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Reduce waste at Christmastime

Reduce waste at Christmastime

With the festive season fast approaching, MiNDFOOD looks at how to reduce food waste at Christmas time.

Reduce waste at Christmastime

Food waste is a global problem. Studies have shown that the average Kiwi household throws away three shopping trolleys worth of edible food a year, while the average Australian household throws away 20 per cent of the food they purchase. And with the summertime heat and festive overindulgences, the problem only gets worse at Christmas. To help reduce waste, consider some new approaches to your household food consumption this holiday season.


Reduce and revitalise – If the fridge is too full, it keeps the chilled air from circulating properly – thus reducing the longevity of the food stored. According to Ministry of Primary Industries Food Safety guidelines, a refrigerator should produce cold air between 2 and 4°C, and this air should be able to circulate freely to preserve food properly. Check that all the seals on your fridge doors are working properly and provide good insulation against exterior heat – and if your fridge doesn’t have an inbuilt temperature gauge, invest in a thermometer and monitor it carefully. If the temperature in your fridge goes above 10°C, food will spoil quickly – which is both dangerous to your health and extremely wasteful.


Clear out all those jars and bottles that are well past their expiry dates, and use up the jars of chutney and jam that have just a little bit left sitting in the bottom. For a few weeks prior to Christmas, try to make simple meals from the food already in the freezer, fridge and pantry – leaving room for fresh food.


While the fridge isn’t too full, give it a good clean. Wiping down the inside of the fridge will reduce the chances of any contaminants getting into your fresh food. A diluted white vinegar solution should get rid of any greasy messes, and use a mix of baking soda and water to rid the fridge of nasty smells.


Fridges can become a dumping ground for all foods, especially in the summer. Remove any foods that don’t need to be stored in this space. Bottle of wine and soft drinks can go into a chilly bin. Sugars, honey and jams can be stored in a cool, dark pantry (if ants are an issue, place in sealed containers or large glass jars). Buy fewer eggs, and store in a cool cupboard rather than the fridge.


Re-Store – Take the time to store your food properly. Remove vegetables from their plastic packaging and re-wrap in damp kitchen towels to reduce sweating and dehydrating in the fridge. Place crisp stalk veggies such as celery and spring onions into iced water, and refresh daily. Look after your meats and proteins by covering well to reduce oxidation, and breaking cooked meat away from the bones (which can go into the freezer for use in a bone broth or stock).


A large turkey can take a while to defrost, but it is not ideal to simply leave it on the bench overnight or quickly thaw it out in a microwave. These methods will toughen the meat and cultivate unhealthy microorganisms. Rather, you should take the turkey out of the freezer two days before cooking. Leave it in a large dish in the bottom of the fridge, where thawing juices can’t drip down the shelves and contaminate other foods. If there is no space in the fridge, place the turkey in a clean chilly bin with 2-3 ice pads in the bottom, and seal well. Alternatively, brine a whole turkey for 24 hours in a cold salt and spice solution to result in plump, succulent meat. Once a turkey has thawed, it must be cooked immediately.


Store dairy foods in the middle of the fridge to allow enough cool air to circulate. Cheese rarely goes off, it generally just dehydrates. Wrap pieces of leftover cheese in greaseproof paper and store in a container. Even if the cheese isn’t platter-worthy, it can be grated or diced and added later to a risotto or pasta dish.

The best method for preserving a cooked ham is to soak a clean pillowcase or cotton bag in white vinegar, and use this to wrap the ham. Then simply store the wrapped meat in the fridge, and rinse and refresh the cloth every couple of days. When all the meat has been carved away, the bone can go into the freezer to be used for a pea and ham soup in the winter.


Re-use – Overcatered for your Christmas dinner and ended up with loads of leftovers? Make up some meals for later while the food is still fresh. Invest in freezer-proof containers, and prepare portion-sized meals of roast turkey, ham or lamb complete with vegetables and sauces. Seal well, date and store in the freezer for later. Or better still, send your guests away with containers of leftovers, for the occasion that keeps on giving.


Re-purpose – Plan to use your leftovers as part of your weekly meals – like topping a pizza with any remaining ham, or filling a soft taco with leftover seafoods. Spend a little time bottling the cranberry sauce, fruit compotes or vinaigrettes for later use. Leftover fresh fruit, salads and cooked vegetables go limp quickly – so blend excess vegetables into a purée, pour into ice cube trays, and when frozen, these can become part of your cold smoothies when it is time for your New Year’s detox.


Re-think – Wasting food is a mindset that we need to change. If you find that you’re always throwing away food, it’s time to start thinking about what you are buying and how much you are actually going to eat in a day. Remember, when we throw out food we are wasting all the energy and effort that has gone into manufacturing it – as well as your money. While buying in bulk might save time, in the long run it will cost more in wastage. So the number-one rule to reduce wastage is: shop for less, more often.


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