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Don’t ‘waste’ Christmas

Don’t ‘waste’ Christmas

As the song goes, Christmas is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. Many of us will have the pleasure of feasting and sharing beautifully prepared meals with our friends and family.

However, there can also be a downside and that is the amount of food waste we generate at Christmas time, writes Dr. Sinéad McCarthy, Research Officer in the Department of Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis, Teagasc Ashtown.   

We currently live in a society where we waste approximately 175kg of food per year. On a weekly basis, we waste approximately one third of the food that comes into our homes. At Christmas, food waste can be as high as 50% of the foods we purchase. Not only does this have a financial cost but also a significant environmental cost too. The resources used to produce our food cannot be recouped if it goes to waste and this food waste also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. It is very important that we recognise food as a valuable commodity and radically decrease our tendency to waste it. Understanding our food waste behaviour and identifying ways of improving and changing it can help reduce avoidable waste, and even more importantly at Christmas time.

We can put some preventative strategies in place that will not only save us money this Christmas but also save the environment too.

Planning, planning and more planning

The importance of food planning cannot be over emphasised. The best plans start with a shopping list.  International research has shown that those who plan their meals and make a shopping list are less likely to over spend and also less likely to waste food.

Planning the meals you will prepare for the few days of the festive period and making a list of ingredients to shop for will decrease you chances of putting food in your trolley that will not get used up.  Also, check what ingredients you might already have in your store cupboard or fridge, so you are not doubling up on ingredients. In the lead-up to Christmas, use up what you have in your freezer now, so that there will be room in your freezer for some of the extra dishes or treats that might not get eaten at Christmas.

Planning the portions required will also help to reduce food waste. If you are only cooking for four or five people, you do not need to cook enough food to feed a small army - just in case every person from the neighbourhood decides to call in! Knowing the amount of food you will cook beforehand also reduces the amount of time prepping and cooking in the kitchen, allowing the head chef on the day to take time to enjoy their beautifully prepared food too.

Planning leftover meals is also a great way of preventing food waste as well as saving the time and resources for cooking a meal from scratch. There is plenty of meal inspiration on social media for leftover recipes with the favourite Christmas ingredients, from turkey and ham pies to sauces using the left over cheeseboard. Plan now for some of the meals that will use up your leftover foods.

Finally, remember that most shops are only closed for one or two days, you do not need to purchase a month’s worth of goodies!

For more information on Sinéad's research activities, click here.