One of our favourite things about Christmas is the food – and can you blame us? From honey-roasted parsnips to homemade yule logs, it’s the time of year when we go all-out in the kitchen.
And that’s because sharing food with others is a key part of the festivities. Gathering around the table for Christmas dinner is just as (and, for some, more) exciting for families as opening presents.
The problem is that it’s also the time of year when a lot of food ends up going to waste; we over-buy, over-cook and over-indulge because ‘it’s the season’. In fact, it’s estimated around four million Christmas dinners go to waste in the UK each year.
So, how can you make sure your menu is kinder to the planet?
Buy just enough
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re worried there’s not going to be enough food for everyone on the table. But a little extra of this or that can add up to a lot of waste.
To avoid leftovers, plan your menu so you know that every piece of food is likely to be consumed. Whether it’s cutting down to just one type of dessert or ditching the food you know no one likes but is considered ‘traditional’ (things like brussel sprouts, rich cakes and puddings), it all goes towards less food waste at the end of the festivities.
Waste not, want not
If you do end up with waste, it’s not necessarily a bad thing – as long as you’re planning to do something with it.
For example, if you’ve got leftover meat and veg, rustle up a bubble-and-squeak breakfast on Boxing Day. Or why not stack up those turkey sandwiches for a post-Christmas picnic? Curry and pies are also good options.
Most foods will last a few days at least, so make the most of the Tupperware to store and eat every scrap to avoid the bin, if you can.
Disposing of oils and fats
One of the big things to avoid after cooking is pouring oil down the sink. It’s not only bad for your pipes, but bad for the environment, too.
Instead, leave the oil to go hard before disposing into a bin, or contact your local council to find out their oil waste management protocols.
You could also make bird fat balls from the leftovers, but be aware that some fats can be dangerous to your feathered back garden friends.
Another way to greatly reduce your environmental impact is to get food and produce from local suppliers.
Whether it’s heading to the local butcher for the turkey or dipping into the market or farm stall to pick up your veg, these products will have travelled far less than anything you’ll get in the supermarket – and you’ll be supporting local jobs and businesses at the same time.
They’re less likely to be wrapped in toxic plastic too.
Did you know that 4,500 tonnes of tin foil will be used for cooking on Christmas Day this year? It’s just one of the ways single-use items are used on the road to the perfect Christmas dinner.
While the foil may be hard to replace, there are other ways to tackle the issue – like avoiding single-use trays for turkey and veg. Your trusty old metal tins will do the job perfectly fine.
Gatherings are also a pinch point; all those disposable plates and cups add to the waste pile. Scroll to the bottom of our Plastic Free PZ Life Hacks for tips on how else you can reduce single-use at festive get-togethers.
Eat less meat
Our meat consumption is pushing the boundaries for a healthy planet, so the more plant-based you can go, the more sustainable your menu will be.
We’re not talking swapping to meat alternatives in plastic, though. It’s about balance and not everyone will want to ditch meat on Christmas Day. It’s about reducing the amount we eat instead and buying locally, sustainably and responsibly reared meat to cut carbon impact.
Making up the extra food with tasty veg dishes also ups healthy eating points, and gives more options for leftovers. Win, win!