Christmas is the time of year when friends and family get together, diets go out of the window and everyone indulges in their favourite food and drink. But as most hosts know, planning the perfect Christmas party can be a little daunting. There is the question of how much food and drink to buy per guest for instance and we often end up with a surplus of food and an unnecessary dent in our pockets!
Although food waste is a year round problem, with an average of a third of the food we buy ending up in the bin, at Christmas the amount of food going to waste can increase to a shocking 80%. This means that 230,000 tonnes of festive food worth approximately £275 million is thrown away across the country during Christmas and the New Year.
However, the knowledge that Christmas is a food waste 'hot spot' can actually help you to avoid throwing away uneaten food and wasting money. After all, if you've spent time shopping for all your festive food, not to mention the effort involved in transporting it home, storing and preparing it to eat, you won't want to see four fifths of it going in the bin!
It helps to know that food is thrown out for two main reasons: we let food go off (either completely untouched, or opened/started but not finished) or we cook or prepare too much.
With a bit of planning, some simple storage tips and a few creative recipe and food preparation ideas, it's easy to reduce waste at every stage of your routine.
When shopping, check what food you've already got before you go and make a list of what you need (remembering to take it with you!). Even better, plan some of the meals you're going to eat and list the ingredients you need to buy. To work out how much food you'll need, have a look at the 'perfect portions' section of the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign website: www.lovefoodhatewaste.com (external link).
Your freezer can really come into its own at this time of year as many traditional Christmas food items can be prepared and frozen ahead. Try making stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and brandy butter before the guests come to stay and store in tubs in the freezer.
Home made mince pies can be frozen uncooked and make a great treat to have on standby - just bake a few at a time when visitors pop in. Roast potatoes can also be made in advance, simply par-boil, leave to cool and freeze flat (transferring to a freezer bag when frozen solid to save on space). On Christmas day, roast straight from frozen (seasoned and sprinkled with olive oil) for crunchy, fluffy potatoes.
For more tips about how to reduce food waste this Christmas, visit our seasonal Christmas information pages.