How to recycle your Christmas Dinner

Filed in Blog by on January 23, 2012 13 Comments
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Using up leftover food after Christmas

Using up leftover food after Christmas

Each year I’m getting better and better at reducing food waste over the festive season.

There’s no excuse really, it’s only the three of us, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t lured by all the temptations on the shop shelves.

For me it’s about convenience. Although I love cooking for my family I don’t really want to be slaving in the kitchen if there’s a short cut to be had. I’d rather be in front of the fire with them enjoying their company and conversation.

So we bought sausages wrapped in bacon, ready made Yorkshire puddings and Mr Green bought himself a Christmas pudding as he’s the only one who eats it.

For Little Miss Green it’s all about the sweet stuff; chocolate to be precise. But to be honest, and with all credit to her – there is never any waste when chocolate is on the menu!

For Mr Green it’s the ‘extras’ that make his Christmas; the nibbly things for him to pick at, the different cheeses, the trucklements in jars that he would never normally buy,

Last year I distinctly remember buying 2 for 1 on some pate and it got thrown away. That was a good learning curve as I had that in my mind when I shopped this year. I don’t know about you but I noticed how heaps of stuff was on offer, encouraging you to buy more. The only thing we bought on a “3 items for £5” was for Mr Green’s ‘nibbles’ selection – it was some bite-sized scotch eggs and a couple of other things I don’t even remember now.

Unfortunately he had some weird reaction to the scotch eggs and couldn’t eat them. Little Miss Green hated the taste and I don’t eat that sort of thing so they ended up wasted.

But that was all that ended up as food waste.

As for the left over venison and turkey; well *this* happened; none of it rocket science but it filled bellies instead of bins:

Venison and salad sandwich


Venison and mustard cheese wraps


Turkey curry


Turkey and vegetable pasta

(worryingly resembling something the cat used to leave on the doormat after a heavy night mousing)


How did you use up your Christmas food this year?

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 (13)

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  1. Leigh says:

    I am vegetarian, but my husband eats meat so we have a free-range turkey at Christmas. I make sure NOTHING goes to waste. I remove all the meat from the carcass and freeze it free-flow so it can be taken out to make sandwiches for hubby’s packed lunch for work. The actual carcass, and all the left-over non-edible bits go into the pressure cooker and are boiled up with some water for about an hour, until soft. I then blend it all smooth in my powerful blender. Yes, all the bones are soft enough to be blended when boiled in this way. The resultant mousse is a delicacy that my dog absolutely loves. So, there is absolutely nothing left of the turkey.

  2. Chris Levey says:

    The best way to have no food waste is not to buy to much. When I got married 40 years ago I made a list of everything I bought for Christmas and If we did not eat/use it by the end of Christmas I crossed it off the list. The next year I bought everything left on the list and repeated the exercise so now the list is really quite short as long as I don’t inpulse buy. My original reason for doing this was economy but now it helps the planet as well.

  3. Jane says:

    The slow cooker is the easy way to boil up the carcase for making stock. You can just put it in there and forget about it overnight while it cooks if necessary. No more panicking about it boiling dry!

    We always get a smaller turkey than any instructions say because we like to have lots of different vegetables and bread sauce and little sausages and prunes wrapped in bacon etc. We have a ham for the following day to go with any cold turkey.

  4. CarSue says:

    Same as Leigh, I’m vegetarian but the Mr. dabbles in meat eating. I bought a fairly small turkey for him this year from my neighbor’s farm. All uneaten meat, as well as organs, skin, and carcass get boiled together in the big stock pot with an onion and bay leaves for an hour. Then I remove the carcass and let it cool, meanwhile adding carrots & celery to the stock. Once I tediously pick all the leftover meat from the bones, it’s added back to the soup along with some wide “Amish style” noodles, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice. 15 minutes later, remove from the heat and stir in a good 2 cups of fresh herbs (parsley & dill are particularly nice) for some of the best soup you’ve ever had! I can divide it up into empty reused jars to freeze, and then the Mr. can reheat them on evenings when I’m away. They keep well for up to 3 months.

  5. Julie Day says:

    My mum and I have made a list what to buy for next Xmas. We made a note of what we don’t want next time, which we had this time. Mainly chocs and crisps. We will only buy foods that we can eat and not go overboard.

  6. Heather says:

    We cooked for 8 adults and 2 children on Boxing Day this year and I had a mixture of 2 vegetarians and 6 meat eaters to cater for. I decided to cook a ham (we’d had turkey on Christmas Day at my mums). The vegetarians had a pie each that I bought ready made from Abel and Cole, the rest of us had the ham with lots of roasted veg etc. The ham always gives us lots of left overs, so I used it for a ham and mushroom pasta bake, and a soup (I used the stock that I boiled the ham in for the base of the soup). The veggies for my Boxing Day dinner come in a standard box delivery from Abel and Cole so there were some leftovers, however they were all used up in dinners over the next couple of days. I was really pleased with my soup and I ended up with no food waste at all. 🙂

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Leigh: Loving the dog food idea; that sounds SO nutritious!

    @Chris Levey: brilliant idea Chris- thank you for sharing. I do similar but not as organised as yours 😉

    @Jane: I agree Jane; we don’t tend to focus on the meat – preferring all the things that go with it like veggies. I had fish as it happens, so there were no left overs for me!

    @CarSue: That soup sounds amazing Sue – a labour of love, but so worth it.

    @Julie Day: @Julie Day: Keeping things low key is definitely the way for success in terms of less food waste – you have just as good a time for less money!

    @Heather: Sounds like you had quite a feast without anything left over – thanks for sharing Heather; ham and mushroom pasta is a great idea; Little MIss Green is rather partial to ham but I don’t buy it often…

  8. just prior to this holiday season’s feasts, i laboriously finished last year’s turkey leftovers–by then dry and nearly tasteless…i do double bag for the freezer but oft forget to look for the individual packages in back…

    even a small turkey-for-two is a bit much for low totem carnivores…we eat it when we have it but almost never buy meats..husband buys bacon or sausage when on sale to pre-crisis prices..circa 1999. yes, i did notice that here in the States, much more produce and meat items and baking goods went on affordable sale prices for the whole holiday season which starts at Thanksgiving in late November.

    i bartered for some ham butts, the smaller end of piggy’s leg, and ended up with much sliceable meat for wraps and sandwiches, plus morsel sized bits for omelettes and rice or pasta casseroles. a month hence, we are still chowing down on the tender tasty meat..the bones went to lentil soup and beans.

    this season was all about economy, and waste-free foods i am now determined to use it before freezer burn sets in….wish i’ d gotten more chocolate year

  9. the pics are making me hungry, i could dive into the pasta salad bowl, had curried squash for lunch and venison for the past days, wonder if yours is as tender and flavorful as our woody hills game here..

  10. Alyson says:

    Thankfully, money was tight in our household on ‘D’ day, ( I’ve renamed christmas day ‘D’ day- dreaded day), so it was chicken for dinner with all the trimmings,( hubby doesn’t like turkey). 6 in the family and no waste. Whoopee! On the Tuesday, I had to go out shopping to get something for dinner. Best ‘D’ day ever and yes I can wait for it to come round again.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: I find food (of ANY sort) seems to take on a funky tinge if kept in the freezer for too long. But hey, well done you – that’s hardcore, using up meat from a year ago – I salute you! I didn’t eat the venison, but Mr Green was in heaven; it looked absolutely amazing; and so tender. Instead of roasting / baking I cooked it for 1 1/2 hours in wine and stock, then drained it and let sit for 15 minutes. It was melt in the mouth 😉

    @Alyson: Sounds perfect Alyson; glad you enjoyed yourself so much!

  12. Jane says:

    I rarely freeze meat these days. However, if I do freeze it, and then leave it in the freezer too long so that it goes dry, I find the best thing is to cook it slowly with lots of moisture (for example, a nice casserole) to rehydrate it.

    A turkey is too large for us, and I am not keen on turkey anyway, so we have a chicken at Christmas. Leftover chicken is incorporated into our ordinary dinner menus for the next few days until it is all gone. We avoid leftovers at Christmas by ensuring that we buy no more food in total than we would eat normally. We might eat more than usual on Christmas Day, but then find we eat less later to compensate. We only have a very small Christmas pudding, so that we eat it all on Christmas Day with nothing left over. Apart from this, and a few mince pies, we do not have any food that is specially for Christmas, but just eat food that forms part of the normal ingredients for our normal meals anyway.

  13. Jane says:

    There were 8 of us for three days. With the turkey we had masses of vegetables – two sorts of potato, roast parsnips and carrots, sprouts with chestnuts, peas, and leeks in white sauce. We had two different stuffings – chestnut and sweetcorn. There was enough turkey for another couple of meals. Cold sausages disappeared that evening. We all love fried up roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts and carrots. Dauphinoise potatoes I think are nicer cold anyway. The leeks in white sauce were whizzed up into soup and frozen.The stock from the carcase was frozen for later. We had a ham to add to the remains of the turkey the following day. I do wonder at the recommendations for how many a turkey will feed – but can never remember from one year to the next especially when it is often not me doing the cooking. We try and share it each making a contribution.

    Christmas pudding or raspberry pavlova or fruit – lots of satsumas. Nobody seems to be interested in shop bought mince pies and we never got round to cooking any.

    The panettone I took remains uneaten but has a long shelf life and if we don’t eat it as it is I will make a panettone bread and butter pudding which is really yummy in several months’ time. I also brought home a couple of small boxes of chocolates which weren’t eaten and which I needn’t have bought.

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