Keeping it traditional without a splurge
Having a traditional Christmas dinner doesn’t have to mean a splurge on food with lots of unwanted leftovers on Stephen’s / Boxing Day.
Research shows that Christmas is when we waste more food than at any other time of the year. While deciding how much food to buy for a larger than normal crowd on Christmas day can be tricky, having a plan based on how much food you actually need will save on costs and reduce waste.
Here’s our guide to getting the big Christmas shop done - without overdoing it.
1. Make a meal plan
Start by making a three-day meal plan to cover Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s/Boxing day, and base your shopping list on that.
Think about leftovers and if your household will eat them. That can help you decide on the size of your turkey and how much vegetables you need. Here are some leftover recipes if you need some inspiration.
And remember, the shops will be open from December 26th so no need to stock-pile up for weeks.
2. Cupboard staples and kitchen supplies
Before you brave the supermarket for the Christmas food shop, make a shopping list from the ingredients you need for your menu, and check what you have in your cupboards before you go.
Don’t wait till you get to the supermarket to wonder whether your herbs and spices collection has all the sage, thyme, cloves and cinnamon you may need. Likewise, you may already have enough sauces and condiments such as chutneys, honey and mustard to go with cheeses and cold meats you will have.
Also check your drawers for other vital kitchen supplies: tinfoil to cover the turkey, baking parchment, freezer bags for leftovers, disposable foil trays if you don’t have enough roasting trays, cling film to cover leftovers in the fridge. It’s a good idea to get a meat thermometer if you haven’t already got one, so you can check that your turkey is properly cooked.
Every family has their own traditional starter, but many people prefer a no-cook, quick-to-prep smoked fish or shellfish starter. Packs of smoked salmon come in all sizes, so you can make sure you don’t buy more than you need. If you’re having a classic prawn cocktail, allow 50g of prawns per person.
4. What size turkey do you need?
Turkey leftovers are one of the joys of the few days after Christmas, but you don't want more turkey than you can eat - or a turkey that's too small to feed everybody.
When deciding on the size of your turkey, think of how many people you’re cooking for and whether you want any leftovers. Remember children eat less than adults.
Here's a guide to the size of turkey you'll need depending on the size of your group.
4-6 people: a 3-4 kg turkey
6-8 people: a 4-5 kg turkey
8-10 people: a 5-6 kg turkey
5. Buying and storing your turkey
Buy or collect your turkey as close to Christmas as possible and store it in your fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.
If you are ordering a fresh turkey, ask your butcher to store it for you - they can refrigerate it properly - and collect it 2 days before Christmas day. If the turkey is vacuum-packed, you can follow the use-by date. On the journey home, the turkey should be packed separately from ready to eat foods, ideally in a separate cool bag.
Store your turkey in the bottom of the fridge away from other cooked foods and fresh produce to avoid cross contamination.
If you buy a frozen turkey, remember that some turkeys can take up to 3 days to defrost.
6. How much vegetables and stuffing to buy
Sprouts, carrots and parsnips, the traditional Christmas vegetables are best bought fresh as they are in season and often grown locally. A single serving of vegetables should be around 80g, so just buy what you’ll need on the day. For example if you’re having 10 people for dinner just buy 800g – 1kg of vegetables. It’s fair to say though that sprouts are not universally popular, so cut down on unwanted leftovers by only buying and cooking enough for those who like them. That goes for all the trimmings. Try to buy loose vegetables so you can buy the exact amount you need. Frozen vegetables are also an option.
Turkey might be traditional, but the Christmas roasties are often the star of the show. Plan for about 2 medium sized potatoes per person, or 250 grams. For 4 people that would be 1kg, 8 people would be 2 kg and 10 people 2.5kg. Of course potatoes will keep for a few weeks if stored in a cool, dark place, so if it’s better value for money you could still buy a bigger bag.
Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without a festive stuffing side dish. While it’s traditional to cook it inside the turkey, your turkey will cook faster if you cook the stuffing separately. The added advantage here is that you’ll be able to cook more than you would safely fit inside the turkey – plan for around 100g per person.
7. Nibbles and treats
It’s tempting to load up on lots of snacks and sweet treats, especially if you’re having guests. But there's no need to over shop. StopFood Waste.ie has lots of tips to help you stick with your shopping list and not be tempted by the mountains of chocolate and biscuit tins stacked all over the supermarket.
Go to StopFoodWaste.ie for more on planning to reduce food waste this Christmas.