Clever ways to use up festive food


Tips and Tricks


Thursday, December 21, 2017 12:00 PM

Lunch salad


For all the hours and hard-earned cash we spend on planning, shopping and cooking up the perfect festive meals for family and friends, it’s crazy to think how much of it can end up in our bins.

After the big event is all over and everyone's stuffed, the plate scrapings and leftovers which were once the centerpiece of the occasion, are seen as a lukewarm burden that must be dealt with. 

How much waste are we talking exactly? A lot!

In fact, one in five bags of groceries we buy ends up in the bin in the average household. One. In. Five.

For the average household in Victoria, wasted food adds up to over $2,000 every year. Imagine how handy that $2,000 would be at Christmas time!

The good news is that if you’re in charge of the kitchen this Christmas, you can change that story. 

And there are some clever things you can do when you're cooking up your Christmas feast to limit the waste in your household.

In short, there are three main areas:

  • The first step is to do some planning – we covered that in our last blog post which you can find here.
  • The second (and the topic of this blog post) is to get clever about using up the food you’ve got. See more below...
  • And the third step is to check sure you’re storing things correctly – which we’ll cover in another blog shortly. 

So do the planet – and your bank balance – a solid this Christmas and put in practice some of these clever ways to use up festive food and leave nothing to waste. 

1. Use every edible part of the produce.

So much edible produce ends up in the bin when it is really just more delicious and nutritious food. Did you know you can cook and eat broccoli stalks and cauliflower leaves? Ham and chicken bones can be used for meat stocks and the tops and tails of carrots, celery and onion can be used for vegie stock. Both can also be frozen to use later. Making a pavlova? to use in baking or omelettes down the track. 


Beef tacos

Give your leftovers a makeover, like turning leftover roast meat into a mexican filling. Image: Jodie Blight/Summer Table



2. Upcycle your leftovers

Don’t get bored of leftover ham and salad – get creative! Jazz up your leftovers into something new and you’ll be much more likely to eat them. Leftover ham can become a tortilla, carbonara, pizza scrolls, soup or fried rice. Cooked lamb, pork and beef can be become a stew, a pie, a warm salad, burritos or tomorrow’s lunch wrap. Check out all our leftover recipes if you're stuck for ideas.

3. Plan a dish around an item you really need to use up.

This is a great habit to get into at any time of year. Know you have a tub of yoghurt that’s been there a while? Google what you can make from it. Tandoori, Greek marinaded chicken, even this delicious lemon cake! You’ll make it a habit to get through everything in your fridge and pantry and end up with less in the bin. 

4. Freeze extra festive food.

The real trick is to freeze things in the portions you’ll need to use it in. Use small containers, thick snap-lock bags that you can wash and re-use or foil which can be recycled so you’re not creating heaps of plastic rubbish. And you might be surprised at what you can freeze. Leftover ham and other cooked meats can be frozen for soups, curries and sandwiches. Leftover cheeses can go in creamy sauces. Fresh fruit like berries and bananas can be frozen in smoothie-sized portions. 

5. Know the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’.

‘Use by’ dates indicate that the food may be unsafe after that date so these should always be followed. ‘Best before’ is just a guide, meaning the food may lose some quality (e.g. crunchiness) but is still edible beyond that date so it doesn’t mean you need to throw it out. If it starts growing mould though, always chuck it, but ideally food will get eaten before then.


skewer snacks

Making your own party snacks will limit waste and save you money.


6. Make your own snacks using food from the fridge and pantry.

Use up your extra carrots, capsicum, celery, zucchini and broccoli stalks to make great crudités for dunking into hummus. You can make so many delicious homemade dips with produce you probably have on hand. Creamy spinach dip, guacamole, fresh salsa, our savoury yoghurt dip and all kinds of pestos. You’ll keep food out of the bin and probably save a buck too.

7. Make foods that use up multiple items.

Case in point, coleslaw. A BBQ favourite and a great way to use up loads of spare veg. Combine grated carrot, shredded red or white cabbage and some mayonnaise. Substitute half for yoghurt for a healthier dressing. You can also add other produce you need to clear out like grated apple, broccoli stalks, finely diced red onion, shallots or capsicum for extra flavour. 

If you’re not yet, be sure to follow the Love Food Hate Waste Victoria Facebook page for more tips and ideas to keep your food out of the bin all year round.



Love your food

Each year Victorian households throw out 250,000 tonnes worth of food.