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Clever ways to reduce Christmas food waste


Tips and Tricks, Events


Thursday, December 14, 2017 12:00 PM

Be a Clever Christmas Cook


It might be the silly season but that doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to cooking for Christmas celebrations.

This year, there's an army of #CleverChristmasCooks that are taking control of their kitchens!

Whether you’re hosting a family feast or a backyard barbecue, we know festive cooking can be costly and time-consuming. And it can leave you with a pile of leftovers to manage or, worse, a whole lot of wasted food.

But by taking some clever steps in the kitchen, you can fight the festive food waste and make the holidays a bit more sustainable. 

To be a clever Christmas cook there are three main areas you need to cover:

  1. Clever planning
  2. Using up what you have
  3. Smart food storage

In this blog, we’re looking at clever planning so stay tuned for blogs covering the other two shortly...


Why plan?

A little bit of pre-planning is the best thing you can do to cut your food waste and keep your sanity over Christmas. And you’ll be pleased to know there are levels of planning for every kind of entertainer that can all help you waste less.

For some people, planning the menu of an upcoming event happens weeks in advance. If this is you, we salute you! But even for those who take a more casual approach, a little bit of planning can help you avoid over-catering.

By planning a week or two in advance, you can also stock up on any non-perishable items over a couple of shops which will spread the cost out. Win.


Christmas menu plan

Writing down everything you'll be serving up will help you see if you're over-catering. 


How to do clever Christmas planning

The important thing to get out of your planning is a clear picture of how much you’ll be serving up across the whole day. 

Often when we’re planning how much to buy, we only think about the main event – turkey, ham, etc.

We forget about everything else guests will be eating as well, like dips and cheese, salads, bread rolls and dessert. This is what leads to having a huge amounts of leftovers.

Write a menu plan that outlines all the courses you'll be sevring to see how much you’re really expecting your guests to eat!

Jot down everything – the nibblies or entrees, mains, sides, bread, desserts and drinks – then fill in what you think you’ll serve for each course.

Bonus tip: check your fridge and pantry for items you need to use up and try to incorporate those into your menu. Lots of spuds to use up? A potato salad will work a treat. Or clear out that couscous stash in the cupboard with a Moroccan salad.

Next, turn your menu plan into a shopping list.

At this point, you need an idea of how many guests are coming. The more precise your numbers are the better, but a rough estimate is better than nothing.

If you’re cooking from recipes, include specific quantities for each ingredient and buy items loose in exact quantities where possible. Especially for special ingredients you wouldn’t normally buy – otherwise you’ll end up with extra food that you don’t know what to do with. 


Lunch salad

The more dishes you serve, the less of each one your guests will eat!


Clever portions

Don’t forget that the more dishes you’re serving up, the less of each dish a guest will eat, so cater accordingly.

If you’re serving more than one main dish, a simple rule is to divide the number of guests by the number of mains you’re having and then only cater for that amount. For example, if you’re having 12 guests and serving 2 mains (say, a turkey and a ham) only buy enough of each for 6 people. 

Do likewise for salads and sides – if you have three sides, people will only eat a third of what they would usually eat if there was only one dish.

One all-round winning strategy to avoid over-catering is to tell your guests if they need to bring something – or not. They’ll appreciate the clarity and you’ll appreciate not ending up with three Christmas puddings to deal with. Simples!


Ham egg frittata

Plan your Christmas leftovers too so you have the right day-after ingredients. 


Leftover lovers

Of course, for many people, the joy of leftover Christmas ham on Boxing Day is all part of the fun and there’s definitely nothing wrong with leftovers – provided they do actually get eaten!

If you want leftovers, make a rough plan for how you’ll use those too so you can make sure you have what you need. On your pre-event shopping list, include a section for leftovers and jot down the key ingredients for your Boxing Day leftovers cook-up.

If you need some leftovers inspiration, head over to our recipes page.


Woman shopping

Plan some grocery days and write a list of your meals in between so you can stock-up accordingly.  


Schedule your shopping

These days, grocery stores are open most of the holidays but we still feel the need to stock up ‘just in case’. Planning a few well-timed trips to the grocery store over the festive break will make Christmas cooking much easier and help you avoid unnecessary shopping centre chaos!

Make a list of at least the main meals in between your shopping trips so you can feel confident you’ve got your bases covered and avoid panic-buying extra food.

If you need to top up on perishable produce in between shops, a small local grocer will be a much more pleasant experience than a big grocery shop.

Finally, when you’re doing a big shop, plan ahead to keep your food fresh on hot days by taking a cooler bag and some ice blocks with you. Changes in temperature can drastically reduce the shelf life of food so keeping items like fresh seafood, meat and dairy cold on the trip home will save your festive food from going off too soon.


Have a clever Christmas cooking idea?

Tell us on Facebook or Instagram by tagging your post with #CleverChristmasCook. We'll share the best tips and ideas with the Love Food Hate Waste community. 

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Clever ways to reduce Christmas food 

Love your food

Each year Victorian households throw out 13,500 tonnes of uncooked meat and fish.