Seven secrets to stop festive food waste from Catherine Fulvio

Westmeath County Council and eight other local authorities have linked up with Catherine Fulvio to explore how we can avoid food waste in the coming weeks.

Shockingly we will throw out millions of euro worth of food over Christmas week.

Food waste hits all of us in the pocket, and the average family throws out €700 worth of food per annum. Christmas is when we throw out the most in quantity but also when we see some very expensive foods make their way to the brown bin.

Turkey, ham, stuffing, sauces, salmon, canapes, cheeses, desserts are some of the high cost items commonly found in bins during the season.

Ruth Maxwell, Environment Department, Westmeath County Council, says it is also worth considering that food waste contributes significantly to climate change as growing, processing, packaging and transporting food uses energy and resources and then when we throw it away.

"As it rots it releases yet more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So we are excited to have celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio invoved in this campaign as she has the inside track on how to reduce your Food Waste this Festive Season,” said Ruth.

Research has show that in Ireland we throw out €42 million worth of food in Christmas week. How can we prevent this?

"I have teamed up with several county councils to help reduce this staggering figure and in doing so save you money and protect the environment," says Catherine Fulvio.

"My first golden rule is to write your list and stick to it and when in the shops put on your “blinkers” – don’t look left, don’t look right, just walk down that aisle and stick to your list to avoid picking up superfluous produce.

"And there will be lots of hacks, ideas and recipes suggestions so check out my series of which will be running across the Westmeath County Council Facebook Page.”

Secret No. 1 Plan Ahead.

Planning your Christmas Feast will save you time and money. First of all consider how many people are coming. This year there may be fewer people than usual, so don’t get carried away. What are your favourite foods? Is there a food item that gets bought for tradition but not eaten each year? Leave it off the list.

From there build your menu – decide your recipes and then make your shopping list. It is the season for temptation in the shops – so stick to your list. Remember there is NO need to over shop for essentials like milk, bread. Shops reopen quickly.

Secret No. 2. Organise your storage.

Organise storage for all the extra food in the house. Sort out your fridge, using up contents to make space for the extra volume of Christmas Week. Check what you have in stock before shopping. The golden rule is “old to the front – new to the back” to ensure everything gets used up within date.

Make sure expensive perishable items don’t get pushed to the back, keep them in view, keep items dated if removing packaging (some packaging can help to keep the food fresher for longer so avoid if possible).

Veg in bottom drawer and meats always in sealed containers. Don’t forget you need space for leftovers after the big meal on Christmas day.

Secret No. 3. Portion Control:

Serving dishes can be used to avoid too much waste on the plate though care will be needed sharing serving dishes this year with guests. More attention to asking people what they want on their plate will help. Starters should be light and small for a big meal like Christmas. Avoid bread with the starter.

Encourage seconds rather than putting out big portions to start with. Have storage containers ready to go so leftovers can move straight to the fridge after the meal.

Secret No. 4. Use your Leftovers:

Local authorities working with the Stop Food Waste Challenge have produced the 12 Days of Christmas recipe booklet with ideas for using up some of the leftovers.

Turkey can be used in a versatile range of dishes from risotto to salads so no need to stick with the traditional sambo. Mashed potatoes and smoked salmon patties or smoked salmon in scrambled eggs make a great breakfast for Stephen's Day.

Have you tried cranberry sauce with jam on pancakes? Check out to get your free copy of the twelve days of Christmas.

Secret No. 5. Make the most of your Freezer:

The golden rule of freezing is to portion it, label it and date it. Give yourself a cut-off point, two days, after which any remaining leftovers will go from fridge to freezer. Nobody wants to keep eating it day after day. You can freeze individual dinner portions. You can make a batch of curry too.

Secret No. 6. Get creative with desserts

The left over desserts such as pudding or mince pies can seem unappetizing after the big event but there are recipes which can help to give them a transformation. Get the desserts used up. There will be time in the New Year to start a health kick. The days between Christmas and New Year’s can be great to get out for a good walk with family.

Secret No. 7. New Year’s resolution:

€700 in cash is the potential gain for avoided food waste. Let your new year’s resolution be to cut back on your food waste in 2021. And SAVE up to €700!

With a few simple changes, you can significantly reduce the amount of food discarded in your home.

Plan your meals for the week.

Check what you already have in the fridge and cupboard and write your shopping list.

Stick to it!

You’ll be amazed at how much you save each week.

Get into the habit of noting what foods are going into the brown bin as it will help you figure out what’s wasted weekly and what you can buy less of next week.