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Low Waste Cooking & Feast Season

There are a few holidays coming up at the end of this month that involve a few of our favorite things: cooking, eating, and spending time with people we like.  Celebrating white colonialism and Indigenious erasure is *NOT* the reason for our season, but we love to eat, we love to drink, and some of us love to argue politics with our relatives. 

Some of our favorite tricks can be used in the kitchen regardless of season or occasion.  In the spirit of all things cottagecore, homesteading, and old tactics made new once more, its likely your elders will have a “back in my day” version of any of these tips and tricks. We want to offer a bit of an overview, as per usual, to lower the barrier of entry to low waste living. Your “duh” might be someone else’s revelation.  

That being said, in preparation for all of the glorious feasting, it is all too easy to over prepare for the sake of the occasion and end up with a lot of unnecessary waste. Specifically food waste.  This week we wanted to talk about and address some of the ways you can make your holiday meal delicious, as impressive as it needs to be to appease the pickiest of guests, and most importantly, less wasteful.

First: save your vegetable scraps! Especially carrot peels, onion scraps, celery greens, bell pepper sections, and the like.  You can stockpile all these tasty scraps in a freezer bag, and when it's full, you can use the frozen scraps as a base for a delicious, nutrient packed, homemade vegetable broth.  Look for recipes anywhere--a lot of folks will roast the scraps in the oven first to deepen their flavor and then add them to their pot, but you don’t have to do it that way.  It's worth it to make your own broth, we promise. 

Don’t forget to do the same with all your meat bones, if you’re eating a turkey, ham, etc.  The ham hock makes the most flavorful base for pea soup, the turkey bones (and vegetable scraps) will make an endlessly useful soup base, and it’ll be extra delicious because you made it yourself.  Don’t throw away any of the usable pieces of the carcass, whether they were served or left on the cutting board in the kitchen. All that gelatinous stuff is really good for you!  

Next: tomato paste? Lemon juice? Leftover coffee?  Herbed oils? Garlic butter?  All that can be frozen in ice cube molds, and added to recipes as needed or desired.  Hell, even that broth you worked so hard on can also be frozen into molds and added to recipes as needed.  Sacrifice one of those fancy silicone ice cube molds for the old fashioneds that you thought you’d make and never did and turn it into your kitchen cube mold. You’ll thank yourself later. 

Also: Make a real plan for your leftovers--before you cook!  Whether you’re in charge of the whole shebang or you have a potluck style situation, make an actual plan for what food is prepared for the occasion, and what that will mean in terms of future meals. Other, more in depth blogs have a wealth of ideas on how to repurpose your day after leftovers; from cranberry sauce grilled cheeses (haven’t yet tried, but sure want to), to roasted vegetable hashes in endless iterations, to soups, to casseroles.  Keep your day of menu simple and varied enough that you have an actual idea of what the leftovers will be.  A mindful approach to what you prepare will help to ensure less waste of the leftovers. 

Another option is to be oh-so-generous and set up to give away the leftovers to your guests. Reuse old takeout containers for packaging up those delectable doggy bags if that’s the route you’re taking.  ...We mentioned the menu planning thing first because we’d be lying if we said that we wanted to give away *everything.*  You truly can’t beat the perfectly constructed leftover turkey sandwich.  This can and should be a heated debate in any household.  It's reason enough to like, keep most of the leftovers. You know it's true.

The bottom line: be intentional up front about all that planning and execution, take pause before something goes in the trash, and be realistic about the amount of food you really need to make.  It isn’t any secret that Americans are incredibly, terribly, depressingly wasteful.  Less can truly be more. 

Questions?  Want to know more?  We have lots more ideas on how to take a low waste approach to cooking for a whole buncha folks, how to decorate the table, and how to manage the food that is leftover.  Drop your gems in the comments below, or let us know what else we can bring to said table. Pun intended.

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