These are the weeks of family, feasting, fun and more feasting. Unfortunately, increased food waste often goes hand-in-hand with our holiday gatherings. With that in mind -- and without getting too Grinchy -- here are 10 simple waste-saving tips for holiday gatherings:
1. Get a firm head count. It's hard to buy the right amount without knowing how many people you'll be hosting.
2. Buy less food. While abundance is part of the deal on Thanksgiving, it is less so during the winter holidays. Don't buy food for 20 when you're serving 10. This turkey size calculator from a biased, but well-versed source -- Butterball -- is useful. If you're having more of a cocktail party, here's a guide for the amount of finger foods to provide.
3. Serve less on each plate or let people help themselves (although keep in mind these food safety tips on buffets).
4. No clean plate, no presents! (Juuust kidding.)
4. Relax. Eating slowly, enjoying your family's company (this may be harder for some than others) and being mindful eaters will reduce waste.
5. Don't let food sit out too long. The longer items stay unrefrigerated -- or between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- the more you're allowing food-spoiling bacteria growth. Foods should be refrigerated within two hours at worst.
6. Store leftovers in airtight containers. Don't just throw foods in the fridge to get them out of sight. It only takes a few minutes, so tell Uncle Bob to put down the egg nog and help!
7. Redistribute leftovers. Ask guests to bring their own containers or have extras around to dole out excess perishable foods -- not just the cookies.
8. Buy fewer "regular" groceries in the buildup to your gathering. This will not only make room in your fridge, but also to incentivize your family to eat the leftovers.
9. Plan creative reuses for holiday food. After all, there are only so many goose sandwiches one can eat. Having a few holiday use-it-up recipes in mind will help get you excited about repurposing leftovers. If that doesn't do it, consider how much money you've invested in that holiday food.
10. Last but not least: Do not, under any circumstance, buy or accept fruitcakes. (Kidding... mostly)
Happy Holidays and a waste-free 2013!