Food & DrinkFill your stomach, not the container: how to reduce...

Fill your stomach, not the container: how to reduce food waste at Christmas lunches and dinners


Whether they were food forgotten at the bottom of the pantry or in the most inaccessible corner of the fridge, expired products, fruits and vegetables spoiled for not having eaten them on time and a long etcetera, the reality is that we do not consume a large part of the supplies we we buy. And where do they end? In the trash. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in 2020 each Spaniard threw away an average of 31 kilos/liters of food, representing a total of 1,354 million.   

There is no better time to illustrate the situation than dates like these, Christmas, when everything seems to revolve around tables overflowing with food. Whether it’s because we eat out of the house and order more than necessary for the celebration or by putting on the apron ourselves and miscalculating the quantities (usually being more diners than usual), it is easy for much of the food that has accompanied during lunch or dinner ends up in the trash. What can we do to prevent it? 

Anna Bach and Alicia Aguilar, teachers and researchers at the Foodlab at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) propose six tips to try not to ‘pack’ the container at the end of the street with Christmas culinary delights. 

Is there a menu prepared? Make a list of the ingredients needed to cook it

To avoid coming home with a huge hodgepodge of products without a trade or benefit, it is better to go shopping with a ready shot with a prepared shopping list. For this it is useful to break down the lunch or dinner menu. 

What ingredients will we need to prepare it? In case you want to add some other entree, which ones do we want? It is better that our stomach does not decide for us in the supermarket aisles, that is, not go shopping hungry. “This is especially important for fresh produce, which has a shorter shelf life,” the experts point out. 

Pay attention to the preservation of products

Eggs are not preserved the same as potatoes or fruit. Neither do yogurts and different types of milk. And if we talk about processed products, in which it is the manufacturers who indicate the necessary specifications, we get together with a complete instruction manual. 

“You have to read the labels, check the expiration dates and follow the conservation recommendations (in the fridge, freezer or cupboards), depending on the type of product”, point out Bach and Aguilar. If you want advice on how to start, at we explain the best way to organize the fridge, both so that the products do not spoil and to guarantee their food safety. 

Be careful with the amount in the portions 

The advice from the experts is to check the pantry before you buy and plan to reduce impulse buying. And, of course, organize the menu based on the number of guests. Once we have the dish on the table, pay attention to the portions you distribute: in case there is leftover food in the container, it can be saved and reused another time, but if it is left over once on the plate, it will probably end up in the trash.

“Therefore, you have to think before filling your plate (calculate what you will eat) without going too far”, point out the UOC professors. What are we left hungry? There will always be time to take an extra scoop, portion or tablespoon. In case the feast is made in a restaurant and over food, she remembers that you can ask to be prepared to take away

Have you left over? To the freezer…

You have made a list and have tried to stick to it. You have adjusted portions and distributed the appropriate amount on each plate. Even so, there is food left over that you probably won’t eat for the next few days. Solution? Freeze it. 

“If done well, it is a preservation method that allows us to lengthen the consumption time of a food without losing nutritional value,” the experts recall. In addition, they propose a piece of advice: freeze in containers that contain the rations that will later be consumed. If they are individual, they can facilitate situations such as taking the food container to work, for example. 

Not only can you freeze the most elaborate dish: at we also explain how to do it with bread and pastries, eggs, potatoes and why it is especially important in foods like fish. When defrosting, remember: better in the fridge than on the counter. 

If you plan to eat the leftovers during the same day or the following, just keep them in the fridge. Of course, do not wait long to save them, better before the desktop. 

… or back to a new recipe

Another recommendation is to use leftovers as ingredients in different recipes. Who has not made croquettes with the remains of the stew or roast chicken? First year of home cooking. The same happens with the puree based on the vegetables that have been made as a garnish or the potato omelette or sausage sandwich with the remains of their respective dishes: there are options to give and give away. In fact, did you know that the origin of the cannelloni has to do with reusing the remains of the roast? What’s more, it is one of the typical Christmas dishes in Catalonia precisely for this reason, as explained by the popularizer Alfred Lopez. 

Above all, consume responsibly

“In general, local and seasonal consumption improves the lives of small farming communities, increases biodiversity, requires less energy for transport, is good value for money, and contributes to healthy eating,” the experts point out. 

On the other hand, they recommend avoiding food with plastic packaging and opting for more sustainable ones such as cardboard or using only recyclable packaging: “You have to find how to avoid packaging waste, which, like food waste, is a way to contribute to food sustainability.

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