Christmas is an amazing time of year, filled with joy and plenty of festive feasts. But, with that, comes the issue of food waste – not to mention the amount of packaging, wrapping paper, Christmas cards and so on. There are ways to reduce the amount of rubbish we produce at Christmas, and it all starts with a little common sense and plenty of planning.
On average, each household will spend an extra £100 on food this Christmas, and £16.35 worth of it is expected to go straight in the bin, according to a survey conducted by Satsuma Loans. Across the UK, this equates to £444 million of wasted food. Bad planning is the main reason why so much produce ends up in the bin, and it’s all avoidable.
Check the freezer
Before you even leave the house, check the fridge, freezer and cupboards for the supplies you will need over Christmas and make a detailed list – nobody wants to be rushing around the supermarkets on Christmas Eve! By doing this, you’re one step ahead, and knowing what you already have will stop you spending more than needed, and of course, cut down on unnecessary waste.
Plan your Christmas dinner
This might seem obvious, but planning your Christmas dinner is imperative. Make sure you know how many people are coming for the best meal of the year, and only buy what you will use. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying more than required, with the intention of making sure guests don’t go hungry – but don’t be persuaded by all the offers, it’s not a good deal if you don’t need it! Think about the portion sizes for each guest and buy accordingly – with so many components to a Christmas dinner, it’s unlikely anyone will be left hungry.
The freezer is your best friend
Having no food waste is ideal, but we’re not all perfect, and this is where your trusty freezer comes in. With any leftovers you don’t intend on using straight away, bag them up and pop them in the freezer for a later date. For anything that you are freezing, make sure you put it in the freezer within two days of it being made.
“But, what can I do with leftovers?”
What can’t you do with leftovers? There are so many delicious recipes that make the most of leftover Christmas dinner, and these ideas can be used at any point of the year. As most people will have different plant-based centrepieces, use the remaining seitan or nut roast for sandwiches for the rest of the week, or add it into salads if you fancy something lighter after indulging over Christmas.
Festive leftover pie
This is a great way to use uncooked and leftover cooked veg. Start by preheating the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Chop up some onion, and fry in a tablespoon of oil until it appears translucent. Pop in some mushrooms and garlic, and fry for another couple of minutes. Add 500ml (2 cups) of vegetable stock and some herbs, and bring it to the boil, reducing to a simmer for a few minutes. Then add some dairy-free cream and simmer until it starts to thicken – you could replace this with a thick gravy sauce too, by combining the same amount of gravy with two tablespoons of cornflour mixed with two tablespoons of water to make a paste, and to thicken the gravy. Next, add in the rest of the pre-cooked vegetables, and a little more cream if the sauce is too thick. Place the mixture in an oven-proof dish and top with some puff or filo pastry. Bake for 30 minutes and check that it is piping hot before serving.
Bubble and Squeak
This classic dish is perfect for using up your remaining roast potatoes, sprouts and any extra leafy greens. Finely chop one onion, and cook in a tablespoon of oil until it’s soft. At this point you could add some meat-free ham slices, and cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat. Mash up your remaining roast potatoes, and add to a bowl with some leftover veg, the onion and ham, and season well. Stir to combine, before dividing the mixture into individual patties or cooking it as one big portion. Fry the mixture until golden brown on both sides and piping hot through, or bake in the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 25 minutes.
Don’t forget the desserts!
As delicious as Christmas pudding is, it can often be rich, filling, and you might still have some left. Luckily, these quick and delicious recipe suggestions will make the most of your Christmas pudding.
These are perfect for belated Christmas celebrations or for New Year’s Eve parties. Melt dairy-free chocolate and cream over a pan of simmering water, stirring gently to combine. Crumble leftover Christmas pudding into the mixture and add a dash of leftover alcohol (whisky, brandy and Cointreau work well). For an alcohol-free version, you could use apple juice or any drink of your choice. Mix together the crumbled pudding, alcohol and chocolate mixture, and leave it to set for a few hours. Take small amounts of the mixture and roll into balls. Coat in chopped nuts, cocoa powder or more melted chocolate, and serve.
Christmas pudding strudel
Start by preheating the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Add 250g (8oz) of Christmas pudding to dairy-free mascarpone, along with two tablespoons of dairy-free Irish cream liqueur. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Place a sheet of filo pastry on a baking tray, brush a little oil over the pastry, then cover with another sheet. Repeat this until you have four layers of pastry. Place the Christmas pudding filling along the middle of the pastry and roll up. Brush with a little plant-based milk and bake for 20-25 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve with dairy-free cream or ice cream.
At the end of the festive period, check through your cupboards; if you have items that are tinned or dried, keep hold of them for next year. If there’s a local food bank, they’ll appreciate any donations you can offer, too.
Have a great Christmas!