Discover how to avoid food waste, cut down on packaging, be a green shopper and plan your festive recipes to a tee with our guide to having a sustainable Christmas.
Being a more responsible cook is all the more important at Christmas, a time of year that's notoriously excessive. By trimming back, cooking smart, planning to precision and rethinking some old traditions, we can all make a difference to the planet – and run our homes more efficiently, too.
Think through everything, from ordering the ingredients you need from suppliers that don’t use as much packaging (your local butcher, for example) to how many Christmas food deliveries you will get.
Ordering online for delivery is a godsend when you are busy, but if all your deliveries are coming in separate vehicles, then a large shop from one place would be better. If you choose a large supermarket or online service like Ocado, make sure you secure a booking slot in good time.
Shop local or share transport
Aside from walking or cycling, public transport is the most eco-friendly way to shop, but as anyone who has lugged a turkey weighing several kilos knows, it isn’t easy. Then there are the potatoes and root veg – not to mention the bottles of fizz. Consider car-sharing with a local friend or neighbour, and if you can walk, a shopping trolley is useful. Buy buy one with decent wheels that will last.
How to reduce packaging
There are some key opportunities to cut down on the amount of packaging you bring home at Christmas. A turkey from a reputable supplier, like a butcher or farmers' market, often comes in no more than a cardboard box whether you have it delivered or pick it up.
Buying loose fruit and veg means that, not only can you buy only what you need, you can put everything in reusable bags. Making food from scratch also cuts down on packaging. Even though flour, sugar and dried fruit come in bags that need to be recycled (unless you buy them loose), they won’t be as highly packaged as a decorative cake that needs to be protected while it sits on the shelf.
Local shops that make food on the premises, or are supplied by central kitchens, are also less likely to sell produce in anything other than minimal packaging – it would cost them too much. Crisps and snacks often come in packaging that can’t be recycled. Buy bigger packs rather than individual portions to cut down on how much you need to throw away and remember to take your own shopping bags for getting everything home.
Cut down on food waste
Plan what you are going to eat, then buy no more fresh food than you need (and, as stated above, buy loose fruit and veg, if possible). Only serve things you know will get eaten. If most people you're inviting hate cranberry sauce, for example, don’t buy a large amount. Ditto, sprouts.
If you're unsure what extra bits and pieces you might be called upon to magic out of thin air for unexpected guests (that can’t commit until the eleventh hour), buy frozen, tinned or long-life foods that will last you well into the new year.
According to lovefoodhatewaste.com we're saving £3.4 billion a year between us compared with 2007 and also saving five million tonnes of CO2 – reportedly, that's like taking 2.2 million cars off the road. So, making as little food waste as possible really does make a difference.
However, we still throw away, on average, 18% of the food we buy. This comes at a cost to us, being both money down the drain and a drain on the planet's resources. It's worth noting, too, that the packaging that accompanies wasted food produces 15% more CO2 than the food itself.
Take a look at our Christmas portion planner and ensure you have perfect amount of food for your party.
Cook with care
We get through metres of foil, baking parchment and foil at Christmas. If you want to cut down on both your costs and waste, invest in some reusable wax wraps and reusable tin liners. Foil is recyclable but check your local authority for what they accept.
Get your knives sharpened. Sharp knives are easy to use more dextrously and make less waste.
Bones and peelings
Make stock from vegetable peelings (or use them to make homemade crisps) and bones. If you have a slow cooker or pressure cooker, use this so you can leave your hob free and the stock to tick over. You’ll also have a less steamy kitchen.
Use your freezer
Make sure your freezer is relatively empty before the festive season, then when you have leftovers you know you won’t eat straightaway, you’ll have room to store them. Remember to label them as well.
Love your leftovers
Most leftovers can be eaten as is, or conjured into new and exciting dishes such as Christmas pizza, turkey minestrone and sprout hash. Browse our guide to what you can freeze, then try out our best recipes with Christmas leftovers beyond the festive season.
How to be a smart Christmas cook
Got any tips for having a greener, more sustainable Christmas? Leave a comment below...