How to Cook a Leftover-Free Holiday Meal

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To help with your holiday meal planning, we’ve put together a guide for how to plan the appropriately-sized meal. Take a look and learn how to keep food waste from becoming a problem in your kitchen.

Precycling, or thinking ahead and buying products that have little packaging and will be easier to recycle later on, is a great way to cut back on waste before you even bring new items into your home. If you apply this idea to cooking and take note of how many people you are cooking for (and subsequently, how much you need to buy and cook), you can eliminate food waste before your holiday dinner has even begun. This reduction in waste could be significant since the average American wastes between 209 and 253 pounds of food every year, with a fair amount of that waste occurring around the holidays.

portion sizes, meal planning

To help minimize leftovers later, plan ahead by learning appropriate portion sizes. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Learn About Portion Sizes

Once you find out how many guests you’ll be having over for your holiday dinner, stop for a moment before running off to the grocery store. For large gatherings, it’s easy to over-buy, since you don’t want to run out of food. If you first consider how much the average person can actually eat, though, you’ll be able to avoid mounds of leftovers.

To help you think about portion sizes, take a look at Love Food Hate Waste, an organization in the United Kingdom dedicated to raising awareness about the need to reduce food waste. Their website is filled with recipes and interesting food waste facts. (For example, in the United Kingdom, more food is thrown away from people’s homes each year than packaging.)

Love Food Hate Waste also has a really useful tool to help you evaluate portion sizes. The tool can assist you in planning a full meal or a party where people will primarily be snacking. If you’re planning a meal, you can select the type of food you are looking to buy and the amount of people who will be eating it, and the portion planner will tell you how much to purchase. This process can take the guesswork out of buying for groups.

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Something else to keep in mind is that your guests will likely be eating a variety of foods during the meal. Since they probably aren’t only eating mashed potatoes or green beans, they probably won’t need a large portion of each. Your guests will likely sample many dishes.

Another interesting way to think about portion sizes is to follow some general guidelines from Lifehacker, a website that provides tips for making your life easier. They provide a handy chart that explains how you can measure portion sizes on your hand. For example, the size of your palm determines your protein portion and your fist determines vegetable portions. This method may be more difficult to use than Love Food Hate Waste’s portion planner for holiday meal planning since everyone’s portions would be sized a little differently, but it offers helpful rules of thumb to keep in mind.

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