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Waste Not, Want Not at Christmas by Theresa Keane


By Theresa Keane, FSPA Member & Food Safety Expert: Culinary, Food Safety & Nutrition

We live in an age of great abundance, so much so that it is estimated we throw away between 30 and 40% of our food. A staggering figure. The lifecycle of food follows a continuous cycle, food gets produced, harvested, processed, distributed, purchased, consumed and finally managed as waste. Each step in this cycle produces waste of some sort, and the cumulative effect can make that 30-40% look conservative. The food itself is not the only thing wasted, the fossil fuels and water used to produce that food is also squandered, the packaging used is in itself a devastating and ever-growing problem, we have all seen images of the “plastic oceans". To add insult to injury, food sent to landfill can produce methane gases adding to the worsening climate change. Cheap food is the end result of overproduction, this in turn can lead to a throw-away-culture. Solutions lie in supporting farmers, educating consumers and lobbying for change from our multinational supermarkets. Raquel Noboa from 50 Shades Greener (Here) is an award winning entrepreneur who has developed a programme to empower businesses to look at its resources, make substantial savings and appeal to the growing green aware customer. Raquel describes their programme as a “stepping stone that everyone can apply to their business”. Food businesses should check this out.

The burden of food waste is often put on the consumer, however, government policy, particularly in agriculture, continuously fails to address the problems of over production. In short we are producing too much food, while being in the juxtaposition of having the need for food banks, and a growing population of people who are food insecure. Food needs to be affordable for all, and it also needs to be safe and nutritious.

A 2020 EPA study (Here ) found that about 3 in 5 people actively think about food waste, with the majority of these in the over 65 age category. The same study revealed that during COVID Lockdown 1, there was a considerable decrease in domestic food waste. It appears imposed restrictions allowed people the space to think about their food in a more mindful way. We can all act now to reduce food waste and save money along the way, by approximately 700 euro per year per household!

Adopting a conscious eating pattern has the potential to decrease food waste in the home, …changing our behaviours, building good habits and adopting a mindful approach to what, how and where we buy our food. Planning meals, buying only what we need, using leftovers and storing food properly, will immediately reduce wastage and save money. It makes a big environmental difference too because ‘reducing food waste is the climate action you can do three times a day’ (Odile Le Bolloch, EPA,2020).

Globally we celebrate with food. It is part of the human condition to share what we eat and gather around a table, this will inevitably include some food waste. According to a SafeFood 2019 article (Here), 85% of us expect to eat leftover turkey, with 16% planning to re-use their leftover turkey 4 days or more after Christmas Day! Every year the equivalent of 4 million Christmas dinners goes to waste in the UK alone, so let’s take a look at some tasty ways to use up that delicious uneaten food.

But first

5 Ways to Avoid Food Waste:

1. Plan ahead and think about who are we feeding? What will be eaten as opposed to what we just “always” put on the table? How much do we really need per person?

2. Write a list-and stick to it!

3. Choose wisely- ask the butcher-can I buy a turkey crown instead of a whole turkey, remove and stuff the legs to freeze and use for another days’ dinner. Buy direct from a local supplier. Buy loose fruit and vegetables, avoid buy one, get one free and multipacks. Check best before and use by dates, ask yourself do I have room in my fridge/freezer for all this food? Look online or in favourite cookery books for recipes that give amounts applicable to the amount of people you are cooking for.

4. Plan to use leftovers- write down ideas on how you could use leftover meat, vegetables, salads and fruits.

5. Involve everyone in the meal- ask those who can to bring a vegetable dish or condiment or the dessert asthis will encourage a mindful approach to what will be prepared and eaten.

Using Christmas Left Overs

Using Leftovers

Potato cakes: Bind mashed potato, chopped cooked vegetables and fresh herbs together with 1 egg. Form into patties, brush the top with melted butter and cook in a hot oven. Ensure it is piping hot throughout. Top with a poached egg, drizzle with an herb oil. Add some cumin or fenugreek or your favourite spice mix for an extra layer of flavour.

Brussels Bhaji: Keep Brussel sprout outer leaves when preparing them. Wash and dry. Make a quick Bhaji batter. Mix together plain flour, turmeric, cumin powder, garlic powder (or use a curry powder) add enough cold water to bring together. it should be thick and “gloopy”. Finely shred the Brussel sprout leaves and some red onion. Combine the batter and vegetables, coat well with the batter. Drop large tablespoons of the mix into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy. Serve with a spiced yoghurt dip.

Turkey Minestrone: Remove any meat from the carcass of the turkey as soon after dinner as possible. Put into a covered container and refrigerate when cold. Break the carcass up into smaller pieces and refrigerate as well. The carcass can be used to make stock the next day, this is a great base for any soup, sauce, gravy or bone broth.

Gently cook onion, garlic and a little chilli together in olive oil. Remove from the heat and add a teaspoon of oregano, or mixed herbs. Chop leftover vegetables and Turkey meat into bite sized pieces. Add to the pot and stir well to incorporate the flavours. Add a can of chopped tomatoes and stock from the turkey bones. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Throw in a handful of broken up spaghetti or any pasta shape you have, allow to cook until pasta becomes softened. Add as much extra vegetables here as you like, frozen peas, green beans, or a can of chickpeas will bulk this soup out to feed a lot of people. Finish the soup with grated cheese, and some croutons made from leftover bread. A hearty, nutritious meal on its own.

Note: Fermenting is an ancient method of food preservation, why not try your hand at Kombucha, Kimchi and pickling vegetables? This can add new flavour profiles, up the nutritional intake and tackle food waste at the same time. For tips click here.

“in this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence”

Thich Nhat Hanh

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