For many of us, wasting as little food as possible this Christmas is a top priority, both to be kinder to the environment and to keep food costs down. With a bit of careful planning, clever food storage and freezer use, and a few ingenious leftover recipes up your sleeve, you won’t have to waste a thing. Here’s a guide to help you cut your food waste this year.
Step 1: Plan carefully
This might seem obvious, but some careful planning really will help you to save time, money and waste in the long run. Create a day-to-day meal plan, allowing for days when you’ll be eating the inevitable leftovers. There are some useful Christmas portion planners online to help you calculate how much food you will need. Do you need to cook a whole turkey for just four people? Try an alternative roast bird, like Mary Berry’s Roast Chicken with Tarragon Butter or go vegetarian with this Hasselback Squash with Roasted Grapes.
Go through your fridge and cupboards and make an inventory of the foods you already have that will come in useful. It’s normal to want to stock up on last-minute meals or snacks, so choose foods that you can freeze so they won’t go to waste (see below).
Step 2. Stick to your list (ignore the BOGOF deals)
Once you’ve made a plan, now’s the time to go shopping. Make a clear shopping list and make sure you stick to it. Don’t get drawn in by impulse buy–one–get-one-free deals (BOGOF) or special offers, and definitely don’t shop when hungry.
Step 3: Store your food properly
We often end up wasting food because we can’t actually see what needs using up in our over-stuffed fridge. Before you fill it, sort through your fridge. Clear it out and place foods that need using on a designated shelf. Love Food Hate Waste has a great tool that will show you how to store your food properly so it lasts much longer. Sort through your fridge every couple of days during the festive period so you know what needs using sooner rather than later.
Step 4: Make friends with your freezer
Using your freezer can cut food waste by half but many of us don’t know what foods we can or can’t freeze. In reality, you can freeze most cooked and uncooked foods, from milk to bread to cheese, cooked vegetables and meat, even desserts and snacks to entire meals and leftovers. Mary Berry’s cookbooks are stuffed full with freezer-friendly tips and make-ahead meals, like this Potato, Leek & Cheese Pie from Mary Berry Everyday and her Bolognese Bake from Simple Comforts – both hearty, feed-a-crowd dinners for the Christmas week.
Think about desserts that you can make ahead and freeze, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice, like Edd’s Spiced Chocolate Bundt Cake from The Great British Bake Off: Christmas or Nigella’s Meringue Gelato Cake or these Chocolate & Hazelnut Truffles. Be sure to make space in your freezer so you’ll have room to store leftovers and anything you make ahead.
Step 5: Use up leftovers
There are so many creative and exciting ways to use up leftovers so think twice before you dump a plate of sprouts or turkey in the bin. Here are our favourite ways:
- Throw cooked turkey, ham, vegetables and all the trimmings into this Leftovers Pie and serve with leftovers gravy and cranberry sauce.
- Add any leftover meat into a Rescue Noodle Soup from Melissa Hemsley’s waste-minimising Eat Green cookbook.
- Turkey Sloppy Joes from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook. Need we say more?
- Ed’s Victorious Turkey Hash from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas is, well, victorious.
- Sick of sprouts? Make them more interesting: Shredded sprouts with chestnuts and bacon or this Creamy Cheese, Brussels Sprout and Almond Gratin.
- Got leftover dark chocolate? Make Jamie’s Ultimate Hot Chocolate.
- Sarah Rainey’s Six-Minute Showstoppers is packed with sweet treats that help you use Christmas leftovers in just 6 minutes. Think Panettone Perdu, Baileys Cheesecake and Christmas Pud Petits Fours.