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S8 E4 –How much food is wasted over the holidays and is it worth it?

The Holiday season is a time of indulgence, but where is the line between ‘going all out for christmas?’ and being wasteful with food?

Best soundbite: “When you’re about to eat your 4th turkey sandwich on Christmas day… Do you ever stop and ask ‘is this too much? Morally'”- Mike

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  1. Sid

    As a danish person, looking at the Christmas traditions we have here it almost seems like historically the dinner was designed to be eaten throughout the Christmas period. Preserving and make the food last by combining them in different traditional dishes. Fx. Rice pudding gets made into pancakes, meat into patés, lots of pickling going on ect.

    Part of the issue i’ve found though, is that you eat more with your eyes! The overbuying and overcooking, is because we overestimate how much people can eat. There needs to be enough. There is also many old language expressions in danish saying how having too much food is the proper thing to do and the opposite would be embarrassing as a host. So it’s a battle between stretching the food and showing wealth and prosperity historically.

    In my family though, we always talk through how much to buy next time and adjust the shopping list (we have one on the computer specifically for Christmas), based on the remaining food, so we avoid the massive food waste.

    On another note, in terms of food waste: I go dumpster diving with my friends and sister-in-law and we pull out the most crazy amounts of beautifully fresh veggies, bread, meat, dairy products, candy, flowers ect. We go about once a week but honestly could go every day. The craziest was when we pulled about 150 pounds of carrots and about 80 pounds of apples from one dumpster. The amount is also not really unusual. Everything was completely fresh. We take what we can use ourselves and then we share the rest within a network of people in need. Another example is this month, when we found 7 ikea bags worth of Christmas cookies, which are good until march next year! We contacted a local homeless shelter and will be delivering them there shortly. In Denmark there is loads of groups online on FB for sharing wasted food, many interesting business concepts are also popping up and there is an extreme focus on it currently. So hopefully that study will look a little better in the future.

    There is a lot of rules and regulations in terms of donating food and a big tax issue in DK which is also why the massive amounts gets thrown out. Food waste is such an important issue, it would be a good cooking challenge for you guys but I’m not sure how well that would go over on YT. Cheers for covering it in this podcast though!

    • VixReviews

      A friend of mine also does quite a bit of skipping (he actually did a tv interview about it, if you’d be interested I can probably search it out), and he freezes all the good stuff and holds dinner parties whenever he is in the country. The food is always incredible, but it’s also absolutely amazing what he finds, there’s almost always a leg or two of lamb, just tonnes of vegetables, and he even found a giant pile of cans of beer on one occasion.

      The main worry I see from people about doing this is that they will end up sick, but so far I haven’t been made sick once and I, well, I rolled a 1 on constitution. A much bigger issue is supermarkets that purposefully spoil the food. That is a much bigger issue for food waste, they are throwing it out, but they don’t want anyone else to have it either. Edinburgh also has a massive food sharing community, and all the smaller businesses will, for example, give their excess bread at the end of the day to the forest cafe, where anyone can just pick up a loaf, but the huge supermarkets don’t join in, and actively go out of their way to make it more difficult for people to use their unused food.

  2. Lynzilla

    Our family rarely had a problem with leftovers, as we had a “Bring your containers” policy. After our meal everyone filled up their tupperware with favorite dishes to take home. Saved room in the fridge and everyone had a tasty meal after the fact!
    There was one sad event, nearly twenty-five years ago; Turkey leftovers were scant, so there was only enough for one sandwich each. I packed my perfect sandwich up for lunch, along with a few other nibbles and took it to work. The only thing that got me through the dreaded Black Friday retail crowds was the thought of that sandwich waiting for me. I went off to our breakroom at long last, only to find that some black hearted cad had nicked my lunch! To add insult, they had tossed my veggies into the trash, so there was no doubt that they knew what they had done. If the building was still standing, you would still see the scorch marks on the ceiling when I blew my lid.

  3. Dimi

    I find food waste weird, both my parents are immigrants, as are all my dads siblings that live in Melbourne. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, but the big holidays and birthdays we always went all out on the food, but nothing was ever thrown away!
    Being g from a Greek/Cypriot background we never did ham or turkey on Christmas, is was usually a whole Lamb on the spit going all day outside and then a ton of sides, but it was never on the host to make all the sides, they usually provided the meat and salad and bread and everyone else brought along a plate of sides or desserts.
    There was always waaaay more food than needed, even when catering for 25-30 people, but everyone left with the plate they brought packed to the brim with leftovers so it wasn’t on the family hosting to have to deal with them all.

  4. Annie1962

    Left over Turkey (or chicken) cold mix for sandwiches cold pasta cold potatoes etc..

    2 cups of left over fowl – skin fine, no bones, chopped up into 1cm bits
    1 cup of mayonnaise (yes yes in James’s case, home made) otherwise I looove Kewpie brand
    1 cup of chopped celery (find those new yellow leaves and chop them in too)
    a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
    3/4 cup of chopped raw spring onion
    1 – 1.5 tabs of keen’s type of curry powder
    1/2 grated cheese (semi or matured)
    Salt to taste, fresh ground pepper to taste (I like a lot)
    2 tabs of capers

  5. Annie1962

    Trying to keep this short and readable

    I would like people do adopt a ‘share the food and bring something’ attitude to Christmas rather than being a guest at several dinners/lunches. Whomever is hosting an event negotiates with guests as to who will bring what dish. Host of 2019 will cook the meats, guests bring sides, snacks etc. Next year someone else will host and guests bring sides. Guests talk it over as to who will take home what side dish. OR.. deliver it to a place where there are needy people. A co-op which takes left over food and distributes later that day to the needy.
    If we can adopt an attitude of a co op meal with left overs to the needy then we can reduce wastage.
    I hope you guys will wear festive gear at your next podcast and at least wave to us or something. Yes we are watching

    • Bebbrell

      Love it! It’s a great concept… I did that with friends a few weeks back for ThanksGiving. One person did the bird, one the veg sides, one the dessert and one the pre-dinner cocktail. We all brought wine and all helped wash up! Team work!

      • Annie1962

        Doing dishes and cleaning up together can actually be a lot of fun.

        I reckon next year , a turkey dish but with turkey pieces.. rather than the whole bird. I can see a nice glaze with miso, honey a light soy, garlic.. oh yeah

  6. Powerfulweak

    American here, and this year was the first time I hosted a family Thanksgiving. The amount of food we wasted had me feeling all types of guilt. I’m in the same boat as James where I didn’t want anyone to leave hungry, so we kind of went overboard with dinner.
    Usually my answer to food waste is freezing things. I can extend the life of things like breakfast muffins or sauces by weeks my just popping them out of the freezer, but some ingredients (double cream is one you mentioned) just can’t freeze. I think I throw away double cream and lettuce more than any other ingredient.

    This was a great episode. So well researched, although I’m a bit disappointed the best soundbite wasn’t “Is glitter recyclable? Oh no…” I literally LoL’d.

    • Bebbrell

      It’s always tricky whenever you serve food family-style or as a buffet. You want the last person to help themselves to feel like they have the same experience as the first. Top tip… double cream… freeze in ice cube tray. Once solid, squeeze out into sandwich bag. Handy way to add a cube to soups and sauces for weeks to come… a little touch of richness without having to buy a whole carton another time.

  7. Full disclosure – new to the UK and am used to Summer Christmas in New Zealand/Australia. Also not doing family style Christmas this year, as am travelling.

    One thing that always causes a panic, overspending, and purchasing is the idea that the stores are closed on Christmas day and no one plans to go shopping on Christmas eve with the crazy crowds. Extra of basics bought just in case.

    Also it is one of the few times your cooking for a lot more people, with Christmas day involving 20+ with multi generations. Throw in a few food allergies, aversions and restrictions there is often more than just a main with sides served. Cooking for a lot of people is also so much harder, and portions are hard to estimate.

    My dad does a whole baked Virginia ham that is about 6kg. Thankfully, it is never wasted as it keeps well and can transform into several delicious leftovers. Eggs benedict, salad, sandwiches, and quiches. There are always the traditional desserts, mince pies, Christmas cake, and Christmas pudding that someone insist on having. This is the only leftover that gets binned as the tiramisus, trifles, and cheesecakes look (and taste) about a million times better.

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