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Jackie Freeman is a recipe developer, food stylist and cooking instructor at PCC Natural Markets (external) and recently starred in King County’s “Food: Too Good To Waste” food-waste prevention videos.

Q: During the holidays, how do you use local ingredients at home?

A: Using local ingredients means using food at its best: in flavor, freshness and nutrition. It also means using food that is in season. There is a reason why, during the holidays, we serve roasted Brussels sprouts and pumpkin pie, not heirloom tomato salad and strawberry shortcake! Whether I stop by the farmers market, drop into my neighborhood grocery store, or just put on a pair of boots and a raincoat and head out into the backyard, I love locally-sourced food. Using locally-grown ingredients is the key to my holiday spread.

Q: What do you do during the holidays to make your meals at home greener?

A: In my opinion, the way to keep things “green” is to prevent as much waste as possible from the beginning. This means careful meal planning (how many pounds of sweet potatoes can 10 people really eat?) and preparation.

Grocery shopping during the holidays can often be an overwhelming and stressful experience. I always make a detailed shopping list, including what and how much to buy, before I head to the store. Throughout the rest of the year, I often allow myself a little “impulse” shopping so that I can try new things and find new favorite foods. However, I know that during the holidays, prepping and cooking will keep me busy enough in the kitchen without the added stress of trying to get creative with new ingredients. So, I buy just what I need and just what’s on my list; no more, no less.

I try to prep and store my food as soon as possible after shopping. This may mean having a designated shelf for all of the dry goods that I will be using for my holiday meal, or chopping onions and garlic ahead of time, so I can quickly grab them from the fridge when I’m ready to start cooking. Prepping my fruits and vegetables ahead of the big day also keeps me from constantly going in and out of the fridge, helping to cut down on a lot of wasted energy - both the fridge’s and my own!

Q: What are some examples of waste prevention techniques you’ve done at home to prevent food waste?

A: Those who know me also know that I’m a fan of using leftovers. I even have a few videos to prove it!

Even though holidays are meant to be shared with family and friends, everyone can be quite busy (or obligated) on the day of the actual event. In my house, we’ve started our own family tradition – Leftover Night: The Holiday Special! This occasion often trumps the real holiday for my family and friends. The day or two following the big event is a great excuse to invite friends over that you missed the day of. Either invite everyone over to help clear the fridge, or make it potluck-style and have everyone bring a dish of leftovers from their own place. We prefer to make it a friendly competition, “Iron Chef” style. Everyone has to bring a few leftover ingredients from their own holiday celebration and have a cook-off – who can come up with the best dish from what’s at hand? The winner gets an extra slice of pie and bragging rights!

And, I’ll be honest here (but don’t tell anyone). I’m not a huge fan of turkey on its own. Never have been, never will be. Yes, even if it’s brined, deep-fried, stuffed with a chicken and a duck, or barbequed. However, I love turkey in other things. Holiday meals are a great excuse for me to eat turkey leftovers for the week: cooked into a pot pie, stuffed into quesadillas, on a sandwich with a good schmear of cream cheese and cranberry sauce, or turned into ice cream (ok, just kidding about the ice cream thing).

Q: Any other tips?

A: Know your audience. Plan your meals around what you know your family and friends like to eat, not what you think they should eat. Sure, vegetables and fruits are super healthy, but this is a time to splurge. Does your family focus on the “big ticket” items like turkey, potatoes and gravy? Then slim down a bit on the number of sides you prepare. Or perhaps, like my family, it’s all about the sides (more Brussels sprouts! Pass the stuffing and cranberry sauce!), so we order a smaller turkey or pot roast and focus on the veggies and carbs. Maybe your family would prefer that you host an all-dessert buffet this year?!

Any excuse to gather family and friends with food and drink around the table is a good excuse for my family, so we often celebrate it all: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Festivus, etc. Do we get the day off? Do we get to eat? We’re in! And, why don’t y’all come on over to join us? We can always pull up another chair.

(Interview has been condensed and edited.)

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King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal