The holidays can be a joyful time. However, they can also be very stressful too. Whether it’s end of the year deadlines, work, or stressful family dynamics, this can be a difficult time of year.

Remind yourself to consider what brings you joy this season.

Setting unrealistic health goals, planning elaborate meals, writing holiday cards, baking from scratch, or over-doing in general, is unlikely to result in more joy, but will likely add more stress. Instead of focusing on your to-do list, or beating yourself up for being out of sync with your dietary habits or exercise routine, slow down and take a pause.

  • Don’t overdo anything. You can’t make all the recipes, or wrap every gift perfectly, or make it to every party or brunch. Do what you MUST do, not all the things you think you need to
  • Don’t overbuy. It’s so easy to order items online, and then you may find you’ve overspent or simply bought too much stuff. This goes for food too. Skip the impulse buys and use my Zero Waste Cooking tips below to spend less money, and waste less food.
  • Get some fresh air! While you may be burning the candle at both ends, walking outside to breath in some fresh air and see the sky is calming and good for your mind and body! Even in colder temperatures, fresh air does a body good. Bundle up and take a short walk.
  • Set boundaries. It’s important to limit your obligations, especially this time of year. It’s okay to say no or not cook everything from scratch.
  • Manage your expectations. We all dream of a perfect holiday. News flash: It doesn’t exist. Perfect moments exist – focus on those with gratitude, and leave the rest. As Swifties would say: Shake it off.

Zero Waste Cooking Strategy for Less Stress and More Joy

  • Take Inventory. A first step to reducing food waste is knowing what you have on hand (in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry shelves) so you can make a smart grocery list.
  • Have a plan (especially for your plants!) Have a plan for all the food you place into your shopping cart. Quickly ask yourself “when am I using that, and for what”.
  • Use less ingredients in more ways. You can do this over the holidays for sure. Meals you cook for special dinners can provides a leftover that can turn into a yummy snack or appetizer later in the week.
  • Canned counts. Keep canned beans, tomatoes, salsa, and corn on hand to whip up a winter chili or a delicious dip.
  • Offer a new take on leftovers. Use items like tortilla chips, pita, naan, or other type of flatbread to create appetizers or snacks with your leftovers that everyone will enjoy. Make mini quiches with your leftover veggies for a fun brunch with friends. Chop all the fruit you have on hand for a fruit salad. Create mini slider sandwiches with leftover turkey, pork, or beef. Top with cranberry sauce and some microgreens and you have a simple, but fancy, appetizer.

Repeat after me: Stress less, more joy. You might think that adopting some zero waste strategies this season will add to your stress, but buying less, spending less, and “doing with what you have”, can simplify your life. You’ll save money by wasting less food too. When you choose to do more with less, you may find more joy as well. Cheers to that!

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