Plan ahead and cut back on Christmas food waste

With just four weeks to go to Christmas, Scotland’s Food Secretary Richard Lochhead has called on people to be less wasteful this festive season after he revealed that, on average, the equivalent of 280,000 turkeys are thrown away in Scotland every December.

Published 4th Dec 2015
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

The Cabinet Secretary teamed up with celebrity chef Tony Singh in Edinburgh this week to encourage shoppers to plan ahead and think carefully about what they need for this year’s Christmas dinner.

Just last month Mr Lochhead announced his intention to set a food waste reduction target for Scotland, and he is determined that people should start putting this into practice at a time of year when around 50,000 tonnes of food and drink go to waste in just one month.

He said: “Christmas is fast approaching – just four weeks to go – and at this exciting time of year many people across the country will be starting to plan their festive menus and thinking about what food they’ll buy to see them through the season.

“Let’s enjoy the season, and let’s also be careful about what we need in order to avoid too much food going straight from the fridge to the bin. Scotland throws away 50,000 tonnes of food and drink in December – and the equivalent of 280,000 turkeys and 3.5 million mince pies. If we can avoid that, we’re not only doing our bit for the environment, creating a cleaner, greener Scotland, but we also might find we’re a bit better off come January – and that’s a Christmas bonus we’d all enjoy.”

Tony Singh, who has appeared on the BBC’s Great British Menu, said: “It’s great to be working with the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland on this fun and festive food waste reduction campaign – it’s an extremely important message, and I have prepared some festive leftover recipes to keep the cooks inspired after Christmas Day.

“I hope that by sharing some of the experience I’ve gained in more than 25 years of working in the restaurant trade, I can really help people to reduce their food waste at Christmas, as well as save a considerable chunk off their festive food bill.”

The advice comes as part of European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) which encourages people throughout Europe – including public authorities, private companies and the general public – to arrange activities which promote the importance of reducing waste. In Scotland, more than 100 EWWR events have been scheduled, demonstrating the crucial role that waste reduction plays in reducing carbon emissions and boosting the economy.


Tony Singh’s Top Tips for reducing festive food waste

Tony’s tip 1.

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“You can keep waste to an absolute minimum when cooking Christmas dinner – as well as avoid putting people off their dessert – by calculating and controlling portion size. Do a few simple calculations based on your Christmas Day guest numbers. In the restaurant trade, we create recipes around a basic adult or child size portion. You can do this by applying a simple formula of 140g turkey (100g for a child), two tablespoons of carrots (one for a child), two florets of cauliflower (one for a child), four brussels sprouts and one parsnip (1/2 for a child), to each portion.

"Multiply that quantity by the number of guests you’re entertaining and you will be able to accurately work out your requirements and therefore cut down on your food waste very easily. The key thing to remember is don’t be tempted to overload your guests’ plates. Being presented with much food can be off-putting and can end up wasted – it’s far better to allow people to ask for more if they want it.”

Tony’s tip # 2.

“Don’t worry if you overestimate slightly and make a bit too much on Christmas Day itself. You can continue to plan ahead for the days following Christmas by keeping your festive leftovers aside to make some very quick, easy and healthy recipes that I’ve created exclusively for this campaign.

"Let’s face it - no one can really be bothered cooking on Boxing Day and, in any case, people are usually looking for something a bit lighter. My noodle & turkey broth, healthy veggie & tomato curry or turkey and slaw baguette are the perfect day-after antidote to a heavy Christmas dinner!”

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Tony’s tip # 3.

“Only attempt a Christmas shop if you’re first of all armed with a very specific shopping list, based on your pre-calculations. That way, if you’re tempted by one or two additional special offers, they’re less likely to go to waste since you’re not buying an excess of the other essentials. Remember to check your cupboards first too, as you may already have a lot of the ingredients you need. It goes without saying that you should check the use-by dates on fresh items, and buy the freshest you can find on the shelves, usually stocked towards the back.

"Make a conscious decision not to get sucked in by the glossy advertising, marketing and special offers around Christmas time. Stay focused and only buy what you need on your list.”

Tony’s tip # 4.

“Think ahead about your guests’ preferences. If you know you don’t have any Christmas pudding fans, don’t buy any! Instead, base your dessert choices around the things you know your guests will enjoy, and if you don’t know, ask! Be creative – perhaps a chocolate yule log or a simple trifle would be better-received, and again, calculate the quantity needed by multiplying the number of portions by the number of guests.

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"Leftover cheese needn’t be wasted either – it freezes very well and can be kept frozen until you need it later, perhaps at New Year.”

Tony’s tip # 5.

“Think like a professional chef, save time and reduce the hassle on Christmas Day by preparing as much in advance as possible. By washing, chopping, bagging and freezing your veg in advance – such as sprouts and carrots – you can save a lot of time and they will retain the same nutritional value as if you prepared them from fresh.”

Tony’s tip # 6.

“Buy local produce wherever possible – it’s a good idea to place an advance order with your local grocer or butcher for exactly what you need by a specific time, so that you’re not tempted by last-minute bargains during a panic-stricken trip to the shops, which may otherwise end up wasted. And don’t throw out your leftover mince pies – check the use-by date, and if you know you’re not going to eat them, save them and take them into work for your sweet-toothed colleagues post-New Year!”

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