Christmas is a time for fun, family, and food. But what happens to all the food that's left over after the holiday? In the UK, households will throw out about half of the food they bought for Christmas and New Year's celebrations. That's a lot of uneaten food!
Christmas food waste not only costs money but also harms people and the environment. While we discard mountains of perfectly edible food, over 800 million people are affected by hunger - one of the many reasons food waste is a global problem.
Food waste isn’t just a moral issue – it’s also a considerable problem environmentally. As our list of food waste facts highlights, all that wasted food creates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change1. It also uses up valuable resources like water and land, which could be put to better use to grow crops that don’t end up as waste.
Learn how to avoid food waste at Christmas and make this festive period more sustainable.
Related: For more tips to reduce waste at Christmas time, check out our guide to a zero-waste Christmas and our zero-waste tips for any time of the year. To help get in the Christmas spirit, browse our curated list of some of the best Christmas quotes and sayings.
Making a list of what you plan to prepare is a great way to reduce food waste during Christmas. Not only will this help you stay on track, but it will also help you avoid buying too much food. By preparing and eating food on your list, you'll be able to celebrate Christmas without worrying about the amount of food that will go to waste.
If you have guests at your Christmas dinner, ask beforehand for any allergies or food preferences. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure everyone can enjoy the meal. Importantly, you can buy appropriate food instead of overestimating what your guests may need.
Your list of dishes will inform your shopping list. So before you head out, list all the dishes you plan to make. Doing this will help you buy only the necessary ingredients. And avoid buying too much food, which can lead to spoilage. Resist the urge to impulse buy. Planning your market or grocery trips helps you save money.
One way to limit food waste during Christmas is to use Christmas day leftovers for meals or snacks later in the week. If you have a lot of leftovers, try creating a new dish or eating them as is. You can also package them up and save them for later dishes or snacks. For example, you can use your leftover turkey as a protein addition for future dishes. This will help you avoid throwing away food and will help you make the most of your holiday feast.
Most people cook more food than they need for a meal, especially around Christmas with its generous feasting feelings. This often leads to leftovers being thrown away or eaten later. However, if you adjust your recipes to serve the number of people eating them, you'll avoid creating excess Christmas food waste.
Ask your Christmas dinner guests to RSVP, which is a simple way to help you plan for the number of people who will be eating and will avoid the hassle of having to cook too much food. In addition, it's always polite to ask your guests if they will be attending in advance and will give them enough time to make arrangements if they need to.
If you have leftovers, store them in airtight reusable food containers, so they don't spoil. You can also freeze them without waste for later use. If you're cooking a lot of food, use reusable fridge and freezer bags to store excess food, like alternatives to Ziploc bags. This will help keep your refrigerator and freezer organized and prevent food from going bad.
When it comes to cooking for the holidays, many people make the mistake of overestimating how much food they will need. This often leads to a lot of leftover food being thrown away or eaten later. However, freezing food may be necessary when you overestimate how much you need. Freezing is a great way to preserve excess food and prevent it from going bad.
Most people know the saying, "You are what you eat." But what about the foods you don't eat? Leftovers, whether from last night's dinner or a week-old meal, can be just as important as the food on your plate. Taking leftovers from home with you when you go out to eat can save you money and help the environment.
Sometimes, your surplus food is no longer edible food. In this case, your last resort would be to compost it.
Food waste can be composted by itself or combined with other materials, such as leaves, grass clippings, or straws. The most important part of composting is ensuring the waste is broken down into small pieces. This will help speed up the decomposition process. Composting food waste is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of the festive season.
The holidays are a time of giving, and there are many ways to give back to your community. One way is to participate in a food drive or donate food to local shelters or food banks.
Donating food is a great way to help those less fortunate and also an excellent way to reduce the amount of waste that occurs during the season.
Many local shelters and soup kitchens would be grateful for any donations you can make. So if you're looking for a way to give back this Christmas period, consider donating leftover food. If you have some time to spare, you can also consider volunteering at a homeless shelter this Christmas to help make sure everyone has a good meal on the 25th.
One of the best ways to reduce waste is to avoid buying fresh foods that are likely to go bad quickly. For example, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce are prone to spoilage if not eaten immediately.
We've discussed planning before buying your Christmas food, but it cannot be overstated. Also, buy your food locally at the farmer's market.
You'll find recently picked fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market. This means they will likely last longer in your refrigerator or pantry than produce sitting on a grocery store shelf for weeks. And most likely, they haven’t traveled for miles and miles to reach the supermarket shelves. You can also fill up your festive fruit bowl for days to come.
In addition, buying your produce at the farmers market supports local businesses and helps keep money in your community. So if you're looking for a way to reduce your waste this Christmas period, consider buying your food at the farmer's market.
There are plenty of ways to turn leftovers into something new and delicious!
Here are some ideas for Christmas time:
Get creative with your leftovers – the possibilities for new meals are endless!
Food waste at Christmas does not just start in your kitchen. It can also include the disproportionate amount of resources that went into getting the food to you. When it comes to reducing your food miles, buying seasonal produce is one of the best things you can do.
Seasonal produce is grown locally, so it doesn't have to travel far to your grocery store or farmers market. This reduces the fuel needed to transport the food and the emissions from transporting the food.
In addition, buying seasonal produce helps support local farmers and businesses. So if you're looking for a way to reduce your environmental impact this Christmas period, consider buying seasonal produce.
Christmas is a time of year when waste increases significantly.
To help reduce the amount of food waste during the holiday season, it's important to grow awareness among your friends and family about how they can reduce their waste. When spending time together, share your story on managing spend and waste during Christmas.
There are many ways to limit food waste, and everyone can do their part to help.
Christmas is a time of year when food production and waste increase significantly. So take a stand against waste by carefully planning your menu, using leftovers wisely, and composting any food you can’t eat. And if you want to spread the holiday cheer, participate in a food drive or donate food to a local shelter or soup kitchen. You can make better food choices this Christmas by following the tips above.
By being mindful of our food choices, we can all do our part to reduce food waste this holiday season. Every little bit helps! Happy holidays!
From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste, November 2021, EPA
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.