Reduce food waste with the FSA Freezer Fairy this Christmas

This Christmas season follow FSA Freezer Fairy's tips on how to to prepare your festive food in advance and reduce food waste from leftovers by using your freezer. The tips will help you plan meals and work out what and when to cook, freeze and defrost to have a less stressful and wasteful Christmas.

In the run-up to Christmas follow our Freezer Fairy's tips on how to prepare your festive food in advance and reduce food waste from leftovers by making the most of your freezer. These useful tips will help you plan your meals and work out what and when to cook, freeze and defrost to help you have a less stressful and wasteful Christmas.

Freezer Fairy says...

1. Freeze up to the use by date
It’s safe to freeze food up until the use by date. Freezing acts as a pause button. You can freeze pretty much everything. This includes your meats and meals cooked from previously cooked and frozen meat – your Christmas turkey leftovers for example. Once defrosted, the pause button is off. So, just defrost your food as you need it – and eat within 24 hours.

2. Plan portion sizes

Before you plan your Christmas meals, think about how many people you’ll be cooking for and how big the portion sizes should be. This portion plannercovers all sorts of foods and tells you how much you need to cook, so that you can avoid the temptation of buying too much

3. Separate raw foods when shopping

When you do your Christmas food shopping remember to take at least two bags with you so that you can separate out raw and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. A good tip for carrying all of your raw meat safely might be to use a ‘bag for life’. You may need to have an extra-large one if your turkey is big! Here’s some advice on packing food safely when shopping.

4. Cook in advance and freeze

You can get most of your Christmas cooking done weeks in advance by storing cooked foods in the freezer. It’s best to place food in an air tight container or wrap it well in freezer bags, freezer wrap or cling film before freezing it, to stop the cold air from drying it out. Expel as much air from the freezer bags as possible.

Remember that you can also prepare all of your vegetables in advance. If you don't want to spend Christmas morning peeling potatoes, you can parboil them for five minutes, then drain and cool them before freezing. You can do the same with wedges of carrot and parsnip, or even Brussels sprouts, which will need slightly less cooking time than usual.

5. Label food in the freezer

It’s a good idea to date and label any foods that goes into the freezer so you know what it is and how long it has been in there.

Fridge safety tips
  • Cold slows the growth of food poisoning germs, so make sure your fridge temperature is below 5°C.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, store raw turkey and other raw food (eg meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and veg) separately from cooked and ready-to-eat food, covered and chilled on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

Preparing your turkey


Cooking in advance

Cooking your turkey in advance could save you getting stressed out on the day and give you more time with your family and friends. Once your turkey is cooked and cooled, slice and then batch it into portions to store in the freezer. You can then take out what you need when you need it. Just remember that meat previously cooked and frozen should only be reheated once.

Cooking time
  • Make sure you allow time for your turkey to cook thoroughly. There should be no pink meat in the thickest parts and it should be steaming hot with juices running clear.
  • You can use a pop-up cooking thermometer (which is left in the turkey while it cooks). This should be placed in the thickest part of the turkey (between the breast and the thigh) from the start. You’ll know your turkey is cooked when the thermometer 'pops' and has reached a temperature of 70°C for more than 2 minutes.


Cooking from frozen

If your turkey is frozen and you prefer to roast it on Christmas day, make sure you check the guidance well in advance to defrost it according to its size – a typical large turkey weighing 6-7kg could take three days to fully thaw in the fridge.

Always defrost your frozen turkey fully before cooking as partially defrosted turkey may not cook evenly – this means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process. To avoid cross-contamination always put the turkey into a container large enough to catch the defrosted drips.

Defrosting time

Always follow defrosting instructions on the packaging. If there aren’t any, use the times below to work out roughly how long it will take to thaw your turkey:

  • In a fridge at 4°C (39°F), allow around 10-12 hours per kg, but remember that not all fridges will be this temperature.
  • In a cool room (below 17.5°C, 64°F), allow approximately 3-4 hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold.

For more general advice on cooking turkey go to this NHS Choices page

Love your leftovers

To make your festive food go further:

  • If you’ve got any leftovers, you should cool them, then cover and ensure that they go in the fridge or freezer within 1-2 hours. If you have a lot of one type of food, splitting it into smaller portions will help it to cool quickly and means you can freeze and defrost only what you need for future dishes.
  • You can freeze turkey, other meat and meals cooked from previously cooked and frozen meat. But once defrosted, the pause button is off and you should eat the food within 24 hours.
  • You can make your leftovers into new meals and then freeze them. If you're running low on ideas for meals, check out these tasty Christmas leftovers recipes.
  • If you make a new meal such as curry or casserole from the leftovers, then you can also freeze this, even if you are using turkey that was originally frozen.
  • Make sure that when you come to use frozen leftovers, you defrost them thoroughly in the fridge overnight or in a microwave (on the defrost setting) and then reheat until steaming hot.
  • If you have leftover wine you can pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it for use at a later date in sauces, gravy or (if it’s white) even as an alcoholic ice cube to chill your wine.
  • Don’t waste any fresh herbs that are leftover, you can puree and freeze them in an ice cube tray to add to dishes as and when you need them.
  • Don't forget: leftovers should be eaten or frozen within 2 days (one day for rice dishes).

For more advice on what you can do with leftovers visit Love Food Hate Waste website

Watch our Christmas turkey classic

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