Households in the UK generate 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food waste every year, according to a Sainsbury’s. At Christmas, this figure rises once again as shoppers become frivolous, spending excessive amounts of money on food which inevitably ends up in the bin.
To combat the growing issue of food waste in the UK, we spoke to experts and nutritionists about how to waste less and feel good about it on Christmas day (and beyond).
“I always feel very sad when people throw away vast quantities of food following on from Christmas dinner,” Charlotte Stirling-Reed from SR Nutrition tells HuffPost UK. “There is just so much that can be done with leftovers.”
Before you plan your Christmas meals, think about how many people you’ll be cooking for and how big the portion sizes should be, advises the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website.
“This portion planner covers all sorts of foods and tells you how much you need to cook, so that you can avoid the temptation of buying too much.”
It might even save you some money too.
Be Savvy On The Day
If you’ve got any leftovers after Christmas dinner, cool them and cover them, ensuring they go in the fridge or freezer within 1-2 hours.
“If you have a lot of one type of food, splitting it into smaller portions will help it to cool quickly and means you can freeze and defrost only what you need for future dishes,” advises the FSA.
Top tip: you can freeze turkey, other meat and meals cooked from previously cooked and frozen meat. But once defrosted, the pause button is off and you should eat the food within 24 hours.
Get Creative With Meals
If you’re left with a bucket load of turkey and sprouts, don’t chuck them away. Instead, make your leftovers into new meals and either eat them the following day or freeze them for the cold, wintery January ahead.
“Why not wrap up any leftover meat and use it - together with some stuffing, sauces and salad - in sandwiches, wraps and rolls for the next day?” says Stirling-Reed.
“If sandwiches are a bit boring at this time of year, and you have a little more time, you could try making turkey fajitas, turkey curry or even a turkey omelette with the leftover meat.”
She adds: “When it comes to vegetables, there really should be no issues with using this up. There are so many easy and convenient ways to re-use yesterday’s vegetables such as in soups, stews and casseroles. Serve with some warm wholemeal bread for a perfect Boxing Day lunch.
“Additionally, you could add the extra veggies into a turkey curry if you’re feeling fancy.”
For those who end up with plenty of parsnips to spare, why not try making a creamy parsnip soup, she asks, or use leftover potatoes to make a potato gratin?
“For something more simple, you could try re-heating your veggies and using them as a dip alongside hummus or guacamole,” adds Stirling-Reed. “Or you could use a tin of tomatoes to turn them into ratatouille and serve with any leftover potatoes.”
Top tip: if you make a new meal out of your leftovers, you can also freeze this for future use (even if the turkey that went into it was originally frozen and defrosted).
Don’t just think about saving food, as drinks and herbs can be rescued too.
If you have leftover wine you can pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it for use at a later date in sauces, gravy or (if it’s white wine) as an alcoholic ice cube.
Additionally with fresh herbs that are leftover, you can puree and freeze them in an ice cube tray to add to dishes as and when you need them.
If you’re planning on eating leftovers which haven’t been frozen, you should aim to eat them within two days (or one day, if it’s a rice dish).
If you freeze leftover food, make sure that you do so within two days and, when you come to use it, ensure you defrost the meal thoroughly in the fridge overnight or in a microwave (on the defrost setting) and then reheat until steaming hot.
The FSA recommends labelling any foods that go into the freezer with the name of the dish and the date you made it, so you know what it is and how long it’s been there.