How To Make Sure All That Christmas Food Doesn't Go To Waste

Your guide to freezing, donating or transforming your excess supplies if you're no longer hosting this year.

The about-turn on Christmas bubbles and the introduction of tier 4 to large parts of the country has left us in two camps: those staring at empty fridges ahead of the holidays, and those drowning in turkey.

If you’re part of the latter group, you’re probably wondering what on earth you’re going to do with all that extra food that’ll no longer be gratefully gobbled up by guests.

To limit food waste – and to offer a little practical help amid the festive fuckery – here’s a guide on sharing, freezing and sprucing up those leftovers.

Share with others

If there is no way you’re going to eat all of the sides and snacks you’ve bought for Christmas, consider sharing them with others before opening any packets.

Food banks will be collecting unopened foods, particularly longer life Christmas snacks, such as chocolate, Christmas pudding and stollen.

You can check the Trussel Trust website or your local authority and council websites to find your nearest food bank and ask organisers what food and supplies are most needed in your area.

You could also consider donating to your food bank at your local supermarket if it has a collection point, but bear in mind that some collection points have closed during the pandemic.

Alternatively, tackle waste and help your neighbours by downloading a community food sharing app, such as Olio. If you’ve got an abundance of spuds and sprouts, you can share them with people who are suddenly in need of festive ingredients. Just remember to follow the app’s Covid guidelines for giving away and receiving food to minimise risks of transmission.

Freeze in small portions

Meat is one of the harder things to share, so divide and conquer by splitting your turkey (or other Christmas centre piece) into small portions after cooking, then keeping some in the fridge and freezing the rest.

You should cool and cover your leftovers and put them in a fridge or freezer within one to two hours, according to the Food Standards Agency. Splitting leftovers into smaller portions will cool food quicker and help portion control. Leftovers put in the fridge can be eaten for two days.

You can freeze most things once, including raw and cooked meats, fruit, potatoes (after boiling for five minutes), grated cheese, and eggs. Beware of refreezing certain items, as this can cause food poisoning.

“Never refreeze raw meat (including poultry) or fish that has been defrosted. You can cook frozen meat and fish once defrosted, and then refreeze them,” explains the NHS. “You can refreeze cooked meat and fish once, as long as they have been cooled before going into the freezer. If in doubt, do not refreeze.”

It’s best to eat meat that’s been frozen within three to six months, advises the NHS. It’s still safe to eat after this, but the quality and flavour will deteriorate.

Date and label meat when you put it in the freezer to keep track and be sure to eat it within 24 hours of defrosting.

Get creative with turkey

On Boxing Day (or at about 7pm on Christmas day, who are we kidding?) you can’t go far wrong with a turkey sandwich. “Always condiment heavy with Branston pickle, extra cold cranberry sauce and a little mayo,” says Tom Aikens, chef patron at Muse, London. “Chuck in a few lettuce leaves too.”

Another traditional option is a baked pie with puff pastry. It works with whatever leftover Christmas meat (turkey, ham or goose) you’ve got in the fridge.

“Make a basic bechamel, add some leeks and mushrooms, a dash of cream, grainy mustard and parsley,” says Aikens. “Then add all the white and dark meat, cut up into smallish pieces. Pop into a pie dish, cover with defrosted puff pastry, brush with egg yolk and bake at 200c for 20 mins.”

For those drowning in turkey and looking for something a little different, Paul Kelly from KellyBronze turkey farmers suggests these recipes.

Turkey tacos

Ingredients:

  • 12 soft tacos

  • 400g leftover turkey

  • 2 ripe avocados

  • 200g cherry tomatoes

  • 1 red onion

  • 1 handful coriander

  • 1 red chilli

  • ½ lime, juiced

  • 3 cups frozen sweetcorn

  • 4 tbsp soured cream

Instructions:

  1. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature.

  2. To make the guacamole, cut the avocado into cubes and add to a mixing bowl. Add the finely sliced onion, the cherry tomatoes cut into quarters, the finely sliced chilli, the chopped coriander, and the juice of half a lime. Mix this round in the bowl, gently squashing the avocado as you do it.

  3. Next, put the sweetcorn in a piping hot cast iron pan and toast for approximately five minutes until nice and charred.

  4. Cut the turkey into strips, toast the tacos in a pan and fill with the turkey and all the toppings.

Turkey, fig and caramelised onion pizza

Ingredients:

  • 200g sourdough pizza dough

  • 2 x figs

  • Leftover turkey

  • Mozzarella

  • Jar of caramelised onion chutney

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 50g salted butter

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

  2. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, crush the garlic cloves and add them to the pan for a few minutes to allow the flavour to infuse. Tip – do not let the butter go brown by leaving it on the heat for too long.

  3. Brush the pizza base with the garlic butter, cut the figs into quarters and place on the base, along with pieces of mozzarella and then scatter the teaspoons of chutney on top.

  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the base looks almost cooked and the cheese has melted.

  5. Then, remove it from the oven and sprinkle over the chunks of leftover turkey.

  6. Put the pizza back in the oven for a remaining three to five minutes to heat the turkey. Tip – don’t put the turkey on the pizza base at the beginning of cooking, as it will dry out!

Mexican turkey and sweet potato

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly

Ingredients:

  • 6 Sweet potatoes

  • 2 x 400g tins of black beans in water

  • 2 x red onion, diced

  • 300g cherry tomatoes

  • 375g cheddar cheese grated

  • 600g leftover turkey

Instructions:

  1. Remove the turkey from the fridge to allow to get up to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

  2. Pierce the sweet potatoes and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until soft and cooked in the middle.

  3. Whilst the potatoes are baking, drain and rinse the beans and place in a mixing bowl along with the cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, grated cheese and chopped onion.

  4. Once the sweet potatoes are baked, remove from the oven, cut in half and place in a deep oven proof dish.

  5. Place the cheese mixture in the centre of the potatoes and sprinkle any excess over the top, then pop back in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

  6. Remove from the oven and scatter the turkey on top to serve. Tip – don’t bake the turkey in the oven with the sweet potato as it will dry out!