that your guests bring along a few empty containers of various sizes to fill with leftovers (or have some containers on hand). There’s no sense centralizing so much food that we’ll struggle to use. Being so overt about leftovers may feel a bit odd, but that slight discomfort will pale in comparison to the disappointment from having to toss out pounds of once-good food.
  • Properly save those leftovers: And do it quickly. Not letting foods sit out too long in the bacteria danger zone (40-140 degrees F) will mean they’ll be safe to eat and will also last longer.
  • Plan for your leftovers – and eat them: Whether it’s a turkey pot pie, turkey soup or turkey tacos, find some fun ideas that will get you excited to use up your turkey remains.


Merry Christmas, dear Heart Sisters . . .


9 thoughts on “How to have a waste-free festive family dinner this year

  1. Are you my sister separated at birth? I think we had the same mother. My eyes are often bigger than my stomach. I can still hear her say that to me when I find I have too much food on my plate. Sorry about the typos. I’m writing on an iPad.

    I’m Ukrainian too.



  2. Insightful and timely! My husband and I had our annual Winter Solstice party the other night and after everyone had left, I joked that we needed to have another party, just to get rid of all the leftover food and drink! We’re making a list, while it’s still fresh in our minds, of what got eaten and what didn’t, which drinks were popular and which ones were never opened, so that future parties will be less wasteful.


    1. That’s such a good idea, Laura. At a Christmas party I was at recently, I noticed the same plate of distinctive treats on the potluck buffet that had been left over from another party five days earlier. Reduce, reuse, recycle! But mostly REDUCE! Happy Solstice to you – does this mean the days are now getting longer?!



  3. Hi Carolyn,

    Holiday cooking is my favorite form of cooking and strangely I never have problems with waste. Those who I invite for dinner come ready to eat and I cook a large variety of food. We start the afternoon with heavy appetizers, (chopped liver, artichoke dip and a veggie tray), this is because I won’t serve dinner until 6 or 7.

    Dinner is when things really start to heat up, ( turkey, ham, and my mom wants a standing rib roast, that’s my three meats). I’ll serve collard and turnip greens, white and sweet potatoes, rutabagas, kugel (noodle pudding), matzo ball soup, home made rolls and a jello salad. Then we rest up for desserts.

    I’ve already baked two fruit cakes, tomorrow I’ll bake cheese cake, black walnut pound cake, almond pound cake, mincemeat pie, sweet potato pies.

    If you come to my home for the holidays you may gain a few pounds but we don’t waste food. Friends and family take home plates for the next day some come back. But we have people in our home from Christmas until New Years. Because I’m in the cardiac maintenance program we are allowed to eat what ever we want during the holidays.

    Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year,


  4. Thank you for all your wonderful information and suggestions for heart-healthy living. Yours is the first e-mail I open when I turn on the computer.

    Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2012 to you and your family.
    Joan Johnson


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