Cancelled plans, closed ports… How to avoid food waste this Christmas

Cancelled plans, closed ports and a possible no-deal Brexit are all causing concerns when it comes to our food and drink.

This Christmas we’re mainly going to be in one of two camps. Either we were planning to host Christmas for people who now can’t come, or we were due to visit family and friends but now can’t go. I imagine very few won’t be effected by the rule change.

Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s heartbreaking. But sadly there’s not much we can do about that. But we can take action to prevent one of the consequences of this cancelled or truncated Christmas.

One huge knock-on is the impact it has on the food we have or don’t have.

If you’ve planned to cater for a houseful for up to five days but now either can’t have anyone (Tier 4) or are limited to just a single day, that’s a lot of food that isn’t going to get eaten.

In a year when food poverty has been rising in the UK, it sickens me to think of perfectly good grub going in the bin.

So I’ve got a few ways you can either get that food to those who need it, or help it last beyond it’s expiration date.

Of course, the changes also mean there will be people who expected to be catered for but now need to get to get their own supplies in. And that’s been made a lot harder by the blockade of UK freight to France less than two weeks before a potential no-deal Brexit.

Social media is already awash with pictures of empty shelves as people panic buy, but that’s something you should be avoiding. I’ve more on this below too.

You have a few options for your surplus grub. Anything with a decent date can be donated to foodbanks. Often the drop off point is at a local supermarket, but some foodbanks accept drop-offs directly.

It’s worth bearing in mind they are often run and operated by volunteers – and many won’t be open every day, especially around Christmas. You can check details for many via the Trussell Trust website.

If it looks like it’s too late and the dates are good enough, then just keep it in a bag to drop off in the New Year.

You could also check to see if other local charities, such as ones for homelessness, are accepting anything.

Give fresh food away locally

You can’t give fresh food to foodbanks, but you can put it on the sharing app Olio. You simply take a picture of the produce, share the pickup location and list it.

There are also “Food Waste heroes” who collect surplus stock from local businesses (eg Pret) and list those items on the app.

Other Olio users can see what is up for grabs near them and request the item. If you accept you set up when they can collect it.

Food can’t be past its use by or best before date. It’s completely free, and you can list non-food items too if you want.

Of course, it’s success does depend on how many people use it, so if you are listing items it could be worth sharing on your Facebook page or telling neighbours and friends about it so they sign up and do the same.

Freeze as much as you can

If you have space in the freezer you’ll also be able to prevent waste and not be out of pocket.

Obviously there are leftovers that can be bagged up and frozen – so you can still cook that turkey and not have to eat it in some form for every meal over the following days.

You should also be able to freeze most other things you’ve bought if it’s unlikely they’ll now be needed. Just check the packaging to make sure it’s ok. You can freeze a lot more than you’d expect, as I’ve outlined in this blogpost.

Plus, if space is looking tight in the freezer, here’s an article I wrote with a few hacks to help you get more in..

Don’t panic buy

The shops were already getting busy with people realising they now needed to cater for their own Christmas before the ports were closed for freight.

The longer we can’t get fresh produce into the country, the more likely there will be shortages on fresh foods.

That’s not great. But it’s not a reason to go crazy in the aisles.

For a start, the immediate shortages are only going to be on fresh items – certain fruit and veg that we get from the continent. A lack of lettuce or lemons will be inconvenient, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Now, these foods don’t really lend themselves to stockpiling. If you do panic buy there’s a good chance you’ll get more than you can use -leading to more in the bin than in your belly.

And when it comes to Brexit, deal or no-deal, supermarkets have been preparing for this for a while so we should have supplies of toilet roll for a while yet.

Yes it makes sense to have an emergency stockpile for a few weeks (as we’ve seen this year), but hoarding too can have consequences too.

If people who can afford it clear the shelves now, it means there’s nothing left for those on a budget who can only afford to shop on a weekly basis.

Of course we could be looking at price increases on certain imported produce after January 1st, but I’d urge you to think twice before building up too large a stockpile of these items.


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