Once upon a time, if you didn’t buy enough milk before Christmas, and then ran out on December 25th, you’d have to endure Christmas pudding without custard, no eggnog, and black coffee for 3 days until the shops opened again on the 28th!

Nowadays things are different – the main supermarkets may shut for one day, (not all do) but there are open mini-markets and petrol stations up and down the country, selling everything you could possibly need, often 24/7!

So why do most of us stock up at Christmas as if we were stocking up for a siege? We invent creative ways to chill food and drinks outside, stack the fridge so high that it blocks out the interior light, and can never find the lemon that we know is somewhere on the bottom shelf, for the welcome aperitif!

Feasting at Christmas is part of the festivities, but with a little more thought, we can help our communities, our planet, and our bank balances too.

Food leftovers

The first stage in dealing with food waste, is to not overstock your cupboards in the first place. We all have a few extra things in, just in case an extra couple of guests drop by on Boxing Day, but ask yourself if you are really planning and budgeting your food efficiently. Do you really need 10 lbs of potatoes – just in case – or do you only really need 6?

If you’ve planned well and still have fresh food left over after Christmas, there are many recipes on the internet that offer some tasty options for dealing with Christmas dinner leftovers. Some of our favourite ones are on the BBC Food website here: bit.ly/2KCP9do including a turkey and ham pie, sprout remoulade and a German-inspired potato dish, called Klump.

Secondly, try to clear out your freezer in the run up to Christmas so you can easily store your food and leftovers to enjoy later. Many food items can be frozen and stored for between 3 months and one year. Make sure you let the food cool down to room temperature before putting it in the freezer, and ensure you pack and wrap it properly, labelling it with the contents and the date.

If you have tins, bottles, cans or dried goods which have not been used, think about making a difference by donating them to your local food bank. You might even want to add a couple of extra things to your initial shopping basket too, as many supermarkets have drop-off points where you can donate things directly to the food banks or local pet rescue centres.

Unwanted presents

We all occasionally get an unwanted present that we either don’t like, doesn’t fit or we just can’t use. We don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, but we know that it’s just not us. Estimates vary on the value of returns each year, but it’s generally in the £100 million.
So, if you get an unwanted gift this year, here are some suggestions.

  1. Return it (usually you will need the receipt or gift receipt).
  2. Swap it – either with the shop for something else, or your friends/family.
  3. Sell it – sites like eBay, Gumtree, Wish and Depop are places where you can sell unwanted things from vouchers to clothes. You can also try your local car boot sales which also offer good value for picking up bargains after Christmas.
  4. Donate it – give it to a local charity or your local hospital/children’s home and allow others to use them. Charity shops also help others too, because people can buy things at a reduced price, or items can be shipped to other countries by the charity and redistributed to disadvantaged people who need them instead. Some charity organisations, such as the BHF, will come and collect your unwanted bags, furniture and electricals for free, so it’s worth checking if you can’t actually transport the things you want to donate yourself.
  5. Recycle it – make it into something else or recycle parts of it. If you have toys that you don’t feel could go to a charity shop or be donated to a local hospital or children’s home, then there are some great ideas on the internet for turning some of your old plastic toys into decorative or useful items. Many settings are trying to limit the amount of plastic they have in their setting as part of developing a greener philosophy and practice, so why not think about turning some of those old plastic dinosaurs into plant pots or coat hooks? The children in your setting will love the uniqueness of them and you’ll be saving them from going into landfill too. There are some great ideas at diyprojects.com covering recycling plastic toys, glass bottles and furniture.
  6. Regift it – this is when you pass it on as a gift to someone else.
  7. Bin it – we don’t recommend this one since there will be someone, somewhere, who could usually make use of it, unless it is damaged or faulty. Even then, the recycling centres are now expanding what they recycle, so check with them and your local council too.

Do you have any leftover time?

Not everyone has family and friends to visit, and Christmas can be a lonely time for many. Could you donate any ‘leftover’ hours and make someone’s day?

Crisis at Christmas runs every year and needs people to help run their Christmas shelters for the homeless over the festive season. They need lots of people to cover the shifts at centres around the country, and they also need people with particular skills such as counselling or entertainment skills.

If you fancy doing some volunteering at other times too, Do-it.org is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.

Whatever you do with your leftovers this year, spare a thought for the planet and see if you can’t do something more interesting with them before you head for the bin!

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