Make 2013 a Waste Free Christmas

In Britain alone, last year we binned the equivalent of 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies.[1] With more and more people in Britain affected by food poverty,[2] experts are encouraging consumers to make 2013 a ‘waste free Christmas’.

Food Waste in the UK

Tesco recently made headlines when it was revealed that the supermarket wasted 28,500 tonnes of food in the first 6 months of 2013.[3] But supermarkets are only one piece of the proverbial pie – consumers throw away almost half of the edible food in their kitchens, a staggering 4.2 million tonnes.[4] Meanwhile, food poverty in the UK is a growing problem, with food bank usage higher between April and September 2013 than the whole of 2012.[5]

“In the context of rising food poverty, it is essential that we manage and mitigate food waste – both at supply chain level and in our own homes, essentially from field to fork,” says agricultural investment expert David Garner.

 “There are all sorts of socio-economic factors driving demand for agricultural commodities on a global scale, and at the same time we are losing arable land to climate pressure and urbanisation at an astonishing rate.[6][7][8] This combination of rising demand and depleted natural resources means we must plan for sustainability at the earliest stage, using the latest farming methodology and technology in order to reduce waste at the farm level right through to retail.”

 “We all have a responsibility not to waste food, and unless we make better use of the food available to us, more and more people are likely to be affected by food poverty within the next decade.”

 What can we do as consumers?

While there remains much to be done at supply chain level, there are simple steps each of us can take as consumers towards planning a waste-free Christmas:

Smart shopping

Research suggests that writing a shopping list before hitting the supermarkets helps you to plan your meals and buy only the ingredients you are likely to use. Making the best use of your supplies is a great way to cut down your shopping bill – and your food wastage.

Portion control

The recommended portion of poultry for a family of four (two adults, two children) is 480g.[9] If you are planning a turkey dinner for Christmas day, ask yourself whether you really need to buy a whole bird and if you are likely to use up the leftovers (more on Boxing Day recipes below).

If you are planning a Christmas party or buffet, 10 nibbles per guest over 3 -4 hours will be plenty.[9] And less wastage means less clearing up afterwards!


Storing food correctly can dramatically extend its shelf life. Wherever possible, store food in its original packaging, which is often designed to help it stay fresh. Most fruit and vegetables (excluding bananas, pineapples, onions and potatoes) will last longer in the fridge, but reserve the top and middle shelves for ready-to-eat goods such as cooked meats, dairy and packaged food.

Be aware that when your fridge is crammed, as it often is at Christmas, this can raise the internal temperature, so use a fridge thermometer to maintain the recommended 0 – 5 degrees Celsius.

Boxing Day and beyond

Leftovers from your Christmas dinner should be cooled within 2 hours, sealed in plastic containers and refrigerated. Most leftovers will last for up to 2 days (Christmas pudding for up to 2 weeks!) when refrigerated, or up to 3 months when frozen.

With a little imagination, you can transform your leftovers into delicious meals to take you through Boxing Day and beyond:

  • After Christmas dinner, boil down the turkey carcass with vegetables and herbs to make a stock for a warming winter soup – just slice, simmer for 2 hours and strain
  • Fry leftover meat and/or vegetables with roast potatoes to make bubble and squeak
  • Add a generous dollop of cranberry or apple sauce to make sandwiches extra moist


  • Serve leftover nut roast with a lime and beansprout salad for a light lunch
  • To make vegetarian Shepherd’s pie, crumble leftover nut loaf into a pan of sautéed vegetables. Turn into a casserole dish and cover in mashed potato. Bake at 350° F until piping hot and starting to brown


By planning, portioning, storing our food correctly and making the best of our leftovers, experts say the results will be a lighter shopping bill, creative cookery and significantly reduced food waste this Christmas.


Article written by David Garner.