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Ham it up: What to do with your Christmas leftovers

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We all love abundance, and for many of us, this is what Christmas is all about. Many people who have gone through difficult times this year were looking forward to splurging a bit at Christmas, which meant a big spread on Christmas Day.

But now that the plum pudding has been eaten and the guests have gone home, hosts are now surveying the crumbs of the remaining feast and pondering: what on earth are we going to do with all of this?

Avoid over-catering

what to do with christmas leftovers ham turkey

Over-catering affects not only our wallets but also our environment. The average Aussie household wastes 12.7% of the food they buy, which costs the nation $10.3 billion each year and produces large amounts of methane in landfill.

The best way to avoid food waste at Christmas is not to buy too much in the first place.  While that sounds obvious, it's easy to get caught up in the buying fever.  Even I find myself thinking, "Ooh, I'll just buy some mince pies and stollen, and another Christmas cake and maybe an extra big ham - just in case."

Before popping those extra items in your shopping trolley next year, ask yourself some questions.

Are your guests going to eat five desserts, or just one or two?  Are they going to eat a whole leg of ham and a large turkey?  If you were going to a restaurant and eating two or three courses, how much food what that be?  Are you catering for more than that?

Use the freezer

When doing the clean-up after the Christmas feast, immediately freeze what you are not likely to eat in the next few days. (Note: I'm assuming you're not exhausted, and that you are not handling both catering and cleaning up single-handed.)

Slice the ham and turkey and place in clear plastic containers and freeze.  Freeze that ham bone as well - it will be great for ham and pea soup in the cooler months.  You can also freeze many cooked vegetables, but not salads. It's best not to refreeze seafood.

Gobble up the turkey

Use turkey the same way as chicken.  Make fancy focaccia melts with cranberry sauce and swiss cheese.  Shred and place turkey in lettuce cups to create mini san choy bau, or stuff into crusty bread rolls with fresh coleslaw.  Assemble cold slices on a charcuterie board or serve with the leftover salads.  Chop and add to pasta along with the first real tomatoes of the season and basil.

Make sure to keep any bones from a roast.  Boil them up to make a soup stock and freeze for future use or make a risotto.

Ham

While not everyone eats pork, for those who do ham is part of the rite of an Aussie Christmas.  Make it a feature of your Boxing Day feasts.  Start the day with a brunch by making ham and zucchini fritters with feta cheese and mint (I like to make these in a piemaker). Omelettes packed with ham, cheese and basil are another brunch favourite, and it's hard to go past an old-fashioned zucchini slice made with ham instead of bacon.    And if you're travelling, make sure to pack a ham sandwich for the road.

Seafood

When in doubt, throw it out.  If your prawns and seafood platter have been out of the fridge for several hours, dispose of them to prevent the risk of food poisoning.  Instead, present seafood on a bed of ice or only display for a short amount of time.

Desserts

Sadly, it's often the desserts that get thrown out after Christmas Day.

Christmas cake can be eaten slowly with visitors over coming weeks, and plum pudding stores for a long time as well.  Pavlova, with its lashings of fresh cream and fresh fruit, does not generally look appealing the next day.  But the meringue and cream freeze well, as do most of the fruit, so mush it up with softened vanilla ice-cream, place in an ice-cream container (or go fancy with a pudding basin or mould) and freeze for a post-Christmas treat.

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Serina Bird is a proud frugalista who has amassed a million dollars through frugal living. Serina's first book, The Joyful Frugalista, is out now. She blogs at The Joyful Frugalista, and her podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Serina is the founder of the The Joyful Business Club.
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