I remember the Christmases of my childhood as fun, but not spectacularly over indulgent. My parents bought a few treats we didn’t usually have and we always had a good, traditional Christmas roast. However, money was tight. This was the seventies, with a three day week, endless strikes, power cuts and very high unemployment. We didn’t need to reduce food waste at Christmas, simply because there wasn’t any!
Nowadays, attitudes are different (even if the financial position of the country is looking as if it might go the same way!). Most of us prepare to eat, drink and be merry, even if it means loosening our belts and opening the buttons of our jeans! So much food gets thrown out unopened or sits in the fridge for too long before finally being binned.
This year, our gatherings need to be much smaller, but the temptation is to fill our trollies as much as ever.
By taking the time to do a little advance organisation and planning, it is easy to reduce food waste at Christmas, or even have none at all and use every scrap of what you buy.
I do a meal plan every week. It saves time, money and waste.
This time, I have factored in all of the food we need over the festive period, the fact that I don’t plan to keep nipping out to the shops and to make sure we eat it all.
Make a shopping list from your meal plan and stick to it as you are out shopping. Try not to be tempted by loads of delicious looking extras to help reduce food waste at Christmas!
Do a stock take
Make sure you do a stock take of your cupboards, fridge and freezer to make sure you use up any perishable food that you already have. This is helpful at Christmas when you might have the ingredients for your festive meals jamming up the fridge.
I have been using things up for a few weeks to make sure we have plenty of space for the Christmas meat and veg.
Don’t buy more than you need
As I have already said, many of us will be having much smaller gatherings than usual. Last year on Boxing Day, we crammed in and fed 23 people. The fridge was stuffed!
However, this year it will just be us and the girls. Planning our meals and writing a shopping list will ensure we only buy what we need. This will help to reduce food waste at Christmas, but is pretty much what I try to do all the time anyway.
As you do your shopping, check the use by and best before dates to get the longest dates possible.
Don’t buy things people don’t actually like
It sounds obvious, but how often do we purchase food at Christmas because it’s traditional, rather than because anybody really likes it?
My daughters are not big fans of Christmas pudding and mince pies. Mr S loves them, so I have bought a small pudding and a few pies. However, the girls are having a fancy sticky toffee pudding purchased from Aldi.
No one really loves Christmas cake either, apart from me and Mr S. However, last year I regretted not buying one at all, so I have bought a tiny one.
And don’t buy sprouts just because they are a traditional accompaniment. We love them, but I think we are in the minority.
Factor in leftovers
It sounds so obvious to plan to use leftovers in order to reduce food waste at Christmas, but how many of us actually take the time to do it? We might have a vague plan to use a bit of cold meat with some salad on Boxing Day, but what about the rest of it?
I rely heavily on my freezer for leftovers. We don’t all want some version of turkey every day for a week, so we will be slicing it up and freezing left over meat in portions. I will do the same with gravy.
I always use the bones to make stock for soup – it makes for such a lovely flavour. Any leftover veg will go in the soup, nice to eat with the crackers and cheese there is bound to be a stash of.
I am going to buy only a small amount of salad ingredients. We always think we will want it for Christmas tea, but are usually too stuffed to eat much. We will, however, eat some on Boxing Day.
Think about storage
It is worth thinking about how you will store any leftovers. As I have said already, our freezer is brilliant for minimising waste. However, not everything can be frozen, so make sure you have space in the fridge for other leftovers. Use plastic containers (old margarine and ice cream containers are ideal) to stack things neatly. Date and label them and make sure items that need to be used earliest are at the front.
This article from the NHS has some great advice on how to safely store leftovers and what you can freeze successfully.
What hung around a long time last year?
Don’t repeat your mistakes. If you had tubs and tubs of sweets and biscuits hanging around at the start of 2020 to tempt you out of your New Year’s resolutions, don’t buy so many this year. People are bound to gift you more sweet temptations!
Those dates that finally got chucked in the bin in April were not worth buying. It may look nice to have baskets of nuts in their shells sitting around, but again, if no one could be bothered to crack them, leave them on the supermarket shelf.
If you do have leftover non-perishable food, remember your local food bank will be able to use them. The same goes for the smellies from auntie Mabel that bring you out in a rash!
My plan for this week:
Leftover chicken casserole from the freezer (still making space) with the last of the cabbage.
Vegan nut roast, which I bought thinking my daughter’s boyfriend would be allowed to join us at some point. Now we are restricted to 3 households tops, we may as well eat it, with roast potatoes and veg.
Fish with parsley sauce, sweet potato mash and peas.
My daughter is arriving today. I will make a tomato and pepper sauce and use some of the lentil pasta I bought the other week with grated cheese on top. We really enjoyed this last time.
Salmon steaks, fried simply in butter, with stir fried veg.
Christmas Eve! We often have a simple but comforting dinner of good quality sausages, with mash, peas and gravy. There will be enough to do without making it complicated, I expect.
Christmas Day! We always start the morning with a full English breakfast. Dinner will be turkey, beef and all the trimmings.
Tea – if we want any – will probably be something light such as cheese and crackers.
Boxing Day! Today we will have cold leftover meat and salad.
I will strip all the meat off the bones and freeze any extra and then make stock for some soup. Any leftover veggies will go into this.
What do you do to reduce food waste at Christmas? And are you planning to do anything differently this year?
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