Skip to content
Open menu Close menu

Feed your appetite for cooking with Penguin’s expert authors

penguin logo

How to cut your food waste this Christmas

by Malou Herkes

published on 20 November 2020

In our recent Christmas cooking survey, many of you responded to tell us that keeping waste to a minimum 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.

save food waste at christmas Mary Berry's Roast Chicken with Tarragon Butter simple comforts

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 duing the festive period so you know what needs using sooner rather than later. 

save food waste at christmas Edd’s Spiced Chocolate Bundt Cake from The Great British Bake Off: Christmas

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.

save food waste at christmas Turkey Sloppy Joes from Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook

Step 5: Use up leftovers

There are so many creative, delicious 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.

    From the book

    Melissa Hemsley


  • Turkey Sloppy Joes from Jamie Oliver's Christmas CookbookNeed we say more? 
  • Ed's Victorious Turkey Hash from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas is, well, victorious. 
save food waste at christmas Jamie oliver Ultimate Hot Chocolate jamie christmas cookbook


You might also like

View all


All of your favourite recipes from Jamie Oliver’s Together on Channel 4

Jamie Oliver is back with a brand-new cookbook and TV series to inspire your post-pandemic cooking. Together is a guide to reconnecting with your nearest and dearest over a good...


8 Cornish-inspired home cooking favourites from Rick Stein at Home

Rick Stein’s latest cookbook is packed with recipes celebrating Cornish ingredients and producers. Discover 8 of our favourites here.


10 recipes you’ll love in The Sweet Roasting Tin

75 laid-back, flavour-focused bakes await you in The Sweet Roasting Tin. Here are just 10 of our favourites, from an orange drizzle traybake to Black Forest cupcakes.


Subscribe to The Happy Foodie email newsletter

Get our latest recipes, features, book news and ebook deals straight to your inbox every week