What Do You Do with Leftover Food from a Big Event?

an independence day barbecue can create a lot of leftover food


an independence day barbecue can create a lot of leftover food

Did you have, or go to, an Independence Day barbecue or picnic over the past long weekend? Been to a wedding this Summer? A family reunion? All of these events feature food… often lots of it. In fact, often more food than the attendees can possibly eat in one sitting. What happens to that leftover food after the last guest leaves? Does it go in the fridge… or the trash?

Abundance is a good thing… until it becomes wasteful. And, as we’ve pointed out many, many times in the past, our abundance of food in this country leads to a lot of waste: 40% of the food we produce gets wasted along the way from farm to table. While most of us feel confident to handle the leftovers from a single family meal, the leftover food from an event can feel overwhelming… and the trash can or dumpster may seem like the quickest way to relieve that anxiety.

User Jelena Woehr at GOOD threw out this concept as an opportunity for all of us to “do GOOD.” She shared her own effort to cut the waste from an event she attended by making a casserole from savory leftovers, and sharing boxes of donuts with her apartment building (which went over really well).

So, I got to thinking and poking around… how can we make better use of the leftovers that inevitably come with a celebration?

  • Don’t pass up the opportunity to leave with food: If you’re attending and event, and your host or hostess says “Take home some of this food,” then do it! If you’re the host/hostess, make it convenient and comfortable to take food home: maybe pack up “doggie bags” for everyone so it just seems like the thing for everyone to do.
  • Share beyond your guests: As I understand it, it’s very difficult to donate prepared food because of health regulations. Consider skipping the middleman, so to speak, by putting out a “buffet” of leftovers for anyone who’d like to help themselves. If you don’t want to do this yourself, see if a local Food Not Bombs chapter would be willing to make use of the food.
  • Get creative: Don’t think of those leftovers as a dish; think of them as ingredients for a different dish. Still need help? Poke around… there are all sorts of good resources online for making use of leftovers… and I also know of at least one cookbook on the topic.
  • Remember that it’s not tacky to keep food out of landfills: Taking home food from a wedding? A funeral? Isn’t that kind of tacky? Emily Post wasn’t thinking about greenhouse gases and landfill space; don’t feel bad about taking leftovers offered to you. And if you’re throwing the shindig, again, make people feel good about taking home food with them.

Got other ideas for making use of event leftovers? Share them with us…

Image credit: davitydave via photopin cc

  1. Jane Ruggiero

    Great ideas for using leftovers, I am always looking for ways to feature leftovers. thanks for sharing these ideas.

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