Callie Martin

By Callie Martin

For the Skagit Valley Herald

Reducing waste around holiday meals doesn’t need to be complicated. In a sense, the intention of wasting less pairs well with the core values that make winter holidays special.

It’s only natural to cut down on food waste when you are sharing the table with friends and family in celebration of gratitude, joy and peace.

Meal planning

You’ve heard it before. Everyone recommends meal planning, but it’s with good reason that this is mentioned often in regards to food waste and life organization.

Waste almost always begins with overbuying. When we veer off of our shopping list at any time, it’s easy to buy foods we don’t have a plan to prepare.

Sticking to a strict meal plan for gatherings, and a loose one with a few chosen recipes for weeknights is one easy way to prevent filling your fridge to excess rather than simple abundance.

Shop for food more often

Rather than a sign of food scarcity, bare shelves can signal a job well done. You’ve used everything up before throwing anything out.

Households on the mission to prevent food waste have shared that they have more success buying food for roughly half a week than trying to buy food for a whole week and stressing out about being able to finish it up in time.

Maybe your weekly schedule changes or a guest declines a dinner invitation; you still have time to adjust the next time you shop for food.

Creatively repurpose ingredients

This one is special, because it can encourage you to be a more resourceful cook.

Have excess of an ingredient, or grouping of produce? Look for recipes that use that item as a main ingredient. For example, whip up some pumpkin bread with leftover squash, and roast the seeds for a nutritious weekday snack.

To inspire you further, try cooking with scraps. Far from a new trend, the old ways of preparing the entirety of the vegetable-leaf to root and turning bones into broth are regaining momentum as a means to prevent food waste.

Interested in learning leaf to root recipes? Try websites like for delicious dishes made from veggie scraps.

Maintain a watchful eye

Some eaters keep their food until it is too old. Other eaters throw it out too soon. The key to reducing food waste in the kitchen is to know the half-life of the food you eat.

Most of the time, our own senses can tell us if food has gone bad. Labeling all leftovers and opened containers with a “made on” or “opened on” date gives you a chance to eat foods before they expire. Keep a roll of painters tape and a marker in a nearby drawer to make this habit easy.

More detailed information about food spoilage is available online. ‘Still Tasty’ is a website and app created by a cooperative effort of the USDA, FDA, and CDC that offers shelf life and storage dates for thousands of food items. Visit to check it out.


When you’ve done your best, or a guest leaves a bit more on their plate than anticipated, pile it up, let it rot, and plant it again to grow another great meal. The end of the road can be the beginning of another if you compost your food scraps.

Skagit County Solid Waste Division offers free workshops and resources on how to begin a thriving compost pile in your backyard. If composting at home doesn’t sound like your thing, most towns and cities throughout the Skagit Valley offer a municipal composting option by way of a green waste cart set to be picked up at the curb.

If you opt for this option and are worried about smells or fruit flies developing in the kitchen, try putting your scraps in the freezer each week until pick-up service arrives.

— For questions about home composting, and other methods of reducing garden and kitchen waste contact Callie Martin, Waste Reduction/Recycling Education Specialist for Skagit County. 360-416-1575;

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