How To Stop Wasting Food During the Holidays: Don’t Buy These 12 Grocery Items

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The holidays are just around the corner, and Americans are gearing up to spend big money. Deloitte predicts that consumers plan to spend an average of $1,652 this holiday season, surpassing pre-pandemic figures for the first time.

Though much of that money will be spent on gifts, a lot of it will likely be spent on food too, particularly if you’re hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas or Hanukkah gathering. 

As such, it’s critical to be smart with your food shopping and not only buy what you need but avoid buying what you don’t need. This means passing on grocery items that will mostly go to waste. 

With the help of foodies, GOBankingRates has compiled a list of12 grocery items you shouldn’t buy during the holidays

The Really Big Turkey 

Even when hosting an intimate family gathering, it’s tempting to go all out on a turkey — a big one! But this can lead to waste, as Liz Sweeney, foodie, home cook and owner at Dogwood Solutions has learned firsthand. 

“I was used to cooking for 20-30 people over the holidays prior to 2020, and learning how to adjust down for my immediate family was tough,” Sweeney said. “I don’t buy the 22-pound turkey just because it’s the same price as the 9-pound turkey, thinking I’m getting a deal. We’re not going to eat it all and I can’t fit all the leftovers in my fridge.” 

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Hard-To-Prep Veggies 

Who doesn’t love so many veggie side options? Alas, some veggie dishes require a lot of time and other ingredients to create. Best to stick with simple and easy recipes. 

“I only buy the vegetables that I know are easy to prepare so that we actually use them during the holidays,” Sweeney said. “I look for easy veg, like pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash that I can toss in some seasonings and olive oil and get them in the oven in between wrapping presents and entertaining. And, I try to get vegetables that will either freeze well or can be tossed into soups, just in case I don’t cook as planned.”

Grocery Store Pies and Cakes 

Sweeney has also learned to skip the grocery store pies and cakes, as easy as they are to serve. 

“I don’t buy pies or cakes from grocery stores during the holidays,” Sweeney said. “We have so many other fun treats that people bring over that these get a few slices cut out of them and then they’re thrown out around New Year’s Eve. They’re lackluster compared to the home-baked goodies, and just not worth it.” 

Pre-Made Fruit Platters

Joonas Jokiniemi, founder of Grill Smoke Love, steers clear of pre-made fruit platters. 

“These tend to dry out and spoil quickly,” Jokiniemi said. “Buy whole fruits and prepare them yourself.”

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Select Dairy Products

“Buying too much cream, milk or specialty cheeses can lead to waste since they have a short shelf life,” Jokiniemi said. “Especially flavored creams — like peppermint or gingerbread — often go to waste because nobody wants to have them after the holiday weekend.” 

Fresh Holiday Pastries

In Jokiniemi’s experience, grocery items like Yule logs, mince pies and panettone can dry out or go stale relatively quickly so it’s best to avoid buying too many of these.

Festive Deli Platters

Buying a readymade deli platter can seem like the best way to present food without having to put in much, if any, prep work. And they can add a festive flair to your table setting. But they can be a huge waste. 

“Festively arranged meat, cheese or seafood platters catered for holiday parties have a limited freshness window,” Jokiniemi said. 

Pâtés and Terrines

Pâtés and terrines also can lead to waste if you don’t devour them quickly. 

“These often come in holiday flavors and need to be eaten within a few days of opening,” Jokiniemi said. 

Fresh Cranberry Relishes and Sauces

Who doesn’t want to make homemade cranberry relishes and other saucy delights? Though they may taste better, “unlike their canned counterparts, these have a much shorter refrigerator life,” Jokiniemi said. 

Fresh Produce

It’s beautiful, crisp and tasty — but fresh produce can easily go to waste. 

“Avoid buying too many fresh foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which are prone to spoil if not eaten quickly,” said Yaz Purnell, a vegetarian food blogger at By The Forkful. “Aim to buy the fresh produce that you need only a day or two before you plan to use it to avoid having to throw spoiled goods out.”

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Certain Bulk Purchases

Absolutely buying in bulk can save you money on food items. But be mindful here when shopping for holiday dinners. 

“While it can be a good idea to buy things like dried pasta and rice etc in bulk to cut costs, other items such as nuts and oil can easily go rancid before they are used,” Purnell said. “Carefully think about what you actually need to buy in bulk versus what makes more sense to buy individually.”

Branded Holiday Cookies

So cute. So festive. And so … gross? 

“Branded holiday cookies are typically a waste of money because while they look pretty, they don’t usually taste good,” said Julie Pollitt of the blog Back To My Southern Roots. “They are often hard, taste like cardboard and expire quickly. Homemade versions are much tastier, have great flavor and are more personal.”

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