The ultimate guide to freezing Christmas leftovers
Ham and turkey, pavlova and trifle, plates of salads and seafood – a lot of time and money go into making a Christmas feast.
We love to have a mountain of food at Christmas time, but because of this, it is estimated that the amount of food wasted doubles in December.
This year, instead of throwing away your leftovers when you can no longer handle another ham sandwich, freeze them. You may be surprised just how many Christmas foods can be frozen such as cooked turkey, ham and your Christmas pud.
Freezing your Christmas leftovers will save you food and money, as well as allowing you to enjoy your Christmas treats for months to come.
Check out our comprehensive list of what Christmas foods can be frozen so you’re prepared to deal with your leftovers on Boxing Day. Make sure you stock up on good airtight containers and freezer bags in advance!
Tips for freezing leftovers:
- The fresher the food is when it goes into the freezer, the fresher it will be when it comes out – so get your food into the freezer as soon as possible, rather than letting it languish in the fridge for a couple of days first.
- Freeze your food in manageable portions – sizes that you will be able to eat all in one go. It’s better to have lots of smaller bags with sliced ham in, rather than one large chunk which is hard to defrost and too much to eat all at once. Once you have thawed the food, you shouldn’t refreeze it.
- Wrap your food well to avoid freezer burn. Food that has suffered from freezer burn is still safe to eat, but it may not be as delicious. Wrap food in cling wrap then place it in resealable bags, or use airtight containers.
- Label! To avoid a freezer full of UFO (unidentified frozen objects) it is important to label the food. Date it as well so you know how long it has been in there and what needs to be eaten first.
- Always cool your food before freezing and don’t put a lot of room temperature food into the freezer all at once time. Use the fridge to cool it as much as possible and stagger when you add it to the freezer so it doesn’t increase the ambient temperature too much.
- Your freezer works best when it is full, so the more you keep in there, the better.
Slice ham off the bone and wrap small portions tightly in cling wrap. Place in re-sealable bags. Freezing ham may mildly affect the texture, so it may no longer be great for sandwiches but will be perfect for using in things like pasta, pies and quiches. You have up to two weeks in order to freeze your ham.
Freeze the ham bone to use in winter to make soup.
Turkey can be frozen and then used as you would use cooked chicken. Remove the meat from the bones before freezing. Keep the bones and carcass to make stock. Check out our 8 recipe ideas for using up leftover turkey.
Other cooked meats
If lamb, beef or chicken is on the menu at your place, you can freeze the leftovers as you would for turkey or ham. This works best for roasted meats as you may find that barbecue meats dry out a lot once reheated. When you are reheating meat that has been frozen, make sure you heat it until it is piping hot.
Seafood is always best when it is fresh, so aim to eat it on the day you prepare it. The exception is things like smoked salmon or other fish, which has been cured so that it will last well in the fridge.
Cooked vegetables can be frozen to be eaten at a later date. Depending on the vegetable, freezing them may change their texture once they are thawed. Use them in pies, soups or stews.
Potatoes – whether boiled new potatoes or roasted ones – can be frozen. Alternatively, use them while they are fresh to whip up a potato salad.
As the freezer is the best place to store your bread, it’s a no-brainer that you can freeze your bread rolls. Even if they have gone a bit stale, chuck them in the deep freeze – you can use them to make garlic bread, breadcrumbs or bread-and-butter pudding.
If you freeze a lettuce-based salad you will end up with a limp, watery mess, so we don’t advise it. It is best to eat salad the day you make it. Tip: don’t add dressing to a salad until just before you are about to eat it, otherwise it will go soggy and limp, and won’t last well. For something different, use leftover salad in rice paper rolls.
Any leftover turkey stuffing can be frozen.
If you went to the effort of making a delicious homemade gravy to accompany your turkey, you’ll want to keep the leftovers. Freeze gravy in ice cube trays so that you can pull at small amounts next time you make a roast.
Whilst cranberry sauce will keep well in the fridge, it can also be successfully frozen if you want to stash some away to go with your ham or turkey leftovers.
Like most cakes, Christmas cake lasts well in the freezer. Cut it into small portions and enjoy it throughout the year.
Yep, you can put your pud in the freezer. Portion it before you freeze it – you’ll thank yourself when you fancy a late-night dessert.
You can freeze mince pies – it’s a good way to stop them going stale. However they may be crumbly when they thaw. If they are, use them as a crumble topping or sprinkle them on or through ice cream.
Unfortunately, pavlova is one of the few sweet things that shouldn’t be frozen – but it does make for a good breakfast on Boxing Day!
Like a pav, a trifle is best eaten fresh.
If your berries have gone a little bit squishy, freeze them. You can add them to smoothies, use them to make a berry sauce or try this one cup jam.
Freeze it and then use it to make jungle gelato or a smoothie.
Panforte, stollen and panettone
These Christmas treats all can be frozen – just make sure to portion them before you freeze.
Biscuits, cookies and gingerbread
Fill your freezer with biscuits so that you can have a stash to keep you going throughout the rest of the year.
Making a pavlova or meringues? You can freeze the egg yolks that you don’t use. To freeze egg yolks you need to either add salt or sugar to them before you freeze so that they don’t become gelatinous in the freezer. Decide beforehand whether you are likely to use the yolks in a sweet or savoury dish as that will dictate whether you should use sugar or salt.
If using sugar, use the ratio of 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar per ¼ cup of egg yolks (approximately 4 yolks).
If using salt, use the ration of 1/8 teaspoon of salt per ¼ cup of egg yolks (approximately 4 yolks).
Mix well and then freeze in ice cube trays or a small plastic bag.
Leftover wine (there is such a thing) can be frozen to be used later for cooking.
Things like hummus and pesto can be successfully frozen, but be wary of freezing dairy-based dips (like sour cream and onion) as they are likely to split once thawed.