How to have a zero food waste Christmas

How to have a zero food waste Christmas

One of the things most people love about Christmas is the food.

Whether your favourite is Christmas mince pies, a big slice of pavlova or a ham sandwich on Boxing Day, we all look forward to indulging over the Christmas season.

Seeing as we all love this food so much, wouldn’t it be a shame if any of it went to waste?

Food waste increases dramatically around Christmas time – but it doesn’t have to. With some careful planning and preparation, it is possible to not throw away any food.

Here’s how you can have a zero food waste Christmas.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas:


Spend a week before Christmas eating your way through your fridge, freezer and pantry so you will have space for the extra food you will be storing over the Christmas period. Finish half eaten packets of pasta, clean out jars that just have a tablespoon left and pull the leftovers out of the freezer that you have been saving for a quick dinner.

Not only is this a good way to use up food that you have been keeping for a while, it will also save you a little extra money that you can use for your Christmas shopping.

If you have some items you’re not going to get the chance to eat, see if you can turn it into an edible Christmas gift.

Once you know what your plans are for Christmas Day and how many mouths you will have to feed, you can start to plan your menu.

It’s very tempting to make everyone’s favourite food, but try hard not to go overboard. You don’t have to have three different types of meat in order for it to feel like a celebration. Keeping the menu as simple as possible will not only reduce food waste, but will also make it easier for you.

One way to approach meal planning is to spread your feast over a couple of days. Instead of eating the ham, turkey and salmon all on Christmas day, why not have the ham on Christmas Eve (that means you can crack into it for breakfast on Christmas Day),  have the turkey and leftover ham on Christmas Day and plan to have the salmon a few days later or on New Years Eve.

In the days before Christmas:

While this task may seem tedious, it is so important to having a waste-free Christmas. Go through your recipes one ingredient at a time to check if you already have it, or add it to your shopping list.

Make sure you have containers for leftovers so you can send some home with your guests and other containers that you can freeze things in. If you don’t have enough containers, grab a few more at the supermarket.

Don’t forget to add in any ingredients that you may need to help you utilise your leftovers. For example, having some pizza bases in the freezer will make it easy to whip up pizzas on Boxing Day (turkey, cranberry and brie, anyone?).

Christmas shopping list cartoon Dave Coverly 1000

Cartoon by Dave Coverly –

Once you get home from the supermarket, spend some time making sure that you store your shopping correctly. Small tricks can have a major impact on how long things last, particularly when the weather is warm and the fridge is full.

Store salad greens in an airtight container, stand asparagus in a glass or jar with a small amount of water in the bottom and keep new potatoes in a dark place, away from onions.

With a turkey and/or a ham in your fridge, it may be tough to find enough space to fit everything in. Give priority to food, rather than drinks. Sure, we all enjoy a cold beverage, but you’re not going to get sick from a room temperature beer. Use a chilly bin filled with ice to store drinks, or try to chill them just before you need them. There are probably some items in your fridge, like eggs and sweet chilli sauce, that you can store safely at room temperature for a couple of days to make room in your fridge.

Make sure you keep a close eye on your fridge as it will be working at full capacity. Your fridge should always be between 0°C and 4°C, but with the warmer summer weather, it is best to keep it at the lower end of that scale.

On Christmas Day:

Christmas table

So often food gets thrown away because it has been sitting at room temperature for a few hours and then people are unsure if it is still ok to eat. An easy way to avoid this is to only serve the amount of food needed at one time (e.g. half the wheel of cheese rather than the full one) – you can always restock once the food is eaten.

Once your meal is over, spend 15 minutes clearing the table and dealing with the leftovers. Get food into the fridge or freezer as soon as you can. Portion leftovers into containers for your guests to take home. Pack crackers and other nibbles into airtight containers to keep them crisp. Once it is done you will be able to relax fully knowing that the food is all safely packed away to enjoy later.

On Boxing Day

The beauty of Boxing Day is that all of the Christmas fuss is over and now you can sit back, relax and eat leftovers!

Use your imagination when it comes to using up the leftovers. Leftover turkey can be used in a pie, quesadillas or a Vietnamese salad.

On 27 December:

By now you may be getting a little sick of eating ham, turkey or Christmas cake. Spend some time sorting through the rest of the leftovers – for anything you are not going to eat in the next day, package them up and get them into the freezer.  Remember – the fresher something is when it goes into the freezer, the fresher it will be when it comes out.

You may be surprised by what foods can be frozen, so check out our ultimate guide to freezing Christmas leftovers.

Not sure what to do with your stash of sweet treats? Turn them into ice cream.