It’s easy with the following 7 tips to green up the holiday meal with both food and preparation – paring down, getting back to basics, and what the season is truly about – friends and loved ones!

Green” Your Holiday Meals

1. Eat local. Celebrate gratitude for the local environment by exploring what local foods you can find. Incorporate seasonal vegetablessuch as beets, Brussels sprouts, squash and broccoli. Or find a quick refrigerator pickle recipe for locally grown cucumbers or bell peppers instead of buying prepackaged. See if you can select a turkey from a local farm (try your local natural foods market or visit localharvest.org to locate farmers).

2. Get out the china. Or at least forgo plastic and paperware to reduce waste. If you are short on place settings, borrow (neighbors,family and guests usually are happy to share), or look on Craigslist, eBay or at thrift stores for extras you can reuse. By using items that are colorful but not particularly holiday-themed, you will save – and be able to use them throughout the year. For more napkins, make your own or purchase a stash of bandanas in colors you like from a hobby store.

3. Decorate with plants. Collect some attractive houseplants into an appealing centerpiece by gathering them in a large basket, bowl or even a box decorated with fabric or paper. For Thanksgiving, gather a fall-themed bouquet from your yard, or ask guests to bring autumn leaves, berries or branches to build a centerpiece. For December holidays, use evergreen branches and ribbons to create attractive pieces.

4. Take advantage of turkey sales. Many stores offer great sales on turkeys before Thanksgiving. If you can, buy an extra, and then cookand carve it while you are in the turkey-roasting mood. Then freeze the meat in smaller packages. You can take out what you need for several meals during the busy holiday season, saving time and money.

5. Do not overdo it. Cooking enough to feed an army will only result in added stress and waste if your “crowd” is more like a handful. Be realistic about what you will eat at dinner and what you can consume in leftovers. Send some leftovers home with guests, and freeze some to enjoy later. If you know you will have too much leftover, investigate your community to see if you can donate extras to a soup kitchen. Or invite other family or friends to share in a post-Thanksgiving, post-Christmas, etc., meal.

6. Combine cooking. Plan your cooking to use the oven all at once, rather than heating and cooling the oven many times over the days aheadof the meal. Heat up contributed dishes in an already-hot oven after you remove one dish instead of firing up the microwave. Try cooking side dishes in a toaster oven instead of in the large oven.

7. Wash it up. Resist the temptation to run the dishwasher with just a few items in it and run it only when full. And because using a dishwasher is usually more efficient than hand washing, no need to feel guilty about a stack of dishes on the counter — let them wait for the next dishwasher load.

About the Author

This article was written by national consumer finance expert Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Debt Relief.