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Holiday meal planning to reduce food waste


Last updated 11/26/2018 at 9:08am

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – After filling up on Thanksgiving favorites, it’s hard to imagine nearly half of all food prepared for the holiday will end up in the trash, yet, it’s true.

Thousands of pounds of uneaten turkey, gravy, green beans and mashed potatoes wind up in San Diego’s landfills. It may seem outrageous, but 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. is never eaten. In fact, food is the single largest contributor to U.S. landfills today, with each individual tossing out 20 pounds of food a month on average and costing the average family more than $1,500 each year.

Wasting food also wastes money, time, labor, transportation, water and land resources. In addition, food breaking down in a landfill releases methane gas, a climate pollutant that is up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, small changes can make a big difference. This holiday season, by following these tips from the county of San Diego, residents can save money and help the environment while enjoying their holiday meals.

Reduce waste at home

The easiest way to reduce food waste during the holidays is to buy and prepare the right amount of food. Save the Food, a campaign of the Ad Council in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, created a tool to help save money and time while reducing food waste. The “Guest-imator” helps create a menu based on how many people are attending a holiday feast. Try it out at

Reduce plate waste by using smaller dishes and serving spoons. Of course, guests can always come back for seconds. Having a plan for leftovers is another way to ensure that the prepared food is eaten. Provide containers for guests to take home remaining food or use the leftovers in creative ways, such as topping oatmeal with cranberry sauce or making mashed potatoes into potato pancakes. Visit for more tips, including how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

Keep fats, oils, and grease out of the drain

Another important way to protect the environment and home plumbing this holiday season, and year-round, is to properly manage used cooking oil.

Deep fried turkeys have become an increasingly popular holiday tradition but can use up to 3 gallons of cooking oil. If discarded down a drain like a kitchen sink, oils, fats and greases may block pipes and cause sewage overflow in homes, streets, lawns and the ocean, not to mention severely damage home plumbing systems. Contrary to popular belief, mixing oil with soap or pouring hot water down the drain afterwards are not effective methods for preventing “fat-bergs” that cause sewage backups.

Fortunately, free drop off locations exist for cooking oils. Collect cooled cooking oils in a secure lidded container labeled “used cooking oil.” Do not mix chemicals or other liquids with the cooking oil. To find the closest drop off location, visit the County’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database,, or call (877) 713-2784.

Learn more about reducing food waste

Residents interested in learning more about food waste reduction, can visit the county’s website, or attend one of I Love A Clean San Diego’s free, family-friendly Zero Waste Workshops. The next scheduled Save Your Scraps Workshop is Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Montevalle Community Center. Attendees can enjoy hands-on activities and informational lessons. For more information, visit

Submitted by I Love A Clean San Diego.


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