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Dinner Waste?

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This morning and last night as I was cleaning dishes I noticed how muct food gets wasted after a big holiday feast. I don't know if this is just me but for big dinners like Christmas I always like to have an abundance of food - if anything runs out I feel bad- and the food is generally rich. But scraping the bits off the plates from 14 people, putting away left overs (some of which will just die in the frig then get tossed), I am struck by how wasteful it is. It is also expensive. I think that Christmas dinner cost me something like $500 ( including a $92 goose) to make and I really can't afford it. Plus all the work. I am not sure I actually sat down for than a few minutes the whole day Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Is it worth all of this to have a few days a year on which abundance and really good food are more important that budget, energy and good sense? Does anyone else feel like this? Is there a more sane way to have a feast?

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  1. I tried really hard to not make too much. I bought a small cabbage and we still only ate half of it, we had left over roast potatoes which is ok, the rib beef left overs I am going to cut up and make a stew with left over gravy and cabbage and extra veggies.
    However, I made way too many pince pies of which some went home with my daughter and we never even opened the Christmas pudding. My brie and cranberry puffs also went home with my daughter.
    the problem is you can't really count heads and make exactly the right number of items. I always make a bit extra for the people who might suddenly call and say their plans fell through and could they please come to eat.
    What to do?

    1. I can relate. The last couple of years I have pared it way down, which has helped a great deal, but it is still exhausting. I had family and friends in and out all day long for brunch and dinner. Last year and this year I did a very simple brunch menu that I can prepare ahead other than the actual cooking: sausage and egg casserole, brandied fruit, and home made cinnamon rolls. I cannot say enough good things about the cinnamon rolls. They are Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls at saveur.com. Much work, but totally worth it. If you make these, no one will care what else you serve. : )

      For dinner, we cooked a beef tenderloin with 2 sides, potato and vegetable, period, and rolls. No dessert, because there always seems to be a number of snacks and sweets that find there way into the house during the holidays. I love making a stunning dessert, but no one ever eats very much and it winds up in the trash. We could have seriously cut out more expense, by doing a less expensive meat. The leftovers are manageable and there was not a ton of waste like there usually is. But I really have to fight with myself not to go overboard.

      Part of the reason for simplifying things for me is that everyone is in my kitchen. It is a large kitchen, but when 15 people try to squeeze in, it is hard to think about what goes in the oven when, when it needs to come out, how you are going to get to the refrigerator, etc. It is just much easier and more fun for me if I only have to focus on 3 or 4 things.

      I have enjoyed it much more these last couple of years, although it is still crazy enough. Aside from the food, we have also pared the whole gift-giving insanity way down. We have 4 grown kids (18-23) and it was way out of control. Last year we sat down with them and said, 'we're done'. They want for nothing and I am tired of trying to run around spending tons of money and not really enjoying the holidays. We talked about what we really wanted to do as a family and have spent more time together decorating and even did a gingerbread house together this year, which was probably the highlight of the season. We buy each other small things, (books, kitchen gadgets, art supplies, etc) and for some reason it is a great deal more fun.

      You will enjoy it a great deal more if you can make it more reasonable for yourself. Good luck with finding your own personal ideal holiday!

      10 Replies
      1. re: agood

        Thanks for the advice and encouragement! I appreciate it.

        1. re: agood

          < I love making a stunning dessert, but no one ever eats very much and it winds up in the trash. >

          Throwing it out is a conscious decision to waste food, as is the OP's mention of putting leftovers in the refrigerator and later the garbage. You won't be arrested for serving the same food more than once. Tossing the uneaten food from people's plates is regrettable but mostly unavoidable (unless you have pets). There are exceptions, like using uneaten turkey and bones from a family dinner for the soup that only the family will eat. To some people that is fine, to others revolting - in fact since the leftovers are re-cooked the only reason not to include non-family's plates is psychological. Restaurants aren't supposed to do it, but I've heard that some do.

          If you are having guests for meals over several days, you can plan on menu items for the earlier meals which can be re-purposed in subsequent meals if left over. For example, the cinnamon rolls not eaten during the brunch could become bread pudding for dinner dessert the next day. Leftover vegetables can be mixed, a sauce added, or in some other way made over and served the next day. You just need to get out of the mindset of starting each meal from scratch with brand new ingredients. Recycling isn't just for empty cans and bottles!

          1. re: greygarious

            I'm with you on that; my kids used to tease me all the time saying that they never knew what was going to be for dinner because I'm the recycle Queen.

            After a meal with meat leftover, while cooking the next meal, one of them would ask.."wait a minute, what happened to the roast we had last night?' On the stove was a simmering pot of stew (lol).... What I couldn't use immediately (within 2-3 days) went into the freezer...years later, I still do it. They still talk about it....

            No way would I chuck out my food just because it wasn't all eaten in a couple of days and no way would I spend $500 for one dinner...maybe for a month of groceries in a holiday month...I'd re-think the menu for the next time and make it easier and less expensive for myself...maybe have a pot luck and being the host, provide the entree and ask everyone to bring something so you won't have a fridge full of leftovers...

            1. re: greygarious

              well put greygarious. and it doesn't even have to be that complicated. One of the best things about the days after christmas is just pulling the leftovers out of the fridge any time you feel like it and making a sandwich, or snack plate.

              My sis-in-law drives many of us crazy. She does not believe in leftovers. At the end of the meal everything used to go in the trash. She now allows it to remain in the fridge for a day, maybe too. It about kills her, and she thinks we are nuts for eating "old food." But she has discovered that none of us have dropped dead yet, and she puts up with this insanity for as long as she can.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                This is completely incomprehensible to me. How anyone could throw out perfectly good food (sometimes better the next day!) just because it's "old" leaves me speechless. Seriously, what world did they grow up in? I grew up in the world where every penny mattered, and sometimes if there weren't leftovers it was crackers and peanut butter for dinner.

                And who doesn't love turkey sandwiches? Do they buy a whole new turkey when they want sandwiches? Cold dressing and cranberry sauce? The best!

                1. re: Parrotgal

                  she grew up in a world without reliable refrigeration. she only ate freshly prepared food. no matter what we say, leftovers do taste different.... for better or worse.

              2. re: greygarious

                We are big lovers of leftovers around here, so other than dessert, what is left gets eaten unless I cook way too much. Everyone wanted to take cinnamon rolls home, so I was lucky to have any left for us. It also helps that my daughter and her always-hungry roommates live close by. I'll call them in a bit to come and get what I know we won't be able to eat.

                1. re: greygarious

                  "Restaurants aren't supposed to do it, but I've heard that some do."

                  Wendy's is famous for recycling the last day's burgers into the next day's chili.

                  1. re: FrankD

                    Wendy's uses fresh ground meat , not frozen....if it wasn't cooked or served ....where's the problem?

                    1. re: FrankD

                      Even the ones that hit the floor. And break the Five Second Rule. My first job was at a Wendy's. It's been twenty-five years and I still won't eat at one because of what I saw.

                2. I've lived in developing countries over the past 35 years. My colleagues and I work on agricultural and environmental issues. Food waste in the US and northern/western Europe is part of a serious global problem. For holiday feasts (andyours sounds great!), we do as usual - eat what we take, and share and carefully manage and consume all leftovers.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    I've been sending leftovers out with my kids to their friends for the past week. Everything is getting eaten, and young ones struggling in these hideous economic times are getting fed. Makes me happy, Sam. Be well, and eat well!

                  2. "Is it worth all of this to have a few days a year on which abundance and really good food are more important that budget, energy and good sense? "

                    For us, I say quite strongly NO. I think if I step outside of who I really am, then I'm going to have regret and I try not to regret the things I do. I can't imagine our spending $500 on a meal - even in a restaurant much less at home. I'm speaking only for myself and not judging you or anyone. But here you are at the end of something that cost you money you couldn't afford and you're exhausted and feeling wasteful. There are a gazillion meals and a triple gazillion (!!!) ways to host that won't make you feel that way. Now you have 364 days to figure it out :) Go for it!!!

                    1. No disrespect from Jfood so please take this as input.

                      Jfood would never pay $500 for a dinner at his house and a $92 goose would cause jfood to cook his own goose. When people start spending this amount of money on one meal, they need to take a little walk aroundthe block, ask themselves what is important and the reconfigurethe menu. Yo can make a tremendous meal for family and friends for less than half of that and still havethe pleasure of their company.

                      As you now sit and reflect on these events, try to place in the long term versus the short term memory of the brain. Put a tickler on the calendar for next T'giving and Christmas so you remember.

                      It is what we learn from the mistakes that make us better.

                      Don;t beat yourself up too much but try to remember for the future.

                      1. Fiona,
                        I have done similar things in the past and have learned from them.. Especially in these difficult economic times (but, really waste doesn't feel good in any economic climate to me). I used to invite around 30 people for Christmas brunch, cooked for days (weeks!) to prepare for it, and always made way too much. Have made the same mistake for many "company" meals....I think I'm always afraid to run out of something, so I make too much. My husband has consistently advised against it, but I have only recently started to listen to him, and make serious efforts to pare down when entertaining. For Christmas breakfast this year (and actually for the past several years) we had: Fresh fruit, juice, croissants, jam, bagels and cream cheese, hot coccoa and coffee. Everyone likes it, and it is easy and inexpensive. For "in between" shrimp platter . Dinner about 4...past years has been a rib roast usuallly, this year a leaner, and tastier sirloin roast, mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots. Served with the other half dozen croisssants that weren't served at breakfast. I didn't make dessert (chocolate mousse has been traditional) because we had way too many Christmas cookies that didn't get eaten yet. A platter of them made a lovely dessert. Everyone was happy...I didn't run out of anything, but put away about 1/2 cup of leftover mashed potatoes, about 3 lbs of beef, (using it for yummy sandwiches) and about 1/2 cup of carrots...which will go into soup or stew or sauce or something. Point is....both meals (for adults and 2 kids) cost around $150, and little or no waste. And I enjoyed myself much more than in the past with all the "abundance" of work and money and waste.

                        1. That was too much money, too much food, too much waste and no fun. Also, no focus on the real meaning of the holiday, if you're now second guessing yourself in reflection. As JFood suggests, take a good look at what you're doing and why, then see how you can simplify for the next time. You'll be able to enjoy the season without self-recrimination.

                          Your dinner sounds something like I would have made in the past, but over the years I pared down considerably without losing one minute of Holiday Spirit, and without depriving anyone of a wonderful meal. Bless you for wanting to give everyone so much of yourself, but the holiday is for you too...

                          1. I have tried to become more conscious of how much food I'm cooking so I don't waste so much. It's taken me four years to get it right, but this past Thanksgiving I had almost no left-overs, just enough for me and the hubby for a day or two - and I purposely planned it that way. (Of course I had the nagging guilt about not sending home leftovers with family members, but that's another story).

                            When I married and started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my husband's family (8 people) he insisted I cook a 20 lb. turkey like his mother did. I knew I would have a ridiculous amount of left overs because I also cook a ham. Now I cook a 12-14 pound bird, it's plenty big enough, but not too big.

                            Last night we had Christmas dinner at my SIL's house, and she sent us home with a huge bag of left-overs - even after I told her we really didn't need it because we had food left over from events we hosted. Because I'd rather eat my own leftovers all the food she sent home with us will probably end up being thrown out. It really is a shame. Every year she cooks twice as much as gets eaten. A true waste of food and money. However I think that cooking too much just becomes habit too.

                            I've made notes after every Thanksgiving dinner about what gets eaten, and what doesn't, and how much left over food I have and it's really helpful the following year. Fiona, perhaps you should make notes about your left over amounts so you can better plan next year.

                            PS - I can't fault you for your $92 goose as I purchased an $85 cassoulet kit. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed ours!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Axalady

                              <<I've made notes after every Thanksgiving dinner about what gets eaten, and what doesn't>>

                              That's a good idea. I do it after every dinner party except Xmas and Thanksgiving. Mainly it's because we often learn during the meal the likes, preferences, allergies, aversions and medical situations of our guests. This gets duly noted in "the book", which gets dragged out next time we invite them.

                              I find it odd that when you ask people what they like or dislike they often say "Oh, we eat everything". Later on we find that is technically not quite correct.

                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                Yeah, I find that cruciferous veggies get pushed around the plate, rather than eaten.

                            2. You said you spent money you can't afford. That's the trouble. Would the holiday have been any less happy or festive with chicken for dinner?

                              Wasteful abundance in any time, but especially at this time in history is not respectful of the planet or it's citizens... but you can have abundance without waste of food or money.

                              Going into debt over a goose is ridiculous. Eating over your means can't make for a relaxing holiday for you. And when the bills come due all that food will seem even more wasteful.

                              Write yourself a note to remind yourself not to fall into this trap next year. Or at Easter.

                              1. Food waste really bothers me. I"m also not a fan of leftovers(spare me all the ideas on how to creatively use leftovers..i just don't like them). It's taken me a few years but I've finally mastered cooking in amounts that don't equate to large amounts of leftovers.

                                This was a hard task for me to learn. I grew up in a Greek family and there was always tons of food. Especially at holidays...cooking for days, enough food for an army. Leftovers for days. It took some time to learn the idea that it's still a holiday without twenty different types of food on the table but that's how we do things now. Even my parents don't complain now that they're used to the idea...a few things made really well and it's still a really nice holidays.

                                This year for Christmas we had prime rib, creamed corn, broccoli and popovers. That was it...plenty of food. We had less than a cup of corn leftover that my sister took home and about the same amount of broccoli which I did eat for lunch yesterday. There was more prime rib left than I would have liked(note to self: 3 ribs not 4 next time around for us). I put in the freezer and will have to think of something creative to do with it...probably some sort of shephard's pie.

                                We had a small yule log for dessert. WIth just enough left for Mom and Dad to ahve breakfast the next morning.

                                It's OK to cut back. It really is. The meal will still be great. People will be less stressed out - less prep and less clean up. Less expense. People will be less stuffed from less choices. And importantly, less waste if you can get in the habit of making just enough. Especially thistime of year when there's so many big meals...so many visits to friends and dinners out, even if you like leftovers it's hard to get through copious amounts of them with the celebrating going on....

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ziggylu

                                  Ziggylu, do you use a microwave? Although I do cook certain things in mine as well, it excels at reheating, without the "leftovers" taste that stovetop reheating creates. Cooking every meal from scratch is nice if you have the time and initiative but is probably more expensive in terms of gas/electricity and definitely involves more labor. And the fewer mouths you are feeding, the more limited your menu choices are unless you are willing to eat leftovers. There's no such thing as leg of lamb for one.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    I rarely use my microwave. Melting butter, boiling water mostly.

                                    Over the years here on CH, I have been lectured many times on how I should learn to embrace leftovers. I don't get why anyone cares if I don't like them. I'm not throwing food out so why does it matter. On nights when we don't have a lot of itme to cook we throw together an omelette, some waffles, or a salad.

                                    Most nights I make three portions so my husband has something for lunch the next day. That's it. We dn't throw anything away and if there is more we do try and re-purpose it for something different for dinner the next day(I hate eating the same thing over and over). I try not to freeze much leftover as we'll rarely eat it and as I said I am loathe to throw things away.

                                    I have anything but a limited menu even though I cook for two. Just about anything can be scaled down with practice and a good butcher can cut meat to what you need(I"m not a big meat eater anyhow).

                                    And while leg and lamb for two is difficult i can satisfy a lamb craving by either making a couple shanks or having some friends over for a leg or a rack if I want to make it.

                                    You're welcome to dine with us any time you want. I pretty sure you'll be satisfied by your meal and won't be bored by the menu choices.

                                2. "Is it worth all of this to have a few days a year on which abundance and really good food are more important that budget, energy and good sense?"

                                  If you are asking this question, then I'm not sure it is worth it for you. At least, it doesn't sound as though it was.

                                  There are quite a few good responses here with tips on how to make it all work with less food and for less money.

                                  My tip is to do what I do! (made myself laugh with that!) Every time a guest says "can I bring something?" I think to myself, is there enough? Will there be too much? And then I give my honest answer based on the situation. Sometimes there is enough and I don't want waste so I tell them "please bring yourselves!". Sometimes there might not be enough and I tell them "please bring a salad" or whatever is missing.

                                  If I do this I can save on waste and I can save on my time, energy and monies spent.

                                  I do have to agree with some other responses, I also would not have paid $92 for a goose, but that is me. In my world, my mother is from a wealthy family and no expense was too much for friends. My father is from depression era parents, one who had to eat mustard sandwiches and beans and sometimes less. So, he is cheap and always trying to figure out how to cut costs. I think I picked up on both these traits and found a middle ground.

                                  I think you can find a middle ground, too. A good sized organic turkey is far less costly than a goose.

                                  Maybe, if one of your guests is a good friend, you could invite them to help out? Of course, with that goose, I suspect it could have been a dinner with a boss as a guest, in which case, I can understand the pressure to make everything fancy and abundant.

                                  And, don't do the clean-up work yourself! If you've already put in a day or two preparing, let a son or husband or even a guest do the clean-up! When a guest offers to help, I let them. I love helping with clean-up when I'm a guest, I assume people would not offer if they didn't enjoy it too. We have a friend who is a master at deconstructing a chicken or turkey. We happily accept his offer to divvy up the leftovers into tupperwares and then we send him home with a lot of turkey!

                                  After guests have left, the carcass goes in a stock pot with water and we relax while it cooks away. One of us gets up to turn the heat off and it cools down. The other one gets up and puts it in a container and into the fridge. In a couple nights, we'll make soup!

                                  You can do it, save your energy, food and money and have a great time still.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                    Minkey... I agree with your post.

                                    But the OP also said this: "I think that Christmas dinner cost me something like $500 ( including a $92 goose) to make and I REALLY CAN'T AFFORD IT"

                                    Emphasis mine.

                                    Living above your financial means is a bad habit in this country. It's not all about leftovers and food. It's also about knowing your limits and learning to live within them.

                                  2. Food waste is something very close to my heart as I grew up in Argentina, in a family of second-generation Jewish and Spanish immigrants where every morsel was precious. I have learnt to calculate the food I need to prepare and to make inventive use of leftovers regardless of whether I fancy it or not. Besides, we are so lucky to have freezers and access to spices and herbs of all kinds that can turn any boring or bland bits into something truly delicious.

                                    Personally, I find excessive consumption (of food, possessions or anything else) quite troubling when the vast majority of people in the world do not have the means to satisfy their very basic needs. As others have said, a scrumptious meal does not need to be obscenely expensive. A little bit of imagination goes a lot further than the most expensive ingredients, in my view.

                                    That said, don't feel guilty. Do your best to use your leftovers, put it down to experience and start from a new perspective next time.

                                    1. I agree with many of the responses. $500 is too steep for a single meal at the homestead, although I can't imagine what it takes to conduct a meal for 15 people. I've taken a whole new approach and it works well. Buy a small turkey (many don't like more than one leftover meal) and pair the veg sides down to what people like. With only a few people liking sweet potatoes, there is no need to bake/roast a pile. Likewise with carrots. Why chop and roast 10-12 carrots, when only two get eaten. So I'm lucky in that aspect, because it seems as long as everyone gets a little bit of what they love, it goes over swimmingly.

                                      I also don't do dessert. I bake so many goodies and people bring chocolates and chips..people usually have eaten so much sweet stuff, there is no need.

                                      1. One sane way is to stop trying to do it all by yourself. I bet most of those 14 people asked you if they could bring something, and you said no. Say yes, and know what you'd like them to bring. Don't be too specific so that people have room to be a little creative. This way, everyone feels like they're a part of making the meal, not just a consumer.

                                        Assess what you want to do (the goose, pearl onions, stuffing), and let your family and friends provide the rest.

                                        And why are you, the hostess with the mostess, dealing with all the dishes the day after? It is traditional for everyone to help clean up after a big holiday meal. If it isn't traditional at your house, make it a new tradition. If nothing else, it helps gauge what kind of leftovers you're going to get. That's another tradition, so they don't end up dying in your refrigerator.

                                        1. I really appreciate all of the encouragement from everyone and found none of the chastisers to be at all offensive. My difficulty with waste is only marginally a personal issue with money and effort spent and wasted - most of the issue that I have is that I hate waste of any sort. I grew up with depression era parents and I was taught that waste is bad-and it is. I am very fortunate compared to the vast majority of peopel on this planet and it feels immoral to me to create that much excess when there are so many people in need. Next year, if I feel a pressing need to cook like a crazy person I will cook for a food bank!
                                          First - here is how you get to $500 - about $200 for wine and booze. There are some alcohol left overs that will get used through the year - like bourbon and rum that were purchased to be ingredients in baking and extra wine will get used.
                                          The food expenditure also included restocking of some spices and such and I buy only humanely raised meat and local/organic/fair trade produce and other ingredients The goose was supposed to be less but wound up to be more when I picked it up. Alot of money went to cream and other embellishments. The menu was:
                                          starters - salmon pate (homemade from canned wild salmon), herb dip, assorted chips and crackers, raw veggies, and cheese straws (homemade), lemon marinated olives
                                          soup - cream of cauliflower
                                          Main - goose, stuffed peppers (as the main for vegetarians), creamed onions, latkes (provided by a guest), roasted squash (which we had grown) with roasted black walnuts and buttermilk blue cheese, cranberry sauce, asparagus with mushrooms.
                                          Dessert - trays of cookies, molded chestunut and chocolate dessert from Julia Child with whipped cream. That was expensive to make and so rich that only about 1/2 got eaten evren though the recipe said it would served 10 to 12, I think 20 to 24 servings would be a better estimate.
                                          Any guests who wanted leftover to take home were amply supplied and they were also sent home with cranberry jelly and pumpkin butter that my daughter and I had made as gifts.
                                          I do not at all have an aversion to leftovers. I actually love to eat leftovers. I have been having left over salmon pate for breakfast on a bagel every morning. What causes some to get tossed is that there are so many, a lot of little bits and I have almost no freezer space - the freezer space that is available got filled with turket from Thanksgiving.
                                          After reading all of your responses I have had a major revelation - that I make myself crazy for me, not really for my guests. They would probably be happy with simpler and many had offered to bring something and I had declined. Next year when I start thinking about Christmas dinner on the day after Thanksgiving I will focus on making a nice, friendly meal which will also allow me to enjoy the meal without worrying.
                                          Thank you again for all of your responses and, again, no offense taken!

                                          13 Replies
                                          1. re: Fiona

                                            "I have had a major revelation - that I make myself crazy for me, not really for my guests."

                                            Fiona, I had the exact same revelation this year. I ended the night crazy and exhausted. But I realized no one asked me to do everything I did, and they would not care if I did less. Next year, we'll both do better!

                                            1. re: Fiona

                                              Perfect revelation!

                                              And I know because I've been there ; )

                                              The holiday dinners/parties I have now are no less warm no less festive and no less beloved than the ones that I used to throw that cost 3x as much.

                                              Have a wonderful New Year!

                                              1. re: Jennalynn

                                                I completely agree....live and learn:) As we all have and continue to do. If I see you on these boards next year, Fiona, planning a (wonderfully creative...as your this year's menu was!) Christmas dinner that sounds like it will make you crazy' I will send you a friendly reminder to simplify:)
                                                BTW....I know what yo mean aoout the wine and booze expenses...they can add up so quickly,when you need just a quarter cup of this or that, and the bottle is like $30....I know you can use it up over the course of the year, but sometimes it seems like you need all those "dribs and drabs" at the same time, and special recipes won't be the same without them.

                                                1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                                  Thanks - it will help to know that someone out there will help save me from myself!

                                                  1. re: Fiona

                                                    Would you please return the favor and remind me that I totally need to make way less cookies next year? I will be tossing a few this week, and that makes me sad. We did eat all the "best" ones, and I am tossing less than I have in years past, but I definitely need to find a way to scale back on them next year!! Would really appreciate the reminder that by 12/29 I am so very sick of cookies!!! Thanks:)

                                                    1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                                      I certainly hope you don't mean tossing them in the trash. If you can't take/send them to work, school, or a community feeding organization, you can crush and freeze for future use to make a no-bake pie crust, or as topping for fruit crisp or ice cream. Beyond that, put them out for the wild birds and squirrels.

                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                        I don't mean tossing into the trash. I do mean feeding dearest big dog (who has terminal bone cancer, so no need to watch her weight this year!) is having many many treats, because 1) I made too many cookies during family cookie weekend 2) then I exhanged with best friend for more cookies 3) then best friend and I had a great cookie baking day 4) then I was in a cookie exchange a work.....are you getting the picture? But, best dog is having the best last Christmas of her life! I am just really tired of looking at cookies! (PS and I tried really hard to scale down this year!)

                                                      2. re: sunflwrsdh

                                                        I certainly will remind you! I have lots of cookies also - I will look like a house if I keep eating them so I am going to crumble up a bunch, combine them with goose fat and the birds will have a treat. I also am going to freeze some crumled cookies to use as ice cream toppings. Also - everytime anyone in the household goes visiting - they take cookies. Many of our friends are young adults and they LOVE geting cookies!

                                                      3. re: Fiona

                                                        I think it may be that some hounds need to go over the top a time or two before they understand about the cost and effort involved vs how pleased your guests or you are. I remember one of my first foodie adventures, making "South of the Border Wontons". It looked great, it tasted great, I didn't have a kitchen with a built in deep fryer (it being the mid-1970s) like the FN hosts always do, and it took a couple of hours to make this fabulous dish- and about five minutes for my guests to inhale them. I've done the high-preparation thing several other times, and sometimes it's absolutely worth the effort and sometimes it isn't. But you have to try, if for no other reason than you wanna see if you can do it. Balance comes from extremes. We live and learn.

                                                        by the way, if you don't do leftovers at my house, you may not survive, FWIW. I don't like to run out of food and I can't bring myself to throw the good stuff away. Eat leftovers or buzz off (and I remember those people).

                                                      4. re: sunflwrsdh

                                                        I buy those small "airplane" bottles if I just need a little bit.

                                                        Or I borrow from my more lush friends ; )

                                                    2. re: Fiona

                                                      Sounds to jfood like you had a great meal for $300 (jfood never includes the booze in th estimate) and when you have the protein at $92, nice job.

                                                      BTW - Sounds like a wonderful menu.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        thanks jfood - I always look forward to, and enjoy your posts!

                                                      2. re: Fiona

                                                        Fiona, your menu sounds wonderful. 500 divided by 15 guests is only about 33/per person and you said that includes alcohol.

                                                        That is not extravagant for a holiday dinner and you would not be able to have a comparable meal at a restaurant for twice that price.

                                                      3. I tend to be a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas. I truly believe that all spending all kinds money and stressing ourselves out for one day is rediculous. So, I have to admit that I was a bit happier this year because we had to cut back some. Not only on presents, but on food. Gone were the multiple appetizers, the prime rib or filets, 3 or 4 sides, & 2-3 desserts. This year I made cinnamon monkey bread for breakfast. For dinner, I went completely non-traditional. I made a huge pot of vegetable soup & plain monkey bread. For dessert, my mom made brownies which we topped with vanilla ice cream & home-made hot fudge sauce. I had just enough leftover to send each person home with some soup & bread, while keeping enough or me for the next day.

                                                        At first I felt bad because it wasn't what we were used too, but everyone enjoyed it, and I didn't have to spend all day in the kitchen cooking & cleaning. A big plus, it was blizzarding that day, & the soup was just what we needed to warm us up.

                                                        I say next year, cut back, revise your menu & traditions and keep the holiday about spending time with your family instead of all the stress.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: jcattles

                                                          "Is it worth all of this to have a few days a year on which abundance and really good food are more important that budget, energy and good sense? "


                                                          First of all I want to say that paying $500 for a holiday dinner doesn't shock me at all. When I put on a lolapalooza dinner, I use quality ingrediants, the best of the best and that can run $$. Why not splurge on a goose once a year if you enjoy it.

                                                          Others have had good hints about the waste. For food scraps from plates, a pet will be happy. The neighbor's dogs love me for this ... I initially needed to get them to stop barking at me ... now they moan and whine in pleasure when I open the door. Sometimes the seagulls or pigeons get leftovers. My grandmother used them for compost.

                                                          As far as edible leftovers, if you don't want to eat them and your guests don't want them, I've made dinners up for the homeless and distributed them to much gratitude. It makes you feels so ... Christmasy.

                                                          The warm memories of the many family dinners over the years still hold a special place in my heart.

                                                          BUT .... my answer is also NO

                                                          If you can afford the money, cool ... what's a little exceess? However, if you won't be paying bills and running up credit card totals, reconsider

                                                          If people aren't appreciative maybe some people at the table should not be there next year.

                                                          Also, you sound burnt out.

                                                          Maybe next year is the year to turn this over to someone else. There was a thread about Thanksgiving on Chowhound this year with someone who was thrilled that they could finally cook the big dinner. Maybe there's someone in your group like that.

                                                          Consider eating out on the holiday at a restaurant. It would probably not be any more expensive, there wouldn't be as much waste and you could relax.

                                                          I understand holiday burn out.

                                                          For the last 10 years of my mother's life, when she had Alzheimer's, I did blow-out holidays because it was one of the few things she loved. So I had big dinners with friends with all the trimmings and the light in her eyes ... the happiness ... will be something I carry in my heart.

                                                          However, when she died, I was so through with holidays. My husband, bless him, understands. So if we do anything, it is a dinner out. I buy a few special things to snack on at home. But it is pretty low-key and hassle-free for me.

                                                          Next year his children will be living with us and I'm looking forward to doing their first blowout holidays in the US.

                                                          It depends on where you are

                                                          If you don't enjoy it. Don't do it.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            You gave the answer that I was both too lazy and too little skilled to do. The correct reponse is my usual..."it all depends." For the OP it does not seem to be worth it and she seems to have received the epiphany from CH.

                                                        2. Do what makes you happy.

                                                          "Waste" is such a relative term. How much is too much food? Well that really depends. Is it too much food and therefore wasteful simply because you might have some leftovers and scraps from plates that you end up tossing? Maybe but perhaps it's worth it yo you to have all that extra food to ensure a happy holiday. If that's the case then it's not wasteful because what's life if you cannot be happy while living it.

                                                          1. There were only two of us for Christmas... but even so, I cooked proportionately and went low-budget. DH wanted roast beef and I was tempted by the expensive cuts - but why cook 6lbs for two people? I bought a 3lb roast in a MUCH cheaper cut and we're still swimming in leftovers, but it cost twelve bucks rather than forty. And for dessert I bought some blackberries on sale for 50c a punnet and a bag of apples and I made a crumble instead of anything more complicated and costly. Expensive ingredients don't necessarily taste any better than cheaper ones...

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                              "Expensive ingredients don't necessarily taste any better than cheaper ones..."


                                                              I beg to differ.

                                                              For certain things (e.g. vanilla, EVOO, wine, same cuts of beef, etc.), cost does correlate directly with taste. Not all things, but for certain things it is an inescapable truth.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                dunno.... ATK says that for most cooking/baking that artificial vanilla is better.

                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                  I read that also a number of years ago. It's funny that so many cling to the if it costs more it must be better.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    After reading the ATK report on fake vanilla, I baked two batches of sugar cookies, one with Madagascar vanilla, the other with fake. I don't know what Chris and his acolytes were smoking, but this was no contest. The fake stuff tasted like fake stuff. I usually agree with the results from their tastings, but this one was a big miss.

                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                      Good to know. I don't bake (much) so it's been a nonevent for me

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        I agree with you - believing ATK, I bought fake and used it in oatmeal cookies. They smelled and tasted different, and not in a good way. Though I deplore wasting ingredients, I threw out the artificial vanilla. It is possible that it's one of those taste bud and olfactory differences like asparagus making urine smell funny (latest theory is that it does it to everyone but not everyone can smell it) or cilantro tasting soapy.

                                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Not all things is the appropriate carve out.

                                                                    Short ribs at $4 per pound if done correctly taste waaaaay better than filet at $25 per pound if done correctly.

                                                                    Jfood bought some oranges at $0.79 from Florida as well as trying an (just one) "heirloom" orange at $2.00 per one (yup). The 79-center was waaaaay better.

                                                                    Happy Holidays

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      Fiona, et al, I'm curious because I never bought a goose before. How much do they usually cost? I understand that the organic goose rancher that slaughters one for you is going to cost more than one in the Safeway freezer section, but I don't know the ballpark price per pound, or even how much a slaughtered goose weighs.

                                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                                        I'm not sure what the price per pound is for goose, but a medium-sized one in the freezer section of a market similar to Safeway was about 54 bucks.

                                                                        I actually had roast goose for the first time in my life a few weeks ago at a German restaurant. It reminded me a lot of turkey but much richer and better. I can imagine the poor piligrims whining about the local turkey and saying something like "It's ok, but it's no goose".

                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                          EWSflash - the only place I can get goose in the town I live in is the local, sort of boutique butcher. The goose was not frozen and grown locally, It was $9 and change a pound. The price has about tripled in the last 15 years. Goose is delicious but there is not a lot of meat on a goose so the price per pound of meat is considerably higher. A slaughtered goose will generally weigh somewhere between 10 and 14 pounds. Again, count on feeding fewer people then with a turkey of similar weight. But my, my , my - it is tasty!
                                                                          I hope that this helps.

                                                                  3. Fiona.

                                                                    First of all, if you really can't afford to make a $500 meal then you shouldn't be. There's no need to spend $92 on a goose when $20 on a turkey will do. If people are upset that you didn't make the goose, just tell them the situation. Maybe they'll help pick up some of the costs. Wasted food or not, you have to stay on a budget.

                                                                    Secondly, it is sad that these types of meals mean a lot of waste. As has been said above, I try to minimize by keeping the turkey carcass to make a stock. Some leftovers will go in the fridge and be eaten over the next few days. Others will be portioned out and go immediately into the freezer. I'll be making a large pot of greens on Friday. Most of it won't get eaten. Smaller packages will be made and can be pulled from the freezer at varying points in the future. Same will go for the black eyed peas.

                                                                    As jfood said above. The meal isn't as important as who is there. Yes it's nice to go all out once in a while but if it becomes cost prohibitive and means you can't enjoy yourself then what's the point??


                                                                    1. I poached the undercooked bits of the turkey in chicken fat at 140-145 for 5 hours. Should be good for the next 3 months left submerged in our subzero garage.

                                                                      1. The Scene: New Year's Morning, 2:00 A.M. The 40+ guests have left for home, the new year properly rung in with food, drink, merriment, and firecrackers. The hosts and two weekend guests survey the remains of a lavish buffet set out on the kitchen island. Evidence of a good party and the promise of a weekend of generous "re-purposed" meals, sandwiches, and snacks. No one is going to have to go grocery shopping this weekend.

                                                                        The host refills four glasses with champagne and before they start to put away the food says "lets raise our glasses once more to a great 2010!" Clink, clinkckink, clink, and four glasses are raised - two of them into the quickly spinning blades of the ceiling fan.

                                                                        Champagne and shattered glass fill the air and rain down everywhere. The entire kitchen and at least $300 worth of food covered with minute shards of glass.

                                                                        It is in the gravy, the turkey, the roast beef and ham. The roast duck, char siu, the noodles. The vegetable platter sparkles with bits of glass, a film of glass particles shimmers on top of the corn chowder. Larger chunks protrude from the chocolate cream pie, the mashed potatoes, the angel food cake, and candied yams. The shrimp plate, the salads, and the obligatory green bean casserole studded with bits of glass. The salads, the spring rolls, and the nearly untouched second sashimi tray. All of it ruined.

                                                                        No one was hurt. The guests had been well fed. Dinner and drinks and mirth had not been ruined. The glasses were a garage sale find, not Aunt Myrtle's antique hollow stemmed flutes. So they gave a great sigh, vacuumed the glass out of each other's hair, and tossed all that food into the trash.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                          Oy, vey! Glad no one was hurt, but I feel your "pain" nonethless. Zero chance of salvaging THOSE leftovers...=-(

                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                            Oh, my word! That's about the worst food story I've ever heard. Amazing.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              it could have been worse, it could have happened at the start of the party instead of the end. that would have been a real disaster.

                                                                              I wasn't there to see it happen. I left the party with the other guests about 15 minutes before the episode. I was over the next morning (late morning mind you.) They were still finding glass in odd corners. No doubt still some behind the appliances etc.

                                                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                              ... and the food gods smiled on you with the message the holidays were over ... blessing you with a fresh food start to the new year and cleaner arteries.

                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                  Jfood feels that he, for once, will not be an outlyer on these words...throw the food out. (insert colo, dash, close paren in honor of Sam)

                                                                                2. My only issue is that you had a dinner you could not afford and that the work/reward did not pay off. We spend A LOT on Christmas dinner, NYE dinner and a NYDay party. The three dinners (Christmas dinner was 6 people, the two of us NYE and about 20 people NYDay) we probably spent $2000 when it was all said and done (including booze). Leftover beef (we had tenderloin Christmas and a rib roast NYE) is easy...stroganoff, sandwiches, etc. Our biggest waste is desserts, food gifts, and unsolicited items brought to the event (which often lead to waste of food we served).

                                                                                  It's a new year and I have 20 pounds to lose in 20 weeks (for my daughter's wedding) and I've been throwing out stuff like a madman.