Zero Waste Christmas Dinner
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas... It’s getting cold now, and the gorgeous glowing lights have started to pop up all over town. There are spectacular markets all around with amazing food and mulled wine too! This time of year is utterly magical. When I think of Christmas I imagine all of these things - but, the most important thing that comes to mind is Christmas dinner. That’s why we wanted to put together this handy guide for a tasty zero waste Christmas dinner!
A family dinner at Christmas time is arguably the most important part of the day, but where do you begin? Well, the star of the show of course. There are so many different directions you can take for a big dinner. A vegan mushroom wellington? Perhaps you’ve decided to make a pie of sorts to have as your main. And, of course, there’s always the option of a big fat turkey.
When planning your plastic-free meal, you’ll need to consider what ingredients you need before purchasing. You’ll also need to consider how many people are eating. Last year 4.2 million Christmas dinners were scraped in the bin. So, if you’re going for turkey this year - make sure it’s not too big. Zero waste goes beyond just packaging and compost, it’s also about taking defensive action to stop waste before it happens.
The best way to prepare before you cook is to write a list of all of your necessary ingredients (and how many people will be eating them) and focus on where the best place to source those ingredients would be. Sometimes it’s best to call shops ahead to make sure they have what you’re looking for.
Christmas Turkey - 0.4kg per person - Local Butcher
Potatoes - 5 oz per person - Local Plastic-Free Veg Shop
Vegetables - Seasonal Options - Broccoli, Cabbage, etc. - - Local Plastic-Free Veg Shop
Flour & Other Dry Ingredients - According to recipe - Zero Waste Bulk Store
Christmas Pudding - Try making something homemade this year to cut down your waste
If you don’t live near a zero waste shop or plastic-free veg shop don’t worry. I like to go to the grocery store during my planning stage and see what vegetables they have that are not packaged and build my menu around this. If you don’t live near a zero waste shop or have mobility restrictions, you can always check out Plastic Free Pantry - they deliver items directly to your door!
As for items like flour, sugar and other ingredients that I would usually purchase at my local Zero-Waste shop, you can often find versions of these in paper bags at your usual grocery store. This is a great alternative to a plastic-wrapped option. Just don’t forget your reusable bags to carry everything home in!
Cooking on the Day:
Congrats! You have got everything you need and you’ve checked off your list. Now, it’s time to cook. When your day commences you’ll most likely want to jump right in, but it’s always best to have a cuppa and asses the situation first.
I start my cooking with prepping the veggies while my compost bin is at my side. It’s inevitable that you will create some food waste during this dinner, but it doesn’t have to be “wasted”! If you don’t compost, you can also save all of your veggie scraps up and use them for a delicious vegetable stock! Every piece of the vegetable can be used here, you just throw it all in a pot and boil for a few hours. You can then pour it into reusable containers and freeze it or use it right away (you can even use it in your Christmas dinner if you prep the vegetables a day before)!
When you’re cooking a big meal, there is going to be mess involved. A lot of households use paper towels for quick and easy clean-ups. While that’s a convenient option, it’s not very good for the planet. In the U.S. alone, they used more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels in 2017 and that number has grown steadily. There is such an easy alternative here - cloths! I know that sounds silly, but it really has a huge impact. Ditch the paper towels this year and keep some reusable and compostable cloths around instead.
So now that you’re focused on cooking, placing food scraps in the compost and you’re cleaning up the eco-friendly way - the next step is getting ready for people to arrive!
Setting the table:
When your friends and family turn up at your door, you’ll want to make sure a few things are ready. Decor is something that most people don’t want to skip. There are so many items on the market today, little plastic trinkets to adorn your home with to bring some Christmas cheer. Although cute, they are destructive. Our planet has enough plastic and we don’t need to continue to encourage corporations to keep producing more cheaply made plastic Santas for you to throw away once the holiday season has ended. There are great alternatives to these options that are natural and some are even biodegradable too!
Natural wreaths, mistletoe, winter berries, poinsettias, pinecones and more which all make for gorgeous decorations. Bring the winter vibes inside! There are also gorgeous candles that are plastic-free and sustainable. Candles not only create a gorgeous setting, but they make the room smell delightful as well. Using these natural elements to decorate your home creates a very magical and familiar feeling that we all love whilst being festive too. You can also get creative with your decoration check out these 5 ideas!
The table has to be set! When setting the table up for your guests, you’ll need to make sure everyone has space, a knife, fork, plate and a way to wipe their face. Whip out the plates, silverware & glasses. If it can be used again - that’s the way to go. Many families use plastic forks or napkins without a second thought, but it really does have an impact on our planet. If you don’t have enough of these utensils and dishes in your home already, why not check around some charity shops? Or call a friend and ask to borrow theirs. There are even companies like Lunavyrn who rent out reusable party kits
Whilst you are dishing up plates, it’s an excellent opportunity to encourage your guests to not serve themselves more than they can eat. You can always go back for another portion, but most of the time, once it’s on your plate and you can not finish it - it will end up in the bin.
The gift of giving:
Once your Christmas dinner has finished, you’ll probably have some food leftovers. That’s okay! There are so many joys that come with leftovers - and it lets you feel like Christmas hasn’t really ended. You can also package some up in reusable jars and containers for your guests to take home with them.
On Boxing Day we love to throw together a Bubble & Squeak for breakfast. Just take all of your leftovers (and a lot of potatoes) mash them up together and give them a light fry.
If you and your family and friends have eaten as much as they can and you still have food left - have no fear. We like to package our food up in little compostable boxes and give them to our local homeless shelters. Depending on where you live, there are some regulations about dropping off home-cooked food at shelters, so make sure to check first before swinging by.
Bonus Section - Presents:
It’s very likely that there will be an exchange of gifts during your Christmas celebration. We’ve put together a list of Zero Waste Christmas Gifts!
- Spa Day Voucher
- Shampoo Bar
- A Homemade Meal
- A Donation in Their Name
- Handmade Hats
- Handmade Scarfs
- DIY Makeup
- Beeswax Wraps
- Bamboo Toothbrush
- Vegan Soap
- Clothing from a Charity Shop
Christmas is a magical time. It’s a time to be with friends and family and share and celebrate. Keeping the planet in mind during the holiday season will have a positive impact. Little swaps and changes mean the world. We’ve only got one planet, let’s celebrate it this Christmas.