Despite our love for a Boxing Day sandwich, it is still predicted that UK residents will waste 54 million platefuls of food during December. Danielle Copperman shares her top tips on how to minimise your food waste and make the most of your Christmas dinner leftovers.
Growing up, I, like most of us, was told not to waste the food on my plate and this still remains on my conscience today. I hate to waste anything, especially good food. During the festive period, a time where we tend to overindulge, more food waste is generated than usual. Instead of throwing out those sorry looking vegetables, it is important that you make the most of your favourite Christmas delicacies so you can enjoy them until the very last bite.
Image: Red Pepper Dip
When fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables are on their last legs, don’t throw them away. Add them to smoothies, make a hummus or other dips, turn them into soups or transform them into curries, stocks or pasta dishes. lending them raw orcooked with other ingredients can help to disguise the taste if it might not be so fresh, but are still edible and perfectly good for you even if they’re getting a little soft or off-colour.
Extra tips: slice ingredients and freeze them in sandwich bags or airtight containers, to preserve them for longer. I particularly like slicing and freezing banana, avocado, mango and other soft fruits to add to smoothies, and I also part-cook vegetables and then freeze them, for use in future.
Get into the habit of freezing food before it goes off. Either freeze whole or slice / portion to make it easier when it comes to using. The same goes for storing leftovers; if you’ve cooked too much, instead of throwing the leftovers away or keeping them in the fridge to later forget about, freeze nstead. If you have time, batch cook and fill the freezer with instant meals for use in future.
Image: Botanic Brew & Carrot Tops
Make Stocks and Infusions
One of the best ways to use up parts of produce that would otherwise go unused, such as leaves, ends, tops and skin or peel (in other words, the non-edible parts) is to use them to infuse. Make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and then for stock, simply boil them in water (together with other vegetables, herbs, spices and seasonings), bringing to the boil then simmering for as long as you like. You can simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or leave over a low heat for several hours, to really infuse and draw out more flavour.
For infusions, I like to use these unwanted parts of produce to flavour and add vitamins and minerals to my drinking water. Simply wash, slice and place in a large jug of cold water. Leave for a while for the flavours to infuse the water, and continue to top up as you go, then leave in the fridge to keep cold. Some of my favourite ingredients to use are carrot tops or carrot peel, strawberry tops, cucumber ends, slightly limp looking herbs (such as basil, thyme, mint, rosemary), ginger and fruit peels (citrus fruits, pear, apple and mango peel work well). You can also use hot water, to brew into a warming and nourishing tea.
Something you might not immediately think to do is to use non-edible parts of your food as beauty remedies. Now cooked food and leftovers won’t work, but fresh produce will, as it is rich in nutrients and vitamins and can be really hydrating and revitalising for the skin. I use soft fruit, herbs, spices and fruit peels to make natural face masks or scrubs (adding salts or clay to create texture). I also use the same kinds of ingredients to make a foot bath, filling a large bowl with hot water and adding things like carrot tops and fruit and vegetable peels, as well as ginger, herbs, spices and salts.
Image: Sweetcorn Fritters
Cook and Bake
One way to use things that are perhaps not fresh enough to eat raw is by cooking or baking them. In particular, I love to make things like fritters (with grated carrots, potatoes or courgettes), pancakes (with fruits or vegetables blended into the batter), flapjacks (with grated or pureed fruit such as bananas, apples, mango or berries), cakes (with grated or pureed fruits or vegetables like banana, cooked and pureed apples or pears, berries and grated or cooked and pureed carrots, courgette or sweet potato), broths, stews and curries (with a medley of vegetables, herbs and spices). With limp salad leaves like lettuce or spinach, I also like to cook or char these, to make a warm salad with them if they are not fresh enough to enjoy raw. And I also enjoy cooking fruits to make a compote to use on porridge or on yoghurt or smoothie bowls in the morning.
Preserve or Pickle
Another way to prevent food going to waste is to preserve it naturally. Look into preserving, pickling and fermenting, which is super easy to do, and cheap too.
Buy the Ugly Stuff
One way to help reduce food waste as a whole is by buying produce from the supermarket that might not necessarily look the most attractive or appealing. As long as they are not too bruised or broken, buying the ‘ugly’ items could help reduce waste in store, as others will probably avoid them and they might never be bought. Many supermarkets have released information on how much produce goes to waste because of the way it looks, and there are many businesses these days trying to make use out of ‘wonky’ ingredients. Something to consider during your next shop, especially if the ingredients are going to be chopped or blended anyway, in which case the way they look really doesn’t matter at all.
Composting is a great way to make use of the parts of your produce that you don’t tend to eat, and saves food waste from ending up in landfill (where it release methane into the atmosphere!). Research how to compost if you are new to it, but all you really need is a food composting bin and somewhere to then dispose of it (or you can use it in the garden).
Another way to reduce food waste and make sure any leftovers go to good use is to donate it. You can donate any unopened dry perishables to food banks or charities who can use unwanted produce to batch cook meals for those in need of a warm meal. Donate anything from tinned vegetables, cereals, grains and pre-packaged snacks. Apps such as Olio also enable you to give unwanted ingredients to locals in your neighbourhood.
Image: Danielle’s Leftovers Burgers & Dahl
10 Christmas Leftover Ideas
1. Make homemade burgers or patties from leftover juice pulp, tired looking vegetables and peelings.
2. Use broccoli stalks by dicing them finely and stirring throughpasta dishes, risotto or other rice dishes – try in stir-fried rice or biryani.
3. Use your leftover vegetables to make a classic bubble and squeak.
4. Make a leftover salad. Roasted vegetables or leftover meat or fish can be easily stirred through fresh leaves to make a delicious and vibrant salad. Alternatively, reheat and have a warming winter salad.
5. Make soups, stews, broths, casseroles, curries, dahls or pies with any leftover vegetables or meats.
6. Use any leftover vegetables or meats in a pasta bake.
7. Blend together leftover vegetables to make dips for crudités or snacks.
8. Use leftover fruits or fruit peels to add to alcoholic drinks such asmulled wine or cider.
9. Make some fully loaded sandwiches or toasties.
10. Combine everything together for a vibrant Buddha bowl, servingleftovers with a grain and tasty dressing or marinade.
Learn more about minimising food waste from low-waste chef Max La Manna.
Make the most of your freezer with our hacks for combatting food waste.