The following is a sponsored post jam-packed full of tips to help you reduce waste, use up leftovers and save money this Christmas. I spoke with Amanda Kane, from Love Food Hate Waste to learn more. She is extremely passionate about reducing food waste and shared some great tips! This article is a combination of our conversation, both our tips and some great resources for you. You can easily save thousands with this post alone!
Australians waste so much food! In fact, $10 BILLION worth of food is thrown away every year in NSW alone plus the average NSW household throws away an average of $77 worth of edible food every week! More than a third of what goes in red lidded bins is food waste. This impacts us financially and environmentally yet with a few habit changes we can save thousands!
At Christmas alone, we tend to spend $1,000 and so much of our Christmas feast goes to waste! I really try to help people eliminate waste so have 20 meals to make with leftover sausage here, 28 meals to make with leftover roast chicken here and what to do with leftover Christmas ham here. We will share a lot more further down.
Christmas Specific Tips
Because there is so much to cover, I’m breaking this post into two. First, Christmas specific tips then general tips to reduce food waste.
1. Empty Your Cupboards
Amanda recommends you go through your fridge, freezer and pantry right now. What can you make out of what you have? Using up what you have frees up the space for Christmas food and the leftovers likely to come with it. It also helps you save money on groceries right now so you can put that money towards Christmas (or debt, bills or other expenses).
Before you rush off to buy all the Christmas treats you can think of, make a plan. Consider what food is in season, how long it will last, when the best time is to buy it all and what you want to have for Christmas. Make a proper meal plan and try to incorporate food which will last a few days so you have time to either eat it or turn it into something new to freeze for later.
3. Store Food Correctly
Love Food Hate Waste has a great list of how to store Christmas foods here. Amanda recommended things such as washing cherries before storing them, wrap food in plastic then place in a container to avoid freezer burn and store seafood in a glass bowl. Knowing how to store food will make it last longer. Even things such as making sure you only serve dairy items right before they are to be consumed and returning them to the fridge within 2 hours will considerably increase how long they last.
4. Serve Food Correctly
Serve small portions of salad without salad dressing, use smaller portions and add to it throughout the meal if needed. For example, rather than having loads of baked goods or bread out to go stale, use portions then serve more once that is gone. The same with meat sliced up, chopped fruit and dairy products. You can always add more but once things are out they begin to deteriorate.
5. Stock Up On Containers
Amanda recommended takeaway containers for giving guests leftovers to take with them if you are the host. Rather than storing all that food which you are unlikely to eat before it goes off or you get sick of it, give some away. Pop Christmas salads, meats, desserts, anything into takeaway containers ideal for specific portion sizes and send it home with your guests.
General Tips To Reduce Waste
Christmas isn’t the only time we waste food. Thousands of dollars worth of groceries are thrown away each year yet there is a lot we can do to stop this. Firstly, Love Food Hate Waste has the Food Smart Program – a program designed to help you reduce your food waste! You get a pack, track your waste, follow their steps and report back. It is super easy plus based on current data from the program participants estimated a $25 weekly saving already! Get more information on The Food Smart Program here.
1. Change Your Habits
Changing our behaviour can be tricky. The reasons behind why we do the things we do are complex and it isn’t usually as easy as flicking a light switch to suddenly be doing everything you can to reduce waste and save money. It’s important to make an effort though. As you read through these tips, pick which ones to implement and start small. When people try to tackle everything at once it tends to be overwhelming.
Instead, consider adding a new habit each week or month next year. Write it on your calendar to remind you and over the course of the year you will have changed your habits and started saving money. Things such as putting leftovers in containers and into the freezer. Picking a day to eat leftovers and reheat them from the freezer. Only cooking what you need etc. All these habits make a difference.
2. Love Food Hate Waste 6 Steps
On their website, Love Food Hate Waste shares 6 steps anyone can follow to drastically reduce your food waste. Read their 6 tips here and my take on their 6 tips is below.
1. Know Your Waste
For the next week get a container and put all your food waste in it. This will show you exactly what you are wasting and give you ideas on how to stop it. Since we are creatures of habit, there are probably things you regularly buy and don’t use or items you frequently cook too much of.
2. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning makes a real difference. Amanda says she plans for a couple of days worth of meals and shops only for them. Then repeats it again in a few days. Doing it this way the food doesn’t have time to go off and she knows what she is eating.
Some people like to meal plan for the week and shop that way. I know others who do once a month shopping and cooking. Do what works for you but make sure you have a plan. My preference tends to be to do a bulk cook on the weekend so the meals are sorted and nothing is sitting in my fridge going off.
3. Shop With A List
If you’re not shopping with a list you will end up buying things you don’t need and this is where a lot of food can go off. How often have you done the groceries thinking you needed certain items only to get home and discover you already have tomatoes and didn’t need another kilo or something similar? Shop with a list and stick to it.
4. Perfect Portions
Pasta and rice are two items I know many people cook too much of. Learn about portion sizes and cook what you need instead of too much and letting it go to waste. If you do cook too much be sure to make a plan for it. For example, many items freeze well but make sure you pop them in the freezer as soon as it’s cool.
Pasta can be frozen and later used for pasta bakes or any meal requiring pasta. Leftover rice is great for fried rice and leftover meats are great for pizza, pies, calzones and pasta bakes. More tips for what to do with specific leftovers further down.
5. Keep It Fresh
Learn how to store food correctly to stop it going off quickly. Keep food covered and in containers to prevent it drying out or going off. Read up on the best ways to store the fruits and vegetables you buy regularly. Some need more air than others, some are better stored in the fridge, others in the pantry.
Label everything and keep a list on your fridge and freezer of what’s in there and when it went in so you use it before it goes off.
6. Love Your Leftovers
Check out this quick video for a few tips with leftovers
3. Turn Leftovers Into Something New
For many people, the idea of eating the same thing over and over isn’t appealing. The great news is, you don’t have to! Look at what you have leftover and think about or research ways to turn that dish into something new.
For example, soup can be used as a base for risotto instead of stock. Leftover risotto can become arancini balls. Leftover meats can be used in sandwiches, quiche, pie, frittatas and more.
What To Do With Specific Leftovers
Below I am going to list some suggestions for Christmas leftovers based on Christmas meals I’ve been to or done. If you have any specific items you want suggestions for, feel free to ask in the Facebook group.
Ham, chicken, turkey, roast beef, roast lamb and seafood are all common leftovers. If portioned out and stored correctly in the fridge and freezer, they can be the base for a variety of meals. Check the best ways to store them first then use them in risottos, soups, pasta bakes, pies, calzones, frittatas, quiche, sandwiches, curries, on pizza and any other meal requiring meat. Many meat-based meals can be done in a similar way with pre-cooked meat. It’s simply saving you a step half the time. Also, just because a recipe is based on chicken doesn’t mean you can’t use roast beef sometimes. Don’t be afraid to mix things up in recipes.
With fruit platters and fruit salads being popular for Christmas feasts, many of us find ourselves with leftover fruit already cut up which can go off quickly. Mangoes, berries and bananas freeze well for smoothies later. Frozen grapes are great as a treat on a hot day (be aware they don’t thaw well for use any other way but as a snack still frozen they’re good). Any fruit which cooks well can be stewed for breakfast with museli or yoghurt. Those same fruits make excellent pies or crumbles – think apples, peaches, nectarines, berries, pears and similar.
Leftover watermelon can be turned into a popular Tongan drink called ‘Otai and if you have pineapple you can add that to it too. My daughters took this to school for Harmony Day (they are part Tongan) and teachers from other classes came to try it everyone loved it so much!
Grill fruits such as peaches, nectarines and pineapples to use in salads. Or use pineapples on burgers.
Lastly, fruit can be used in cakes and muffins too which you can then freeze as snacks through the school holidays.
Vegetables And Salad
Salad needs to be eaten asap! If you do the tip above and serve dressing on the side a salad will last in a container for a few days. You can mix it with leftover roast vegetables and meats or use it on a sandwich or burger.
Leftover roast vegetables can be used in pies, on pizza, in quiches, frittatas, calzones and similar dishes. Or add some stock and puree them for a delicious soup which will freeze well.
If you have leftover vegetable sticks such as carrot, celery and capsicum, blitz them in a food processor or grate the carrot and finely chop the others to use in mince dishes. They go great in bolognese, soups, lasagne, meatballs and similar dishes. You can do it even if the vegetables are a bit soft or sad looking. If you have leftover cucumber sticks don’t add it. They don’t cook as well as the other vegetables.
Desserts, Dairy And Sweets
Since many Christmas desserts have cream and custard they need to be stored correctly. Try to send leftovers home with guests. For plain baked goods, you can freeze them and use them over the coming weeks. Store bought custard can be frozen but homemade custard cannot. When you thaw it the texture might not be exactly the same so be sure to mix it well.
Cake can be turned into cake pops. Either crumble it now and make them or freeze it and make them for New Year’s Eve or other parties.
Leftover bread can be turned into breadcrumbs for future use, croutons for soups and salads, French toast, bread and butter pudding or simply freeze it for later.
The main thing with all of this is to think about what you are doing. How much food you are consuming and what is going to waste. Look at what you can do to reduce this, try some new tips and start saving your money and the environment.