Festive Food – too good to waste!

by Rich Howorth Food Sustainability Waste Plastics Author - Vic Borrill

People don’t like to admit to wasting food, but it happens all year round and especially when the Christmas shopping frenzy means more food than usual has been bought. According to ReFood if all the wasted food at Christmas was recycled into energy via Anaerobic Digestion (AD), we could power the average medium sized home for 57 years!

Food waste prevention messages are the same all year round: Plan, Store Properly and Love Your Leftovers. The payoff is more cash in your pocket come January, and a tasty way of doing something that prevents climate change.

1. a) Plan It – perfect portions

Cooking for more people than you usually do and worried that you will run out? WRAP have created a handy portion planner which allows you to type in the number of adults and children you are feeding to get the total quantity of food that you need to buy. Yes it includes turkey. But beware, if you are serving lots of side dishes then you will need less of each individual item.

1. b) Plan It – do you really like sprouts?

More than a third of the sprouts produced in the UK are harvested for the Christmas period, although a quarter of the population claim to ‘hate them’! So if you don’t like them, just don’t buy them – we promise that it is still Christmas without them!

2. a) Store Properly - manage your fridge and freezer

The air needs to circulate for a fridge to work properly so plan alternatives to shoving in as much as possible. If you’re the owner of a cold entrance porch, shed or garage then you can use this to free up fridge space. Everything from white wine and fruit juice to jars of condiments will happily chill out there if your fridge is full at Christmas.

A WRAP survey found 80% of people interviewed had thrown away food that was nearing its date in the past week, without realising that they could freeze it and keep it for later. It is also the subject that we at the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership’s ‘Community Kitchen’ get asked a lot of questions about on our cookery courses. So in a festive nutshell:

  • Just about anything can be frozen apart from cucumber and lettuce
  • You can freeze right up to the ‘use by’ date and if you freeze raw meat, defrost it, cook it well, then you can freeze it again
  • Milk – freeze as soon as possible after buying and thaw in the fridge
  • Cheese freezes well either grated or in the packet it comes in
  • If you pre-slice bread before freezing you can take out what you need
  • If you have made soups or casseroles with your leftovers, split your offerings into portions before you freeze. This makes them quick and easy to defrost and heat up when you need a quick meal or for lunch at work on those chilly January days.

2. b) Store Properly - plastic-free food storage

If you are trying to go plastic-free, then food storage can be a bit of challenge - this cute infographic from Eco with Em is full of good tips:How to store food without plastic

3. Love Your Leftovers! – get creative with what you get left with

Famous chefs, major retailers, newspapers, bloggers - an internet search will result in plenty of suggestions for Christmas Leftover recipes.

But for me the best option is those “once in a lifetime dishes”, where the ingredients are truly what is leftover and don’t require buying more food to make them, such as:

  • The best leftover sandwich ever – anything in the fridge + mayonnaise + Dijon mustard
  • A taste of Christmas soup – put all the veg (apart from sprouts, which go bitter when over-cooked) in a big pan with stock, blend, add leftover cream, soft cheese or stilton

Christmas should of course be a time of goodwill, sharing, spending time with your family and feasting. However, there are a lot of people experiencing food poverty, homelessness and social isolation who need a bit of help and support over Christmas. So if you can spare some food (or your money or time) for people in need, then take a look at the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership’s Guide to where to donate this Christmas.

Wishing everyone a wonderful waste-free festive season!

Vic Borrill
Director - Brighton & Hove Food Partnership

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