Come Boxing Day, there is one thing that we can pretty well much guarantee – many homes will have fridges bursting at the seams with leftovers from the Christmas celebration the day before. Invariably we all eat too much but we also cook too much and buy too much. So Boxing Day now has a new name – National Leftovers Day. Why, because we waste so much food and at no time of the year is this more evident than it is at Christmas.
So how to avoid the leftover problem…
Reuse your Christmas staples. Turkey, ham, chicken and vegetables can be easily reused in sandwiches, quiches, omelettes, pizzas and salads. This is fine if you are staying at home or not starting your post-Christmas diet. The alternative in this case is to freeze what you can, so that it can be eaten in January or February.
Make sure you store your food properly. Putting your festive leftovers into clear airtight plastic containers will help to make the food last longer in your fridge or freezer. Things like the Christmas ham, if handled correctly also lasts for several weeks. Once you’ve removed it from its plastic wrapping, store it in your fridge below 5°C in a cloth that’s soaked in water and vinegar.
If you are going to freeze leftovers – think about how you intend to use them – freeze as you intend to defrost. When we put leftovers into the freezer, we often tend to freeze them in one big amount. However, it’s far more efficient to freeze your festive leftovers in smaller portion sizes. This makes them quicker to cool and you only end up defrosting what you need. Don’t forget that you can also freeze leftover wine and cheese. These can be used as future ingredients and stale bread can be frozen to be toasted at a later time.
Be food safe. If you are not sure how to best store a particular type of food then check with the Food Safety Information Council. When reheating leftovers, they need to be re-heated to at least 75°C in the centre — you can use a food thermometer to measure this.
Once you’ve finished cooking and eating, you need to get your food to the fridge as fast as possible. The Council recommend that your fridge be kept at or below 4-5°C guide. At this temperature, food is good for 2 to 3 days. For more details, check out their fridge and freezer safety tips.
Just remember a well-planned and presented Christmas meal that minimises leftovers is the best approach – so eat, drink and be merry without the waste!