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CLIMATE FRIENDLY CHRISTMAS: Tips to save money, reduce waste & shop smart

Keep your holidays merry, bright and green with these tips to plan parties and reduce food waste, with recipes for those inevitable leftovers.


There’s no doubt the holiday season is a time of indulgence and excess when it comes to food – but it doesn’t need to be a time to waste.

Take some time to plan your meals wisely, and learn a few tips to upcycle your leftovers, and you’ll enjoy the holidays with less stress, and save money, too.

Here are a few ideas to ponder, inspired by my latest book, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook:



-       When you’re hosting a cocktail party, remember you’ll only need to provide two or three nibbles (think canapés) per person. Don’t make too much food or too many different items, or it will just go to waste.

-        Simple is better – think cheese and charcuterie, canned fish and crackers, fresh vegetables. A few items on a grazing buffet is far easier than a lot of appetizers that need to be passed.

-       Think about making canapés that freeze well – or can be baked from frozen – like mini quiche, frittata bites or tiny blini to top with smoked salmon.  Then you can pop a tray of treats into the oven if you need more food.

-       Make two or three small versions of a favourite recipe – think mini cheese balls or small ramekins of chicken liver pate – then you can pull out more from the fridge quickly, or save them for another day.

-       Make-ahead dips and slathers can be stored in small jars in the fridge, cheese, bread and charcuterie can be pre-sliced – put out just what you need and replenish your platters as needed.

-       Make sure to tell you guests it’s cocktails (not dinner) so they won’t arrive hungry. Or plan a BYO potluck party – your guests can bring an appetizer, and take any leftovers home with them when the party’s over.

-       Utilize your freezer – shop from the pantry and use what you have on hand, cook and bake what you can in advance, and freeze it to make entertaining easy.


-       Make a list and check it twice – in fact, check your fridge and pantry after you make you list and before you shop to make sure you’re using up what you have on hand first

-       Buy what you need, so you can eat what you buy. Don’t get a 24-pound turkey when a 12-pound bird will do.

-       Simplify the menu. Turkey with the trimmings or roast beef or ham but not all three.

-       Plan for leftovers – pick up tortillas, cheese and avocados for leftover turkey quesadillas or enchiladas; make sure you have eggs and milk on hand for leftover savoury bread pudding to use up your stuffing, or egg noodles for a turkey casserole.


The holiday season is the perfect time to cook once and eat for a week.

-       Your turkey dinner, with trimmings from vegetables to mashed potatoes and stuffing, is delicious when reheated as is – or package turkey  “TV dinners” to freeze and reheat later.

-       Plan to use that leftover turkey, gravy and vegetables in other easy dishes. Try individual turkey pot pies, with mashed potato topping; a Turkey Tetrazzini sauce of gravy and sour cream, seasoned with paprika and parsley, to toss with egg noodles. Oh, and don't forget the hot toasted turkey sandwiches (turkey and gravy on toast), turkey and cheese quesadillas, turkey fried rice,

-       Mash your potatoes and squash together with sautéed onions and ginger for a new side dish; flavour your leftover mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and blue cheese, or mix with a can of salmon and some green onions, to fry into savoury potato cakes for lunch.

-       Chop cooked Brussels sprouts and mash with leftover mashed potatoes and chopped green onion for classic colcannon. Add other leftover cooked and chopped veggies, make into patties and brown in butter (aka Bubble ‘n Squeak)

-       Leftover vegetables can be used in soups, either whole or pureed. Combine leftover pureed carrots or squash with stock, cream and fresh dill for an elegant cream soup.

-       Excess salad greens? Add them to your apple and banana breakfast smoothie, or sauté them in olive oil with garlic for a simple side dish, or a filling for your breakfast omelet

-       Save the turkey carcass for bone broth.  Remove all of the meat from the bones, break up the carcass (you might need two large stock pots, add aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, celery) and some herbs and spices (peppercorns, salt, bay leaves, thyme sprigs ) and lots of water. Then bring it all to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer the stock for several hours, adding a cup of cold water occasionally as it boils away. Strain the stock, cool and freeze to use in soups and sauces later. You can also freeze the bones to make soup later.

-       If you have other meats, ham or cold cuts, think about serving ham and eggs, eggs benedict, or a chorizo, bell pepper and egg scramble for breakfast to use up the excess.  Smoked salmon or goat cheese from your party trays make an awesome addition to scrambled eggs, too.

-       Leftover cranberry sauce? Mix it with sliced apples and make a cranberry apple crumble. Or add it to a smoothie with apples and bananas and almond milk.



See what you can share with others over the holidays.


-       Package up a turkey dinner with the trimmings to share with a single student or neighbor – better yet, invite any “orphans” you know to share your holiday table, and send guests home with leftovers.

-       Look for gleaning groups who will pick up extras after an office party

-        take excess canned, packaged or frozen foods to the food bank. Regift what you don't need, to give others a happy holiday




Cook backwards – when planning your holiday menus, whether it’s Christmas Eve or a party with friends – think about what you have at hand and use it to inspire the dishes you serve.


I am making my bean dip for a party – it’s made with white beans, olive oil, caramelized onions and goat cheese, but I have some nice feta in the fridge, so I think I’ll just use that instead of buying goat cheese. I have onions on hand, and rosemary in the garden, so that’s easy. If there are leftovers, I can toss it with some chunky pasta and cherry tomatoes for an instant dinner. And I can freeze it.


I wasn’t sure what to make for Christmas Eve dinner this year, but when I looked in the freezer, I had ground pork so traditional tourtiere is one possibility.

I also have a variety of frozen fish, from sole to salmon fillets, even some shrimp meat, so I might decide to do some kind of seafood pot pie or a bouilliabaise for Christmas Eve, as it’s a traditional time to serve fish. The fish soup is an easy fix, you can make the tomato and vegetable base in advance, using canned tomatoes from the pantry, and then just add the fish at the last minute. Very flexible and elegant. It’s a great dish to serve for a New Year’s Eve dinner, too.

When you have opened bottles of wine leftover after a party, and lemons from the bar, you can make a nice red wine punch or sangria. Just slice the citrus, combine with the wine in a carafe, with a little sugar and soda water. Simple and nothing is wasted.


The leftover cold cuts from your holiday platters – that artisan salami or black forest ham – and cheese, is great to make toasted Panini sandwiches, in the extra baguette that you bought for your party.

Freeze leftover bread to use later, you can even make a savoury bread pudding with that ham and cheese, and a few eggs, or cut the bread into cubes to stuff the holiday turkey. Leftover cold cuts and cheeses are also great on pizza or flatbreads with tomato sauce or pesto. Get creative!

(Here's a review of my book if you'd like to know more)


Here are some of my favourite recipes to repurposed some of that prepped (aka leftover) food in your fridge after holiday meals. There are lots more ideas in my cookbook, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook (a great holiday gift!)


No one will ever never know you’re using up leftovers when you serve this colourful turkey pot pie with white beans and butternut squash. Cooked chicken or even pork roast could stand in for the turkey in this comforting winter dish. Serves 6.

Turkey pot pie

2 1⁄2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1 lb peeled butternut squash, cubed

2 Tbsp butter

1 medium onion, slivered

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup turkey or chicken stock

2 Tbsp minced fresh sage

1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cooked white beans (or canned white beans, rinsed and drained)

3 cups cubed leftover roast turkey

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cheddar biscuits:

1 cup all-purpose flour 1 tsp baking powder 1⁄2 tsp salt2 Tbsp cold butter

11⁄2 cups grated aged cheddar cheese

2⁄3 cup skim milk

Cayenne or paprika, for dusting

Boil the squash cubes in salted water until just tender, about8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onion for 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the stock and reserved squash-cooking liquid. Bring to a boil. Stir in the sage and pepper and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the beans, turkey, and parsley. Pour over the squash in the dish. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

For the biscuit topping, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Blend in the butter using your hands or a pastry cutter until crumbly. Stir in the cheese and enough milk to form a sticky dough. Drop by the tablespoonful over the turkey mixture in the baking dish.

Bake the pot pie for 25 to 30 minutes, until topping is golden. Dust with cayenne or paprika before serving.

Turkey Pot Pie with Cheddar Crust


This is classic comfort food and a mother recipe that works with all kinds of leftovers. As long as you have cheese, eggs, milk, and fresh herbs, feel free to use any other cooked vegetables, meats, or fish that you have on hand. Make it the night before and bake it for brunch, or whip it together after work for a fast family dinner with salad on the side. Serves 4.

Savoury Bread Pudding — a mother recipe for endless variations.

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped or thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups (2-inch) bread cubes (slightly stale French bread is the best)

2 to 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

3 cups chopped fresh spinach or chard

2 cups grated cheese (Gruyère, Gouda, Fontina, etc.), divided

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1⁄2 tsp salt

1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 (71⁄2 oz) can sockeye salmon, drained

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium, heat the olive oil and slowly cook the onion until soft and caramelized. This will take 30 minutes. Add the garlic halfway through cooking.

In a large bowl, toss the caramelized onion with the bread cubes, dill, and spinach. Mix in 11⁄2 cups of the grated cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt and pepper. Pour this mixture evenly over the bread cubes and stir until most of the egg mixture has been soaked up by the bread.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly rub a deep, 8-inch round or oval casserole dish with olive oil.

Layer half of the bread mixture in the dish.

Break the salmon into chunks and spread evenly on top, then finish with the remaining bread cubes. Sprinkle with the remaining1⁄2 cup of cheese.

Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the pudding is golden brown and crisp on top. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Add your leftover roast turkey to this quick curry sauce and you’ll have a dish reminiscent of your favorite butter chicken from the local curry house. Find garam masala and fenugreek leaves at Indian groceries. This curry is even better reheated the next day, after the flavors have had lots of time to marry. Serves 4-6.

1⁄4 cup butter

1 medium onion, minced

1-inch knob ginger, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp garam masala

1 rounded tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), crushed

11⁄2 cups chicken stock

1 (24 oz) jar plain Italian strained tomatoes

1 tsp Asian chili paste Honey, to tasteSalt, to taste1⁄2 cup heavy cream

2 to 3 cups leftover roast turkey, cut into large cubes

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Hot cooked basmati rice, for serving

In a saucepan over medium, heat the butter, and sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic together for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the garam masala, turmeric, and dried fenugreek, and cook for 1 minute to release the aromas.

Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Stir in the chili paste. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour, until the mixture is thickened. Add a little honey or salt to adjust the balance, and more chili paste if needed.

Stir in the cream and return to a simmer.

Add the leftover turkey and heat through. Add two-thirds of the cilantro, and heat the mixture for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with the hot basmati rice, sprinkled with the remaining cilantro (or chill to reheat and serve a day later).


Savory scones are another “mother recipe” for bits of leftover cooked veggies, cheese, and protein. Add almost any leftover vegetables (grilled peppers, roasted butternut squash, chopped broccoli, caramelized onions, or chopped spinach) or meats (crumbled cooked sausage or bacon, minced ham, or salmon), along with some herbs, green onions, and cheese, to these basic buttermilk scones for the perfect portable breakfast or lunch. Makes 8 large scones.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

11⁄2 tsp salt

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1⁄2 cup chopped cooked broccoli

1⁄4 cup crumbled cooked bacon

1 green onion, minced

1 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (dill, basil, oregano, etc.)

1 cup grated aged cheddar (or Gruyère, Gouda, crumbled blue cheese, feta, etc.)

1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup half-and-half or buttermilk, plus more for brushing

Poppy seeds or sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat

flour, baking powder, salt, and butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir the broccoli and bacon into the flour mixture along with the green onion, herbs, and cheese. Add just enough cream to make a soft dough (depends on how wet the vegetable mixture is), stirring with a fork until the mixture just comes together. Don’t work the dough too much—the less you handle it, the flakier your scones will be.

Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead gently, then pat lightly into a rectangle about 11⁄2 to 2 inches thick. Cut into 4-inch squares, then cut the squares crosswise into triangles (or make round scones with a 3-inch biscuit cutter). Set the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops lightly with extra cream, and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, then transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with butter.

TIP: Think about complementary and classic combinations for the scones when you survey what you have in your fridge—red pepper with oregano and cheddar cheese; spinach with dill and feta; chopped prosciutto or cooked Italian sausage with basil and Parmesan; caramelized onions, cheddar, and thyme; etc. Or just get creative!

©Cinda Chavich 2023


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