One of my favourite parts of Christmastime is the festive fayre but you'd be forgiven for thinking you need to create a banquet fit for royalty if you looked in supermarkets or at TV ads and shows.
Lots of us will look forward to eating some special treats throughout the festive season and it can be a really important part of getting together with loved ones for some fun.
But when we 'aspirationally shop' with our eyes and tummies, rather than our heads, we often buy more food than we need and can’t eat it all which is such a waste of money. Plus, we all know that food thrown in the bin contributes to climate change.
But what can we do to keep waste and costs low without spoiling the fun?
Give your regular foods a festive twist:
Look at what you already have at home and see if you can give it a festive twist to save you some money. Adding some herbs or spices to your normal products can give you that festive feeling without the cost. We probably all have gravy granules, bread, tins,jams or cheese at home that we could spice up with a Christmas twist.
Make some homemade festive treats:
Homemade festive sweets and treats can be easy and cheap; a pastry twist Christmas tree with chocolate spread centre, chocolate dipped sprinkle bread sticks, peppermint creams, "mince pie" porridge, reindeer chocolate bark with pretzels and a red sweetie nose, apple and cinnamon granola or clementine cookies all give the festive feels to treats without paying shop prices. They could make great gifts alongside some fruit infused gin or vodka, homemade preserves or baked goods and sweeties too. We get the kids involved and do it as part of our Advent-ures!
Make a meal plan:
Think about the meals or occasions you need food for and make a plan to make sure you don't overbuy food. This is also a great way to plan for leftovers so leftover Christmas Dinner can be used up on Boxing Day and you won't be left with a plethora of party food when you only have half a dozen people round and not an army!
Plan for snacks!
Let's face it, at Christmas snacks can be our downfall! We buy too many treats, get edible gifts and prefer to graze...all of this is fine but I think it is a good idea to include snacks in your meal plan so you don't end up with too many!
Write a list:
Make a list of what you want to buy when you go shopping and stick to it! Don't be tempted in by fancy packaging or special offers if it's something you don't use or won't eat in time. If you write a shopping list and stick to it, you are bound to avoid food waste and save money.
Check the packaging:
What's the best way to store the food you buy? Check the best before and use buy dates, don't buy it too early unless it can be frozen and check the cooking instructions; do you really want the oven on for hours each day? Think about storage space in the fridge, freezer and cupboards and make a list of what you bought so you use everything in good time.
Look out for free food and bargains:
With supermarkets closing for a few days it can often be a great time to pick up some yellow sticker bargains or freebies via food apps like Too Good To Go, Olio or even directly at the supermarkets themselves. Last year we got tons of free veg we prepped and froze for soups and stews in January, bread products, milk, alcohol free beers and even a huge chocolate cake all for free as well as many reduced bargains.
Make sure you use up food before you go away:
If you are going away to see family or friends, make a plan to run down or freeze the fresh contents of your fridge, fruit bowl and cupboards before you go or donate it on Olio. If stuff is in date you could even donate it to a foodbank or someone in need.
Love your leftovers!
One of the most upsetting ways to waste food is to leave it out without using it for too long. If you do cook in advance, batch cook or have leftovers, wrap it up in airtight containers or food wraps (such as beeswax wraps) clearly label your tubs and put them in the fridge or freezer accessibly so you don't forget about them and make a use-it-up plan for how you can incorporate the leftovers into other meals
If you're getting together with a group of family or friends or have leftovers why not do a bring and share pot luck type event. Everyone can bring something which turns one basic item each into a feast. You could write a list and pre-agree what to bring or go with the flow and see what you end up with. Encourage everyone to bring a container to take away some leftovers and everyone is a winner! Some of my favourite gatherings with friends have been pot luck and games where each family brings a dish and an activity (quiz, game, act) and everyone gets stuck in. Simple but amazing fun!
Compost anything that can't be eaten or given away:
Where possible, put any food that can’t be used up in a food waste collection bin if you have that locally or compost it. Food gives off methane in landfill but when it is composted it can be used to grow plants like more fruit and veg!
These are just a few of my favourite festive food tips which will save waste but hopefully save some money too. Let me know if you use any of these or have any others you could share.