CHRISTMAS is the one time of year that we throw caution to the wind and do absolutely everything to excess!
It is our biggest feasting time of course and our just reward for working really hard all year long, but with excess comes waste and one of my biggest bug-bears of all is unnecessary food waste.
So, to tackle this, I have put together my Top 10 Tips to make the most of your Christmas feasts, asking only in return for just a little bit of effort and planning.
Following as many of these tips as possible will see you using up everything, throwing out nothing and spending far less!
1. Santa’s not the only one making a list…
This is my top tip for any time of year when it comes to grocery shopping: before you go out check what you have, make a list of what you need and stick to the list!
At Christmas time, we entertain much more and sometimes it’s difficult to guess how much we need, so include weights and measures alongside the items on your list, buying only what you need to cater for your visitors.
2. Food doesn’t just come from the supermarket…
Yes, it can be quick and convenient, but it can also be harried, busy, stressful and ending up like an episode of Supermarket Sweep!
Avoid the temptation of a trolley dash and seek out what you need from other places.
Try farmer’s and country markets, organic growers with veg box schemes, ordering your Christmas breads and cakes, or (one of the things that always marks out the start of Christmas for me) head into your local craft butcher to order the turkey, ham and spiced beef.
When you put more effort into where you shop, you will be supporting local and independent food producers and become very conscious of how much you are buying!
3. Spend a little extra and get a whole lot more…
If you pay a little extra, you will value it a lot more — this is true of everything in life, not just food, and you will also make the best use of it down to every last little bit!
If you don’t frequently purchase organic fruit and veg, now is the time to consider it: get better quality and tasting vegetables, meats and bread; support your local grower and plan on using every last little scrap.
4. Grow It Yourself…
Maybe you have been cultivating a little patch of sweet winter veggies, the ultimate in free food, but if not, seek out your local GIY or Community Garden initiative. Often they will be selling off gluts of vegetables and purchasing from them will see your few euro helping to fund a local project that benefits many in the community.
Plus, the food is grown locally and usually to organic principles too.
5. Plan every meal…
I’m not just talking about the main events, but what are you going to do with the leftovers?
Knowing what leftover meats and veggies you may have and planning on what else you can turn them into avoids over-buying and challenges you to create something delicious for everyone to eat.
What about roasted ham and mashed potato croquettes; turkey curry, spiced beef satay salad, turkey and ham pie, bubble and squeak or a roasted veg pasta bake.
The time and money you save in not cooking joint after joint of meat can go into family outings and treats of hot chocolate at the end!
6. Swap meat for fish…
It’s extremely difficult to waste fish! It’s as though nature has crafted the perfect per portion size with it, and it can still look majestic placed upon the Christmas dinner table.
Purchase from your local fishmonger and all the work will be taken out of the preparation, and they can even advise you on the best way to cook it.
It is lighter, easier to digest, versatile (pickle, pan fry, roast, poach, deep fry) and a great alternative healthy option too!
7. Have a meat-free day…
Unless you are vegetarian or vegan, you have to admit that we eat a lot of meat over Christmas.
This can be pretty tough for our bodies to handle and we can feel very bloated and uncomfortable too.
So plan for at least one meat-free day during the festive season where you indulge in beautiful seasonal vegetables in dishes that are easy on the carbs too, and maybe swap the alcohol for some gut-enriching fermented Kombucha or Kefir.
8. Take stock…
I always buy my Christmas meats from my local craft butcher. I can get exactly what I want at the right size and I can pick it up ready for cooking at a date and time that suits me — no defrosting and no hassle.
I also like to buy my meat on the bone so I am rewarded with a better cooked flavour, and when all the meat is gone I still have the bones to play with!
Cooking with the bones creates delicious base stocks which can be transformed into hearty soups, risotto stocks, sauces and gravy’s and are delicious.
9. Make your own sweet treats…
We lose the run of ourselves in the sweet treats aisles in supermarkets this time of year!
But by opting instead to make your own, you can save money, know what’s going into them, choose alternative ways to sweeten them, get the kids involved and create things that they actually want to eat. From spiced biscuits to cakes, jellies, sweet and spicy roasted nuts to indulgent booze-laden chocolate truffles for the adults, and because there is effort involved you will only make what you need so there is less chance to over-indulge ridiculously, and less waste!
10. Compost the rest…
If you don’t already have some sort of compost bin (either a big one in the garden or a small crock in the kitchen) get yourself one!
Collect any raw vegetable leftovers (peelings, seeds, tops — even egg shells, tea bags, coffee granules and compostable packaging materials) and turn them into compost to feed to your garden.
If you don’t have a garden (flower or veg), take the crock along to your local recycling plant where they usually accept green waste or may even have a composting facility on site. Just remember: do not add in any cooked food waste or raw meat/fish items.
Need more inspiration? Head on over to www.stopfoodwaste.ie where you can find resources for aspects on cutting down on food waste and shopping, cooking and eating more sustainably.
You can also request a copy of their free ‘Stop Food Waste’ Pocket Guide and keep it at hand in the kitchen all year round too.