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Fight Festive Food Waste: Tactics and Tools

Christmas can be expensive at the best of times. However, with the cost-of-living crisis going on at the moment, saving money is on everyone's radar this festive season. If you still need to read our previous blog post on how to save money by reducing your food waste, you can check out the amazing cost-saving benefits here.

Once you've seen how much money you can save, you'll realise reducing your food waste is a no-brainer! This second blog post in the Fight Festive Food Waste Series, delivered to you by Alex from 50 Ways To Cook and Emily from The Sustainable Food Society, will answer some food waste-reducing FAQs.

Skip to questions:

Question 1: How do I store mince pies properly?

Mince pies don't need to go in the fridge. Save space for your vegetables and store your mince pies in an air-tight container. If they're a little soggy, pop them in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up and enjoy! They can also be stored in the freezer if you can't finish them all!

Question 2: How should I store my Christmas vegetables?

Onions (with the exception of spring onions) are best kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. We like to keep ours in a reusable cloth bag!

Potatoes and other root veg will store up to three times as long in the fridge - up to three or four months and don't need to be kept in air-tight containers. We recommend you keep cooked potatoes in the refrigerator for two days. While raw potatoes don't freeze very well, the good news is that leftover roast and mashed potatoes will store in the freezer for up to three months!

Brussels Sprouts last the longest when kept on the stalk. However, ready-prepared ones last best in an air-tight container kept in the fridge for two weeks. A great way to store sprouts for up to six months is to blanche in boiling water for four minutes and refresh them in ice-cold water. Freeze overnight on a baking tray before placing in an air-tight container for long-term storage.

Fruit actually stores best in the fridge, believe it or not! But watch out for bananas and pineapples - they're best kept on the side or in a cupboard.

Salad is best kept in an air-tight container in the fridge. But be sure to remove excess moisture with a towel or salad spinner to prevent it going soggy! You can place a paper towel in the bottom of containers to absorb any excess moisture you may have missed. By preventing your salad leaves from going soggy, this will help to reduce your food waste and save you money!

Question 3: What is the best way to store an open bottle of wine?

You can put the cork back in and store it in the fridge for a couple of days to keep it fresh. After that, we recommend using it for cooking.

You can buy reusable 'corks' with vacuum pumps, which suck the air out of the bottle to prevent oxidation. You can also achieve the same effect by pouring the remaining wine into a smaller bottle to slow oxidation.

Question 4: What is the difference between best before, use by, and sell by dates?

Best before dates refer to the quality of the food. Items will be at their best before the date given but are still safe to eat once it passes, often long after this date has passed.

Use by dates are about the safety of the food. We recommend not consuming food after these dates as some food may appear safe to eat but could still lead to food poisoning. Use your discretion here but be careful!

Display until/sell by are just for the retailer's attention.

The more time you spend getting used to the different labels, the more confident you will feel. By getting accustomed to using best-before labels as guidance, you'll realise just how much edible food you can save from the bin!

Question 5: How long are my leftovers safe to eat?

According to Love Food Hate Waste, leftovers can be eaten within two days or frozen for at least two months. These are often underestimated but again, use your eyes and nose! Check out some recipes here.

Question 6: I need more space in my fridge this Christmas. What foods can I store elsewhere?

Bread is often stored in the fridge to make it last longer. However, this actually makes it go stale much quicker! It's best kept in a cool, dry place in its wrapper. If you also don't go through loads of bread like us, we love to store it ready sliced in the freezer and take it out when needed. You can defrost or toast straight from frozen.

Potatoes, carrots and other root veg can be kept in a cool, dark place to make room for the other Christmas goodies. Your kitchen cupboards or an outdoor shed (if you live somewhere cool) will work. While best kept in the fridge, these will last out of the fridge for up to a week.

Store-bought condiments that have been commercially processed, including jam and chutneys, can be stored in cool, dry places out of the fridge for up to six months. However, homemade or 'natural' products should be kept refrigerated.

Cheese can sit at room temperature for anywhere from four to six hours before you use or serve it.

Eggs can be kept out of the fridge, but only if you live in the UK or Europe – check out this link for more info.

Chocolate is one of those things some people insist on keeping in the fridge. While some may prefer it cold, keeping it out of the fridge in a cool, dry place is absolutely fine.

Butter keeps longest in the fridge. It is safe to store salted butter out of the fridge for several days to a couple of weeks as long as it's kept away from heat, light, and air. However, whipped or raw butter should always be kept in the fridge.

Question 7: Which foods should I not take out of the fridge to create room?

Fruit juice, which quickly ferments (and not in a gut-healthy way!) outside the fridge

Sauces with cream or dairy, such as brandy butter and mayonnaise

Question 8: Can I freeze it?

Before throwing food away, ask yourself if you can freeze it. You can freeze stuff safely right up until its use-by date. You can freeze most food. This includes raw and cooked meats, fruit, potatoes (after boiling for five minutes), grated cheese, and eggs. The bonus is that freezers are cheaper to run if they are full (make sure your ice cube trays are full!).

Question 9: How long is defrosted food safe to eat?

Once food is defrosted, you must eat it within 24 hours. Previously cooked and frozen meat should only be reheated once. However, you can safely cook defrosted meat into a new meal and freeze it for another day.

Question 10: How can I make sure Christmas day runs smoothly?

Preparing for the big day is a great way to take the pressure off on Christmas morning. You can make ahead and freeze the following Christmas dishes: red cabbage, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), mince pies, stuffing balls, and cake. This means all you need to do is heat things up ready for lunchtime - easy! However, make sure that if you have previously frozen something not to refreeze it.

If you're enjoying these blogs and recipes, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive occasional updates and my monthly newsletter below! You can also check out The Sustainable Food Society by clicking here.

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