How much food waste and packaging did we create over Christmas

Filed in Blog by on January 5, 2009 16 Comments
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cheesecake browniesAccording to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign we waste, on average, a third of the food we buy each week. However, during Christmas, WRAP claim that this increases by a massive 80%. I want you to stop and think about that for a moment. You only have to set foot into a supermarket pre Christmas to see people queuing down the aisles with trolleys laden with food. Many of us buy food as if we are feeding the five thousand, going to be snowed in for a week and the shops will be empty for a month.

But now WRAP tell us that 80% of this food will be wasted!

This represents a staggering 230,000 tonnes of festive food worth approximately £275 million that gets thrown away across the country during Christmas and the New Year. Mr Green claims he isn’t surprised by that statistic, but I am shocked and horrified.zero waste puddings

We planned our menu carefully here at Chez Green, and as there were only three of us there was no excuse for food waste or gluttony. But I still managed to spend just under £100 the week of Christmas on ingredients AND our table was groaning with food. Eeek – some habits die hard.

Unfortunately, Little Miss Green had some kind of stomach bug on the Sunday night before Christmas and she didn’t eat properly for over a week! She sat down with us for Christmas dinner and managed two roast potatoes and one profiterole. All her planning for the glorious puddings she wanted was wasted because she wasn’t well enough to enjoy it.

In addition the cat was ill and couldn’t eat for three days. I had cooked her a chicken, as I always do. BUT I had bought frozen a week in advance, so I couldn’t refreeze it. Needless to say, the birds had a mighty feast, as we discovered quite by accident that birds love cooked chicken. You learn something new every day…….

On Christmas morning I was freezing half of the things I had made in advance and I’ll pull them out for LMG’s Birthday in March. I’ve also carefully documented the most popular foods of the ones I made and next year I have said I’m only making two puddings. (I made five this year – I know, I know; my two are big into chocolate, cream and decadence on the puddings front and I love making them). I made chocolate cake, cheesecake brownies, chocolate dipped shortbread, trifle and profiteroles….. (Spot the chocolate theme)

zero waste puddingFortunately, Mr Green is happy with leftovers and eating the same food for a few days, so he munched his way through all the meat, roast potatoes and half of the vegetables. We did end up throwing three roast potatoes into the compost heap, because they don’t reheat well. By Sunday all I needed to make for Sunday lunch was more potatoes as they still had a lot to get through. Fortunately, all of the savoury food was eaten and Mr Green dutifully ate the remaining puddings over the following week, with the other half put in the freezer. I also froze some gravy for next weekend, but everything else was eaten up.

Regarding packaging for food, I was really pleased with our lot. Little Miss Green was too ill to eat, but not too ill to berate me for buying prepared sausages in bacon. I couldn’t face queuing at the butchers two days before Christmas to buy sausages and bacon. A couple of years ago we ordered cooked beef and waited one and a half hours at sub zero temperatures in the street as the queue snaked around the village. I vowed never again, so bought the convenience version from the supermarket. Little did I realise that they came on an unmarked black plastic tray (which is not recyclable around here, despite the labelling) and were wrapped in some form of thick clingfilm. Once I examined the labelling after purchase, I realised what I had bought, but there we are; you live and learn…………
bacon and sausages wrapping

However, I did surpass myself on the puddings front. Yes, we could have invited the entire community for tea, but they all got eaten or put away for another time. Whatsmore, THIS is the only packaging I created:

food packaging

I would love to have the money to go out and buy the equivalent versions of everything I made just to compare the packaging we would have created if we had bought a ready made version. But I’m sure you can imagine what it might have looked like.

In my lovely pile I have a couple cardboard boxes of fruit sugar, foil and paper chocolate wrappers, a paper bag from flour and a gelatine sachet. Add a carton of cream and the sausages and bacon packaging and I think you have the sum total of the packaging we generated this Christmas. Apart from the wrapped sausages, everything else can be reused or recycled – yipee!

Overall, I’m pleased with both the limited amount of food waste we created and the lack of packaging. I would say it’s been a great success, especially now I’ve learned this new shocking statistic from WRAP.
How about you – what did you learn this year that you can bring into play for next year regarding food waste and packaging?

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. It sounds like you had a successful time on the food waste front, despite a few nasty surprises with poor LMG being unwell. We really scaled back this Christmas, but bought the usual ham, lamb cushion and sausages to cover us for the festive period. We hardly had any food waste either, thanks to starting earlier than usual. We decided to start tucking into the ham a few days before Christmas, knowing that the leftover lamb would see us through after that. I whizzed up the leftover veggies from Christmas Day into a delicious pea soup but almost lost the plot with the sausages though. I got ready to cook them on the 27th and noticed that they should have been used by 25th. DOH. But we cooked and ate them anyway as they smelled and tasted okay and we lived to tell the tale. The only thing we had left over was some Christmas pud, which we’re still feeding to the birds as well as some cooked red cabbage, which went in the Bokashi because I’d forgotten to put it in the fridge. At least that will turn into compost. But lessons for next year are a smaller Christmas pudding and cook less red cabbage (or remember to put it back in the fridge) 😀

  2. Mrs Green, Apart from the turkey fiasco, with 50g plastic packaging waste, everything else went smoothly. The turkey was 2.2kg so I cut off about 1.5 lb for later ‘chicken’ dishes. On the big day, with 3 of us, all that remained after the meal was turkey meat, for the following day, and 2/3 Christmas pudding which Gerry took home.

    Having no food waste in the bin nowadays, I always clear the plate. Not everyone can do this, the young in particular, but it is a good target to attempt.

    We all have done well at this first Zero Waste Christmas. Next year will be easier and other readers can surely learn from our experiences.

  3. esther says:

    happy new year!! Haven’t been on the net much, but looking at your photos, I wish I had been at chez les greens! miam, looks gooooood! anyway, this month, I plan to spend muuuch less (money problems, yes! it’s januari) and at the same time, try and throw less food, finish up everything that’s in the freezer and get more imaginitive!!!

  4. Carol says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    First I would like to say what an inspiration you are to me and other newbie zero wasters! I have been following your blog and those of Beth at Fake Plastic Fish, Jen at the Clean Bin Project and Sustainable Dave for a couple of months now. You all amaze me with your committment! My main problem is getting buy in from the rest of the family. My husbank did give me a worm composter for Xmas (accompanied by an eyeroll from my daughter).

    In contrast to your wonderful efforts, I just wanted to let you know how my neighborhood looked on trash pickup day, Tuesday after Xmas. Since we had an unusual bout of weather this holiday season – two and a half feet of snow and a low temp of -1, there was no trash pickup the week of Christmas. So our neighborhood had twice the trash out on the 30th. It was digusting! Plus, people got confused and didn’t realize it wasn’t recycling week (since we only get picked up every other week, we went a month for that) and put out their recycling, including loose stuff in rather windy conditions – junk everywhere! We get one wheelie bin for single stream recycling. We can do extra recycling for no charge in card board boxes or paper bags. However, in the rainy Pacific Northwest, this can end up being a mess. I asked if I could have an additional wheelie bin, but the company says that I am limited to one. Hmmm.

    My major complaint about recycling is the confusion and contradiction in the various literature and website content that pertains to the local rules. I guess the answer really is to reduce our output – particularly the packaging.

    Again kudos for the great work! Happy New Year!!

  5. bragging time!! may i ever so humbly (grin inserted) trumpet my zero waste of year passed?
    2 wild Canadian geese skinned for expediency–giblets consumed as luxury supper–generous breasts flattened and saved in freezer compartment for lean times a’comin’–legs baked and delicious–innards and fat cut up and fed to chickens for winter sustenance–skins,wings,feathers fed to fireplace for 2 hours of radiating BTUs (British thermal units for you) what calories from such glorious birds.
    what nutrition the hunters have missed, nothing wasted on me..
    cookies and nuts donated by neighbors, they all know that i am a zero waster, their wrappers and boxes stored in shed to light our stove, potatoes and turnips, baked apples all from garden and gifts. this is one lean winter of our content.
    did i impress anyone or disgust some? well i’m happy..nadine

  6. again, merry pudding and a good year to my favorite Greens.
    toasty (American) thermal units warming my heart out here, to thank you for validation and inspiration, also for information, signed: another devotee.

  7. Kris says:

    We did pretty well – I was going to buy a foil-trayed mini joint for the two of us as we had a packed social schedule over Christmas but was implored to get a bigger crown instead by the poultry-fiend that I married! I was pleased to find one of those in foil too. Every bit on our plates was eaten on Christmas Day (I decided that given the ample opportunities for roasted meals in the next few days to just do one trimming – sausagemeat and herb) and more of the Turkey was Boxing Day tea along with sundry cheeses and lovely home-made pickle which was one of my gifts. The remainder of the turkey managed to be both elevenses on the way down to see my MIL and to sneak into a lunch fry-up.
    I found I was tempted into quite exuberant spending on the way to Christmas but think it hasn’t been wasted, so far we’ve been diligent in using up what we’ve got though I might be eating nothing but cheese for a little while 🙂

  8. Carol says:

    My family actually did pretty well this year. I called the local butcher to see if I could get a local turkey. I was informed that there are no turkey farms in Washington state and so I ended up with a 17lb turkey from the grocery store – wrapped in plastic, of course, which had to go in the trash because 1)it had direct contact with meat and 2)our recycling doesn’t handle plastics of that sort. I had some plastic produce bags, which were recycled and several cans, also recycled. Of the actual food waste, not much got thrown out – a couple of sweet potatoes, a couple of cups of mashed potatoes and some jello salad. Oh, and the turkey carcass, which I normally turn into soup stock, but was too lazy to do this time.

    For the under the tree stuff, we did very well this year. We didn’t wrap much, just a couple of books/DVDs (DVDs of course mean cling wrap). I have a 2 year old grandson and we just took all of his stuff out and put it in his new wagon. Somestuff came with the plastic inflatable packing (Amazon)which I popped and put in with my plastic bag recycling, but much came with paper packing. His wooden block set had styrofoam, which I am looking for a place to recycle. I have a small stock pile going.

    Overall, we kept it down to 1 trash can for the week and more recycling than usual. Whew!

  9. ruth_dt says:

    Gelatine? I thought you were veggie, Mrs G? Couldn’t find any veggie jelly so you could share with everyone else? My Sainsbury sells it (but you have to know what you’re looking for).

  10. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Mrs A – tucking in before Christmas is a sure way to limit food waste! Don’t know about the waist though LOL! It sounds like your food waste was minimal, which is such good news. And I’m sure the birds are enjoying their post Christmas pudding.

    Hi John, glad to hear everything went well. mr Green and I clear our plates too and we encourage Little Miss green to take a small amount, finish it and go back for more. She’s really good considering she is only 7 and it helps her to learn portion control too.

    Hey Esther – great to see you and Happy New year to you! You could have come here with your family and there would have been more than enough to go around! I must admit; I do like making puddings. Good luck with your own challenge; I think most people have a frugal month. I know I am!

    Hi Carol; how lovely to see you and thank you for taking time to leave us a comment. Beth, Jen and sustainable Dave are all doing some amazing things; as are many other garbloggers. It’s such a joy to follow other people and learn from them. Getting the family on board can be incredibly difficult for some and I know I’m lucky in that Mr Green is 100% behind this. In fact, he often leads the way when I might dump something in the landfill or go for the convenient choice in a shop.

    Your neighbourhood sounded pretty messy the week after Christmas – that’s such a shame. And people tend to adopt a ‘not my responsibility’ stance which doesn’t help matters. Confusion is a big issue with recycling; we have the same over here. Every district has different ‘rules’ and some information is contradictory, so I really do understand why some people do not bother at all 🙁

    But you make a great point – if we all reduce the amount of stuff we purchase and need to get rid of, the problem reduces! Keep up the great work yourself and we hope to see you again on the site 🙂

    Lovely nadine; how great to see you today. Your zero waste Christmas sounded quite magical and it **almost** makes me want to do it all over again. Thank you for sharing your lovely times with us; your words made me slow right down and snuggle in front of that fire with you 🙂

    Hi Kris, well done on finding foil wrapping for the turkey (and for clearing your plates LOL!) Funny you mention about the money-side. I too spent a lot in the week before Christmas, but only 3 roast potatoes were wasted and we ate for over a week without needing to go out to the shops. When I look at it like this, we probably didn’t spend any more than usual, AND we have a freezer full of goodies. Enjoy the cheese!

    Hi Carol, what a shame you couldn’t get a local turkey, but you did well with minimal food waste. I think many companies are starting to use paper and card for packaging, which is a good move. You’ve proved that you can have a great Christmas without too much waste, which is such an inspiration. I hope your Grandson enjoyed his wagon of presents!

    Hi Ruth, yep, I’m veggie. We have veggie jelly crystals made with agar agar made by a company called JUST, but they have refined sugar in – which LMG can’t eat! I don’t really eat puddings, so it was no great loss for me 🙂 Nice that you thought of me though and thanks for the tip about Sainsburys, that could be useful for other readers as the stuff I buy I’ve only seen in the health food shop or I buy it in bulk from Suma.

  11. maisie says:

    Going back to your chicken for the cat was a frozen bird that you then cooked or was it a cooked bird that you bought frozen?

    If the first you could have re-frozen as it had been cooked between thawings, and as it was for Puss Green it would need reheating.

    HTH for the future

  12. maisie says:

    Meant to say would not need reheating.

  13. Greenlady says:

    WOW what a huge lot of puddings, LOL ! glad to see they were freezable etc and will get used up.

    I hardly bought any Christmas food as I had flu – my main thing was a small cooked ham from Waitrose, its the only time of the year they do them and I really love them. I struggled through about half of it before giving up the ghost. I would normally have incorporated it into some cooked dishes and frozen them but I really got so sick of the sight of it that I’m afraid it was rather a guilty pleasure to dispose of it 🙁

    I wonder how many people didn’t use or buy as much food this year due to illness, as there is so much lurgy going around and this current round of bugs really does seem to affect the appetite, as poor Miss G found out.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Maisie, the chicken we bought was frozen raw and then cooked for the cat. I’ve learnt something new, so thank you so much for that!

    Greenlady; sorry to hear you had flu; so many people had that over the festive season. I wonder too, if general food waste increased due to sickness this year; it would be interesting to find out. Hope you are fully recovered now.

  15. Diz says:

    Well, I didnt buy much for Christmas, as we came home from Egypt with food poisoning, and was hardly able to do anything. By the time I got better from that, I was down with a very bad cold.
    My daughter came and cooked our Christmas dinner. The stuffing got thrown away as it hid in the back of the fridge until it was mouldy (red face)She made stock from the lamb bones, etc, but by then I was so ill with another cold and chest infection that I lost some of that, too. Other stuff that didnt get used is still sitting there, potatoes, onions and another joint in the freezer.
    BTW what I do for kilted sausages is to buy the sausages and bacon a couple of weeks before hand, prepare them, then freeze them in a baking tin – just take out the night before to defrost.
    I did put out a lot more rubbish than most of you, but less than normal – one full sack in 2 weeks. A lot of recycling, tho.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    Oh no, Diz (((HUGS))) that is not the way to spend your Christmas. Although I think many people suffered a similar fate with illnesses. The idea of the bacon and sausages is great. I think even I could manage to prepare that one in advance – thank you!

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