How to reduce food waste this Christmas, from food-saving products to cooking tips

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 7 Dec 2021

There’s a lot of pressure to go “all out” during the holiday season. That means decking out the house in decorations, buying stacks of gifts to put under the tree, and having a Christmas feast fit for royalty.

With all this consumption comes a lot of waste, including all the Christmas leftovers that end up in the bin. We’ve outlined some tips on how to reduce or even stop food waste over the holiday period, so that we can go a little easier on our wallets, our stomachs, and the planet.

A woman pouring a drink for a man at a table set with a Christmas dinner.

How much food is wasted at Christmas?

Australians waste 7.6 million tonnes of food per year, and 70 percent of that food is perfectly edible. Christmas waste statistics are even more staggering. Our waste increases by 30 percent over the holiday period, with 90 percent of Aussies throwing out over 25 percent of their food during the festive season.

Food waste not only unnecessarily drains our finances but also has pretty significant environmental impacts, both in the resources taken to produce food and how we manage food waste.

For some, this means that unfortunately the joy of Christmas can be overshadowed by the guilt of wasting so much. Luckily, there are a variety of ways we can tackle the wastage of food.

How can we reduce Christmas waste?

1. Confirm your guests.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but making sure that you’re catering for the right amount of people will be extremely helpful to help you determine portion sizes and figure out exactly how much food you need.

2. Make space.

Clean out your fridge and pantry before Christmas, and try to make recipes that use the existing ingredients you have. You might end up finding food you didn’t even know you had, which can help prevent you from buying something that you already have enough of.

3. Make a shopping list - and check it twice.

Having a precise shopping list can prevent you from getting sidetracked at the supermarket. Over the top Christmas advertising and store displays can make you buy more than you intend - and much more than you need.

Stick to what you’ve put on your list. Buying a bag of potatoes because it works out to be a little cheaper than buying them loose may not be worth it if you can’t get through the whole sack.

Also, don’t forget your reusable shopping bags! You can even go one step further and opt to buy items with minimal packaging or packaging that’s made from recycled or recyclable materials.

4. Set the table a little differently.

Forgo the Christmas crackers - they give you about a minute of fun and all the novelty plastic gifts usually end up in the bin anyway. If you want to keep up the tradition, you can try making your own with toilet paper rolls, brown butcher’s paper, and string - and you can fill them with things that your guests will actually want to keep.

5. Reuse your leftovers.

A person chopping up fresh vegetables in their kitchen.

If you find yourself with huge amounts of leftovers on Boxing Day, then get creative with your food. You can turn roast potatoes and veggies into fritters, use meats in pies, and crumble your Christmas cookies and pies into ice cream if you get tired of having the same meal over and over.

Having an arsenal of recipes that let you make the most of leftover food and overripe food won’t just be handy come Christmas, but will help you reduce waste all year round.

We’ve also got some products below that can help you preserve leftover food so that you can breathe new life into them, or just save them for a later date.

Products that can help you tackle food waste

Compost bins · See All

Composting systems have environmental benefits that go well beyond your own backyard. Aside from being able to make fertiliser for your lawn and garden, they can reduce the amount of rubbish you send to landfill. Reducing the amount of organic matter in landfill also results in the reduction of methane emissions produced.

A black and green Maze compost tumbler.
The Maze 245L 2 Compartment Compost Tumbler has a 4.2 star ProductReview.com.au rating, and lets you turn food waste and garden scraps into nutrient-dense compost.

The Tumbleweed Worm Cafe worm farm.
Those who don’t have any garden waste may find a worm farm, such as the Tumbleweed Worm Cafe, more practical for apartment living.

You might also want to consider a Bokashi system, such as the Bokashi Composting Australia Bokashi One Bucket, which involves fermenting rather than decomposing your food scraps. A Bokashi fermenting system can be kept in your kitchen or laundry.

Food sealers · See All

Food sealers let you vacuum seal your leftovers so that they stay fresher for longer when stored in your fridge or freezer. Depending on what you’re sealing and storing, some foods can last up to a year or two.

A black Luvele food sealer.
The Luvele Supreme LSVS130G lets you extend the freshness of your food for up to 5 times longer than it’d last in regular storage, and has a 5.0 star ProductReview.com.au rating.

A Foodsaver vacuum sealer being used to seal soups and stews in a kitchen.
If you want to store moist foods like leftover stews and marinades, the FoodSaver Controlled Seal VS7850 has been praised by reviewers for its ability to easily package more watery meals.

Food dehydrators · See All

A food dehydrator lets you turn fruits, veggies, meat, and herbs into anything from soup powders to jerkies, which last a lot longer than fresh food. Like food sealers, these appliances often also come with a recipe book to help you kickstart your dehydrating adventures.

A BioChef food dehydrator.
The BioChef Arizona has a 4.6 star rating on ProductReview.com.au, and also lets you prove dough and yoghurt as well as dehydrate food.

An Ezi Dri food dehydrator.
With a 4.0 star rating on our site, the Ezi Dri Snackmaker Drier has a set-and-forget function so that you can dehydrate food overnight.

Other products that can help in reducing food waste

  • An airtight food storage container keeps moisture and humidity out, so your food doesn’t go off as quickly.
  • Produce freshness pods can slow down the ripening process of some fruits and vegetables (namely those that produce ethylene gas, such as apples, bananas, and peaches), so that they stay fresher for longer.
  • Fermenting kits make it easy to ferment and pickle vegetables, increasing their shelf life considerably. Depending on what you want to ferment, you can buy a whole starter kit or just a fermentation container, like the Schmitt Fermentation Crock 5L. You can use these kits to pickle the extra onion, cabbage, carrot (need I go on?) that you may have bought too much of.
  • A waterbath canning set can let you preserve high-acid foods, letting you make pickles and shelf-stable jars in the comfort of your home.

Tips for Christmas Day

  • Turn your fridge temperature down by 1 to 2°C once your fridge is very full. This will help keep everything cool as you’ll likely be opening the fridge a lot more often over Christmas.
  • Let guests serve themselves. No host wants their guests to go hungry, which is why we tend to overfill the plates of our loved ones, which generally means more food in the bin. Letting guests serve themselves helps ensure they only take as much as they can eat; they can always go back for seconds if they decide they want more.
  • Get your leftovers in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. Bag up remaining food in Tupperware and zip lock bags to keep them as fresh as possible, so they’ll last you for at least the next few meals.
  • Know what you can freeze. You’d be surprised at how many foods will last when put in the freezer. Your ham can last up to 2 to 3 months in the freezer, as will your seafood.

Wrapping up

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your efforts to reduce waste, then take a step back and have a bit of a breather.

Different households will have different challenges when tackling food waste, so don’t feel bad if you’re having trouble being more eco-friendly. A young person living in a sharehouse who only needs to shop for themselves may have more time to set up compost bins and vacuum seal food than a parent shopping for a whole family and juggling a million different responsibilities around Christmas.

The best time to start thinking about solutions to food waste and putting these into practice is now. You don’t have to start with big leaps and jumps; small changes in how you buy, prepare, and dispose of food are more sustainable to keep up in the long run, and in turn will likely be more fulfilling for you.

This article is the second part of a two-part series on reducing waste at Christmas. You can read the first part of this series about how to be more eco-friendly when you’re gift giving here.