Eat, drink and be merry (but don't waste it!)
I am SO excited about Christmas, it's hard not to be with 3 young children in the house! This year, we have decided to station ourselves at home and as a result, we have a lot of family coming and going over the festive period. This also means we have a lot of people to cater for which, if we are not mindful, can result in a lot of wasted food. Like many, I love to be organised so have been staggering the Christmas food shopping over the last few weeks. I've now had much of our food delivered and am now in charge of cooking the right amount for everyone. This can be a very tricky balance. I need to have enough for Christmas day lunch and dinner, leftovers for our annual Boxing day lunch and then enough for our next round of family after Christmas without wasting loads.
As organised as I like to be, buying too far in advance means that the food will spoil and cooking too much will mean that it just gets thrown in the bin, which is a big no-no for me.
Shockingly, a 2016 report the Guardian highlighted that 1 in 3 admitted throwing away turkey and sprouts before they even reached the table! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/20/brits-christmas-dinner-turkey-sprouts-bin
Too many people don't have enough to eat or will not be fortunate enough to be sat around a Christmas table this year, so before anything goes in your bin, it's important to think about how waste can be avoided. Like everything, planning is key and investing in a little bit of thinking before the cooking commences will help us all to reduce our food waste. It's estimated that over 4 million Christmas dinners are thrown away each year https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/christmas/food-drink/over-4-million-christmas-dinners-are-thrown-away-each-year-a6757211.html
Imagine if we all cut down our waste this festive period.
If you are totally swamped with Christmas prep and don't have time to do the pre-thinking, use my guide to take the pressure off. I've found tools to help plan portions, sourced easy left over recipes which don't call for fancy, obscure ingredients and have outlined ways to preserve foods for longer. The food bin (or worse, the normal bin) should be a last resort, not the first port of call!
1. Portion planning:
This tool from BBC Good Food, outlines sensible guidelines for portion control which can be used to cater for small or large groups on the big day. It also includes handy tips, such as if you are cooking more than 3 types of veg, remember to reduce the amount per head. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/christmas-portion-planner
2. Bubble and squeak
Have you ever tried Bubble and Squeak? It is a Boxing Day staple in my house and has been since I was a little girl. It's essentially a cook up of all the left over veg and is is absolutely delicious served with some piccalilli, cranberry sauce or whatever your else you fancy! This recipe serves up ham and eggs on the side, but we always use left over cold cuts, without the egg. Be creative - as long as it's left over veg, anything goes! If you've never tried Bubble and Squeak, why not give it a whirl and start a new tradition? https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pork-recipes/bubble-and-squeak-with-ham-and-eggs/
3. Turkey and Vegetable Pie
Post Christmas, I will most definitely be wanting something simple, nutritious and easy to eat. One of my regular family meals is a chicken and leek pie, using 2 packs of ready-rolled puff pastry. One goes on the bottom, then pour the filling on and lay the other sheet on top and seal to create a pillow. I then wash with egg and Parmesan before putting in the oven, but over Christmas, you could supplement with olive oil, cheddar, or whatever else you have lying around.
For the filling, instead of chicken, lardons, leek and onion, I'll be using turkey and leftover veg. The method is easy, put all the filling ingredients in a pan, cover with milk (and even a bit of leftover cream if you have) and let it simmer. Once the milk is gently simmering, add 3 tablespoons of plain flour to thicken. Stir in and pour onto the ready rolled puff pastry. Once assembled, pop into the oven on 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown and risen.
This seems easy, but with the mental load and hustle and bustle of Christmas, it's not easy to keep on top of. My Christmas shop came on the 20th of December, which meant that some of the food needed to be frozen to stop it from wasting before the big day. It's also good to remember that the shops are only closed for 2 days, so if need be, buy less and replenish on the 27th. This will help to eat fresh and only buy what is needed.
In my house fridgemin is a joint responsibility, but Plastic Conscious Dada is better at it than me! It essentially requires a good system of organising fridge space. If you have 2 of an item, organise with the one closest to expiration date at the front of the fridge. Also, not everything needs to be refrigerated, this will help to keep your fridge clutter free so you can keep track of what's in it. Many a time, we have found something that has escaped to the back of the fridge and has gone off because it has been forgotten about. These tips will help keep your fridge a little less crowded;
-Eggs don't need to be kept in the fridge, keeping them refrigerated may extend their shelf life, but if your fridge is chocablock, your eggs will be just fine in a cool, dry place such as a cupboard.
-Tomatoes taste better when stored in a fruit bowl or on a counter top.
-Apples and potatoes are friends and will store well together out of the fridge, but keep onions separately as they can encourage potatoes to sprout quicker.
Did you know that 2 million kilos of cheese are thrown away over Christmas? To avoid this, buy good quality and less of it. You can also grate and freeze left over cheddar to use in sauces at a later date.
This article is a good read for avoiding cheese waste: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/16/cheese-uk-waste-mountain-christmas-borough-market
There are endless soup recipes that can be made with Christmas leftovers, many of which will just require a quick blitz and minimal effort. These can then be frozen for post Christmas lunches or quick midweek dinners. Here are 3 options:
-https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/seasons/what-should-you-be-cooking-in-january/turkey-soup-and-turkey-dripping-on-toast (This one takes a bit longer, but is great for using everything up, even the turkey caucus!)
7. Freeze leftover turkey
If you haven't the energy for cooking up a soup post Christmas, just pop your turkey trimmings in an air tight container and freeze just as they are. They will keep for up to 4 months and are perfect for adding to vegetable pastas, stir fried dishes and vegetable fried rices. Just take out to defrost when you are ready and add to the dish of your choice ensuring it is thoroughly cooked through and not refrozen again.
8. Best before dates
You don't need to eat food before its "best before" date. It is perfectly fine for a few days and even in some case up to a week after.
We are quite liberal in our house with these dates and always joke "if it's not got fur on it, it's ok." (Please take this "advice" with a pinch of salt, as intended!)
9. Fruit shots and smoothies
Blitz up any soft or ripening fruit. Serve in shot glass for a vitamin hit or in a bowl over yogurt and oat bran for a low key, light breakfast after the indulgence.
Stale bread can be blitzed up into amazing breadcrumbs and frozen in a container. These make a great coating for home-made chicken nuggets or tasty toppings for either fish pie or macaroni cheese.