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Tip: Donate Your Leftover Wedding Food

Tip: Donate Your Leftover Wedding Food

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Considering it's definite that you'll have plenty left, share it with those less fortunate

Consider donating leftover food from your wedding meal to a local homeless shelter, women's shelter or retirement homes.

Flowers, signage and centerpieces can also be donated to these locations to brighten up someone's day.

Make sure to check with your state and see if their regulations allow the donation of leftover food items.

If this is the case, provide your guests with recycled cardboard doggie bags and sustainable wooden utensils to bring home as many leftovers as they want.

Provide recycled paper bags with handles so they can carry out the food with ease at the end of the night.

More from Green Bride Guide:

10 Tips to Waste Less Food

You can save money and waste less with a few smart shopping and cooking tips.

It all starts with the cart.

Wasting less food begins at the grocery store. Live by the motto “Buy what you need, and eat what you buy.” Always have a plan and a list before going grocery shopping. Check your pantry and fridge before you head to the store to make sure you’re buying what you really need.

Cook with canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.

They can be a good solution if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to use up fresh foods before they go bad. Bonus: they are often more affordable than fresh and can be even more nutritious.

Stock your pantry.

A well-stocked pantry can be the secret to whipping up a tasty meal from food that would otherwise go to waste. Read our 10 Tips to Stock Your Pantry.

Adapt recipes to your needs.

Learn to adjust recipes to meet your needs and use up what’s in your fridge. Make changes to a recipe based on the foods you have at hand, including leftovers.

Make the freezer your friend.

Freeze bread when it won’t be used right away, or if you have some leftover from a meal (bread can be stored in a freezer for up to 6 months). Freeze leftover vegetables for use in later soups or stir fries. Chop and store fresh fruits in freezer to use for Fruit Smoothies.

Use up fresh fruit before it goes bad.

Combine fruits into a fruit salad or top cereal with sliced fruit. Cook berries, apples or pears into a tasty crisp or crumble. Use overripe fruit in muffins, breads, or pancakes.

Use up fresh vegetables before they go bad.

Add vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles, pastas, sauces, or omelets. Combine vegetables and a little salad dressing for a side dish or snack.

Transform leftovers into a new meal.

Transform leftover mashed potatoes into a hearty soup by combining them with stock, a splash of vinegar, onions, carrots and any other veggies you have on hand.

Stretch ingredients over multiple meals.

Use ingredients more than once to save money and avoid food waste. Add veggies to pasta or combine to make a mixed salad.

'I do' to 'I donate': Couples recycle wedding food, flowers, attire

With the hefty cost of wedding flowers, food, décor, and a gown, more couples are opting to extend the life of their investment by donating their leftovers to hospitals and nursing homes that can continue to enjoy them long past last call at a reception.

“It’s a logical step for us to make sure our leftover food gets to a place that can use it,” Columbus, Ohio-based lawyer Genevieve Reiner told of her decision to donate food after her Sept. 1 wedding.

Reiner and her fiancé Todd Mills enlisted catering company Two Caterers for their tradition of transporting leftover food from weddings to organizations like the local Ronald McDonald House or YWCA. “We’ve worked very closely with our caterers in crafting a menu that uses all local ingredients,” said Reiner. “Just throwing it all away would go against what we are doing.”

“Even if couples don’t instruct us to donate their leftover food, we still do as long as it’s safe,” Angela Petro, owner of Two Caterers explained to “We don’t charge for this service and have sustainable food practices, so it’s really a no brainer for us.”

Petro says that she always informs couples interested in donating their food about the limitations of what can be consumed by recipients of the leftovers. “There are guidelines. Not everything can be donated. We have to make sure hot foods have been held at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time. Same thing applies with cold food.”

She adds that the wedding venue plays a factor in food storage. If a couple is getting married in an open field or farm where refrigeration and storage facilities are not optimal, it can affect the safety of food and ability for it to be donated. “If the food is exceeding the safety zone, it cannot be donated,” said Petro. “We educate the bride and groom from the beginning, and make it clear that even though your heart is in the right place, it can’t all be donated.”

The requirements for donating flowers require a little less maintenance. Organizations such as Floranthropy in Seattle, Wash. and Random Acts of Flowers in Knoxville, Tenn. collect floral arrangements from weddings and shuttle them to retirement homes and hospice care centers for others to enjoy.

“This is the only free thing in your whole wedding,” Larsen Jay, founder and executive director of Random Acts of Flowers told “You spend so much time and put so much effort into it and the flowers really go on to brighten someone else’s day.”

He adds that the flowers from one medium-sized wedding can go on to serve 30-50 people who are sick in local hospitals. Jay and his network of 130 volunteers collect flowers from venues where couples have prearranged a donation and bring the items back to a warehouse facility to rearrange and repurpose the arrangements to become more suited for individual patients.

Nicole Denton, a director of digital communications based in Knoxville, Tenn., used Random Acts of Flowers to donate her centerpieces after her November 2010 wedding.

“The only thing I kept was my bouquet and my husband’s boutonnière,” Denton told “You spend a ton of money on flowers, look at them for three hours and never again. I’m glad they were used in a way that made someone else happy.”

Floranthropy, a floral donation center in Seattle, was started by Tracy Sutton in 2011 after she tried to donate her own wedding flowers to a hospital as a way to honor her mother who had passed away, and found that there were no organizations in the area to help facilitate the donation. Sutton charges a small fee for the pick up and delivery service (the cost of mileage), but adds that flowers are tax deductible and those donating will receive a tax receipt.

And then, of course, there is the dress. Most brides opt to hang on to their wedding gown for sentimental purposes, storing it in a climate-controlled facility or box. But others find that passing it on to the right charity suits their needs (and perhaps storage space) much better.

Brianne Crowley-Chandler, a stay-at-home-mom in Los Angeles, donated her wedding dress to, an organization which re-sells bridal gowns to benefit breast cancer research. For Crowley-Chandler, the act seemed rational.

“I hadn't planned on donating my dress, but I also hadn't planned on keeping it,” said Crowley-Chandler. “My main thought was, 'how can this dress be recycled to either be used by someone who is in need or be used to make something else?'”

She adds that she was sad for a few hours after dropping it off at the organization, but knowing it went to benefit a good cause far outweighed her emotions.

Vendors like Petro claim that the practice of couples donating their wedding items has grown exponentially in the past five years and that more companies are now equipped to either handle the donation or provide local resources that can. But, Petro advises, it’s still important to plan ahead and be clear about your wishes when donating any item from your wedding.

“There are certain details like trays and pans not being disposable or able to be donated,” she said. “Be specific. Like everything with planning your wedding, the more the bride and groom can specify what they want, the better for the vendor.”

Don't Leave Your Leftovers

Andrea Nguyen's "use-it-up" fried rice (photo: Aubrie Pick © 2019)

We're all ordering in a lot more than we used to (after all, it's a great way to keep independent restaurants open for good). And naturally, more delivery and takeout means more leftovers crowding our fridge. We have good intentions when it comes to leftovers. We plan to crack into that doggy bag but it molders at the back of the fridge. We make a recipe with egg yolks and vow to use the whites. Leftovers often become food waste, but they are easy to repurpose with a little planning and technique. We talked with three James Beard Award&ndashwinning authors for their top tips and tricks to guarantee no leftovers get left behind.

Reheat the Same Way It Was Cooked
When J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, is thinking about leftovers, he starts with how best to reheat them. &ldquoThe real problem with reheating leftovers is that you lose texture,&rdquo he says. While that isn&rsquot completely unavoidable, López-Alt suggests reheating the way the food food was originally cooked. Pan-seared chicken breast? Put it back in the pan. Something from the oven? Cover it with foil and bake. While he&rsquos generally not a fan of the microwave for reheating, he finds it&rsquos actually a good choice for things that were originally boiled and mashed.

With restaurant food, you might not know the original cooking method. López-Alt has a hack for this. &ldquoAlmost anything can be reheated in a skillet with a little bit of oil. Even things like mashed potatoes&mdashyou fry them in the skillet and they get a little brown crust on them. Or leftover pasta&mdashcook it in a skillet with a little bit of oil until it's crispy,&rdquo he says. &ldquoAs pasta sits it absorbs more water and loses a lot of its original texture, but you can get something that's different but also delicious by frying it.&rdquo He suggests trying this technique with sliced leftover lasagna.

Practice, Practice, Practice

&ldquoRepurposing food is a skill that you have to practice,&rdquo says López-Alt. &ldquoThe better you are at cooking and the more you understand technique, the more you&rsquoll be able to adapt leftovers and figure out new and interesting ways to eat them.&rdquo A couple of his go-to&rsquos? Leaving vegetables or thinly sliced meats cold and adding vinaigrette à la a Thai-style salad, or adding eggs to leftover vegetables (start by frying in the skillet, then add the eggs and bake).

Andrew Coe and Jane Ziegelman

Do as Your Grandparents Did
Andrew Coe and Jane Ziegelman literally wrote the book on Depression-era food. Their Beard Award&ndashwinning tome, A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression, explores a time known for creative (and sometimes relentless) ways to reuse leftovers. &ldquoNewspapers and cookbooks offered lots of tips on how to use leftovers in order to feed your family and protect your budget,&rdquo says Coe.

&ldquoI think the two main strategies were &lsquoconceal&rsquo and &lsquoblend,&rsquo&rdquo he explains. &ldquoThe main way of concealing was to cover in sauce, either tomato, cheese, or the era's favorite, white sauce. The blending usually meant adding fillers such as mashed potatoes or bread crumbs and converting leftovers into vegetable or meat loaves, casseroles, fritters, hashes, savory pies, etc. They would also use seasonings such as curry to convert leftovers into new dishes, but this was less common.&rdquo

Andrea Nguyen's super-simple porridge (photo: Aubrie Pick © 2019)

Think About Leftovers from the Start
For Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook, leftover planning often begins as she&rsquos cooking the original dish. She has several options for what she calls her &ldquoViet default approach&rdquo depending on what she's working with. &ldquoWhen I have leftover roast chicken, steak, pan-fried tofu or grilled veggies, it's likely to be reincarnated as part of one of these dishes,&rdquo she says. One straightforward route is making a banh mi: &ldquoHaving the ubiquitous daikon and carrot pickle in the fridge is key.&rdquo Adding leftovers to rice paper rolls is another option&mdashjust make sure the ingredients are thin and malleable enough to be rolled up without busting through the rice paper, And of course, there&rsquos always fried rice or porridge: &ldquoI soak leftover rice in broth for an overnight porridge that's cooked up the next morning and then garnished with whatever leftovers I have lingering in the fridge.&rdquo Get the recipes (featured in Nguyen's Vietnamese Food Any Day) for fried rice and porridge here.

But Nguyen&rsquos strategies extend beyond Viet dishes. &ldquoYou&rsquoll also find my leftovers in tacos, in my husband&rsquos lunchbox, and atop pizza.&rdquo

Regardless of whether you have leftovers from your own kitchen or a restaurant, the best thing you can do is use them up&mdashin the most delicious way possible.

Start making the most of your leftovers by ordering from your local restaurants. Learn more about supporting independent restaurants through our Open for Good campaign.

How to Handle Your Leftover Keepsakes?

If you’re thinking about decluttering and only want to keep as many souvenirs as you can, here’s the best way to handle your keepsakes to cherish your wedding memories in the long run.

1. Storing Your Wedding Gown

Assuming your dress wasn’t a rental, you’ll have to store your dress away since it’s highly likely you’ll never use it again. Still, it’s probably one of the most expensive costs you’ve incurred while planning your wedding, so you’ll want to keep it preserved for both the memories and the possible chance that your future daughters may want to wear it during their own wedding.

Before storing it away, take your wedding dress out for cleaning with specialized cleaners. You might have managed to avoid food and wine stains throughout your wedding party, but your dress may have collected dust, small food particles, sweat, and other particles that could discolor your gown. Regular cleaners or doing it yourself may ruin intricate bits of your gown or cause it to discolor, so it is best to have it done by professionals.

Once it is clean, instead of putting it in a box and storing it immediately, have it professionally preserved. Some wedding dress cleaners offer preservation services, but you can find DIY preservation kits online. If you preserve your gown before storing it away, your gown has a less chance of discoloring while in storage.

2. Wedding Cake

Sometimes, the problem with the wedding cake is that couples buy a multi-layered wedding cake for a small wedding party. Not a lot of people accept a slice of wedding cake, or the reception is so full of events that much of the cake has been left uneaten.

If you want to avoid filling up half your fridge with wedding cake for the weeks to come, you’ll want to get rid of the cake on the day of your party. It may have looked nice, but the beauty of your wedding cake should be remembered in pictures, not the slices you and your spouse are forced to finish in the following days after the wedding.

If you find that your reception is about to end, guests have had their fill of cake, and there’s still a lot of cake left, offer to have some cake packed for them to take home. If you’re having your reception in a hotel or restaurant or have caterers handling the food, they’re well-equipped with Tupperware or foil to pack up the cake for your guests.

And if you find that there’s still too much leftover cake, don’t be afraid to offer the extra to the caterers, photographers, wedding planners, and other vendors that are present in your wedding.

And even if you do this and find you and your spouse still having too much cake for you to finish, you might want to share the leftover cake with your neighbors. Give them a large presentable piece in a disposable Tupperware so that you don’t have to worry about getting your container back. It’s a great way to be neighborly and to announce your marriage.

This doesn’t just apply to wed cakes, though, and also applies to any food the catering company leaves you. When caterers have leftover food from your party, they can’t donate it to charity or food banks due to some policies local food banks have.

If you’re feeling generous and the caterer has a partnership with local charities in need of food, you can let them give your leftover food to areas that need it more. But if they can’t, you can give it away to your guests, your vendors, and neighbors.

3. Wedding Souvenirs

When my aunt got married, my mom – her older sister – was in charge of making the souvenirs and spent a month making almost two hundred figurine trinkets. During the wedding, a few guests couldn’t attend, which was why my aunt was left with around 20 or so trinkets left.

My aunt had no idea what to do with the additional trinkets and thought she could just use them as decorations around the house because she didn’t want to throw them away. Instead, however, my mom gave her a very useful tip.

Instead of hoarding souvenirs, keep one. This will be your own personal souvenir for your wedding. The other additional souvenirs, give it to those who couldn’t attend, especially those who sent you a gift anyway.

Giving them a souvenir is the polite way of thanking them for their gift and acknowledging that their gifts are still greatly appreciated. It’s a much better way of dealing with the excess souvenirs than just hoarding it or throwing away because it also serves a purpose.

After the wedding bells ring, you can’t ignore some matters when it comes to cleaning up the morning after. Instead of hoarding your keepsakes, find the best way to deal with them, whether it means proper storage or finding better ways to give away the leftovers from the party.

Tips for Donating to Thrift Stores After Your Spring Clean Out

Plus the items that the thrift merchants are almost always looking to obtain.

Grab your gloves and your mop, because it is spring cleaning season. Whether you are in the middle of your spring cleaning calendar or plan to tackle it all in one industrious weekend, when the dust settles, the floors gleam, and the decluttering is done, you&aposll most likely have a pile of things you no longer want around the house. While some items are undoubtedly trash, you may want to donate the rest to the thrift store.

Thrift stores are a great addition to the retail landscape. They let folks find a new home for items they no longer want or need and let people pick up new clothes, books, furniture, and more at a bargain price. Plus, many thrift stores are associated with charities that use the proceeds of sales to fund their good works. When you set out to donate goods, you don&apost want to make the store&aposs job harder. While your intentions may be good—it&aposs always preferable to have an item reused and re-loved than chucked in the dumpster—remember that the thrift store is not a place to get rid of stained, broken, or malfunctioning items.

Today spoke to a few experts and they say that the first thing to ask before making a donation is "whether you would give the item to somebody you know." If the item has stains, tears, mold, is missing pieces, or requires some work to fix up before you would give it to a friend, don&apost give it to a thrift store either. While it may be heartbreaking to throw away a dress with a stain, a chair with a broken slat, or an electronic item that is missing a cord, if you wouldn&apost give it to your friend, don&apost put it in the donation pile. 

According to the pros who spoke to Today, thrift stores are almost always on the hunt for men&aposs clothing and housewares. If your spring cleaning has been particularly productive and you want to make a donation, it can&apost hurt to contact your local favorite thrift store to see what they need.

Tip #1: Re-Evaluate the Value of Your Food

The first step “is thinking about food in a different way,” says Jeff Clark, Director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Program. “Food is cheap right now, much less expensive than 50 or 100 years ago, and the price keeps dropping [and the result is that] every day in the United States we throw away enough food to fill The Rose Bowl."

Video courtesy of Conserve – National Restaurant Association

With food being so cheap, it’s easy for restauranteurs to disregard waste because of its minimal financial impact. In order to realize the full value of your food, Jeff recommends visiting local farms or starting your own rooftop garden to gain a better appreciation of the process. “Changing the thought and dynamic of what food is and where it comes from, rather than it just showing up at your back door is really the first step…to looking beyond the dollar amount.”

Another money- and time-saver for busy people: Stash a lunch-able portion of dinner in a container and pack it for lunch the next day. With a bit of planning and no extra effort, you can create a week’s worth of healthful take-it-to-work lunches.

Turn extra pasta or cooked vegetables into a frittata. Blend cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes and create a veggie-packed sauce for pasta. Create burritos with leftover cooked rice, meat and vegetables, and top them with sour cream and salsa.


When it comes to donating, try to find specific charities for specific items.

I talk about this at length in my book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

Women&rsquos Work Wear:

Have work attire? Check out Dress for Success.

&ldquoDress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.&rdquo

If you have a bra that&rsquos a bit too tight or a bit too big, check out I Support the Girls.

It&rsquos also a great organization to donate your leftover pads and tampons, if you still have a stock pile from when you switched over to zero waste period products.

&ldquoI Support the Girls collects and distributes donations of new and gently used bras, and individually sealed tampons and maxi pads to women and girls nationally and internationally.

&ldquoWhether they be homeless, refugees, in transitional housing, or fleeing domestic violence, women and girls should never have to compromise on dignity.&rdquo

Men&rsquos Work Wear:

Looking to donate men&rsquos suits? Check out Career Gear.

From their website, &ldquoWe promote the economic independence of low-income men by providing financial literacy training, a network of support, professional attire, career development tools, job-readiness and essential life-skills training that help men enter the workforce, stay employed and become role models and mentors to their families an communities.&rdquo

Are you looking to donate your wedding dress? Can I recommend Brides Across America?

From their website, &ldquoBrides Across America (BAA) is a non-profit committed to loving one another by gifting weddings and wedding gowns to our military & first responders.

Whether it&rsquos for love of country or love at the altar, our military and first repsonders deserve our very best.

Since 2008, Brides Across America has played a role in making their dreams come true by giving a military or first responder bride a free wedding gown during an &ldquoOperation Wedding Gown Event&rdquo.

To date we have gifted over 20,000 wedding dresses and over 20 free weddings.

Each year we host dozens of Operation Wedding Gown giveaway events at participating bridal salons nationwide. Events are held in July (around Independence Day) and November (around Veteran&rsquos Day).&rdquo

Do you have some formal gowns, clutches, or sparkly earrings collecting dust in the back of your closet? Check out W Girls, Project G.L.A.M.

From their website, &ldquoWGIRLS Inc. created Project Granting Lasting Amazing Memories (G.L.A.M.) to provide economically disadvantaged young women with prom dresses and accompanying accessories so they are able to enjoy the rite of passage of high school prom.

To date, WGIRLS Inc. has outfitted over 14,000 young women in need for prom.&rdquo

Have a few extra coats? Maybe one or two your kids have outgrown? Check out One Warm Coat.

From their website, &ldquoOne Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need.

&ldquoOne Warm Coat supports individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country by providing the tools and resources needed to hold a successful coat drive.

Coats are distributed in the communities where they were collected, to children and adults in need, without charge, discrimination or obligation.

Since One Warm Coat&rsquos inception in 1992, we have worked with our volunteers to host more than 31,000 coat drives and have given away more than 5 million coats.&rdquo

I feel like kids are best known for one thing &ndash growing quickly.

There are numerous charities and organizations that accept gently used kids clothing and toys.

If you&rsquore in Los Angeles, try Baby2Baby.

If you&rsquore in NYC or Boston, check out Room to Grow.

If you&rsquore in Washington, check out Clothes for Kids.

For something a little less location specific, try your Ronald McDonald House chapter or your local Women&rsquos and Children center.

Have some shoes in good condition? Check out From the Sole.

From their website, &ldquoWe are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on collecting, refurbishing and giving away shoes & clothing to the homeless in New York City and other metropolitan areas.&rdquo

Now that you’ve determined where your excess food will be going, it’s time to address the packaging. Packaging donated food properly while adhering to relevant food handling procedures is essential. Ensure all your bags and boxes are labeled on both sides, stating pertinent details such as package weight, description of contents, and expiry date (if any). It’s also crucial to keep the food temperature in mind. Certain temperatures can be breeding grounds for bacteria, so it’s necessary to heat or cool food accordingly before dispatch.

To sum it up, there are multiple ways by which you can donate leftover food from your restaurant. Yes, it does involve a bit more effort but, isn’t it better to feed the hungry rather than watch it all go to waste? You can also pat yourself on the back for the reduced damage to the environment, as otherwise caused by dumping food in landfills. And while donating is always preferable, it’s also advisable to track your inventory systems and prevent ordering too many supplies to ultimately generate lesser food waste.