It’s the most wonderful time of the year and unfortunately the most wasteful in terms of the amount of food that is bought, cooked and ultimately disposed of. Christmas is a costly time for the majority of consumers, with last year’s average spend on food, drink and festive treats stacking up to a gigantic estimate of £19.5bn.
With the equivalent of 4 million Christmas dinners thrown away each year, it might be time to consider just how much food we actually need over the festive period. By over-purchasing, over-portioning and throwing away what we don’t use, we are also wasting our own hard-earned cash. So, what can we do as savvy consumers to save wasting food and our money?
Plan for Success
Planning is key to reducing food waste. This doesn’t just apply to Christmas but can be considered throughout the year. Making a list before going to the supermarket is a top tip to save on unnecessary purchases, reducing the chances of buying unnecessary goods.
Shopping after you have had a meal also works. Heading to the shops on an empty stomach may increase the chances of buying produce that we don’t particularly need, just because it looks appealing at that time.
In the modern world, neither option is always possible. Sometimes we end up in the supermarket by accident and over-purchasing items, taking the buy-one-get-one-free offers, or picking up an item on special offer that we don’t particularly need.
The alternative is to take stock of the excess that we have and repurpose it. In our article published in November (Available HERE), we looked at the on-trend brand of upcycled clothing and the benefits it has for the consumer and the environment.
In circumstances where there is food leftover after cooking for the family on Christmas Day, think of alternative recipes that could put an interesting spin on your traditional dishes. The traditional turkey curry or sandwiches can be replaced with ‘pulled-turkey burritos’ or a ‘turkey Korean rice pot’. Think of it as an opportunity to be creative and do something different with your Christmas leftovers.
A Shining Example
Mary lives with her son Arran and embraces remaining creative with her leftovers all year round. Throughout the year, Mary uses vegetables and meat from other meals to make delicious soups, curries and other dishes that she can freeze or give to friends and neighbours. This not only saves money, but dramatically reduces food waste. It’s always worthwhile to help neighbours, friends and family out through sharing.
Mary & her son, Arran & Mary’s delicious roast vegetable soup – made with leftover vegetables
“You can use any vegetables you have left over and herbs and spices that you might have at home to season it. The good thing is that you can find a recipe somewhere for almost anything…”
Mary uses social media channels such as Facebook to regularly share what she has cooked to show just how easy it is to make a healthy, balanced meal using the ingredients people usually have at home already.
Health & Safety
Always consider health and safety when repurposing and reusing food, especially with meat products or when the item has previously been frozen. When reheating food, special attention should be made to the core temperature of the item. Ensure that this reaches a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and holds this temperature for two minutes. Food which is not reheated correctly can potentially lead to serious illness.
The NHS have an excellent online resource which promotes positive food safety. This is available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-prepare-and-cook-food-safely/.
‘Throw-away culture’ seems to become more apparent each day, with advertising and social media encouraging us to purchase, consume and throw-away with items when we are done. By making small changes to our spending patterns, we can save money and have a positive impact on the environment.
At consumeradvice.scot, we have put together our top tips for saving money by using Christmas leftovers sensibly –
If you don’t need it, don’t buy it – Reduce waste by not buying as much in the first place. Make a shopping list before you go and don’t be tempted into unnecessary purchases by the shine of deals such as Buy One Get One Free – ‘BOGOF’
Reheat sensibly – Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of defrosting. Any longer than this would make it unsafe to eat!
Check the temperatures – Remember that when reheating food, it should reach a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes. This kills potential bacteria and could save you or your loved ones from becoming ill.
Portion-positive – Ensure that you dispense leftovers into portion sizes before freezing. This allows you to keep the food for longer in the freezer and not have to defrost the full dish. You should only take out what you intend to use over the next 24 hours.
Soup for the soul (and the wallet) – Soups can be made from leftover vegetables and meat. You can ‘save by soup-ing’. You can find many innovative (and tasty) recipes online!
If you would like more advice or guidance on any consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.