By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
If guests are descending on you for Christmas you might benefit from this useful planning tool, which if you decide to follow, I'm sorry to say you will have to start next week.
Three weeks before
Clean out your fridge and make space
It's a hellish job but worth it to make space and be able to find things. Trust me, you'll need the space. Nothing more to be said about that one, it's just worth doing.
Collect your Tupperware
Everyone has a cupboard or drawer full of mismatched plastic containers. Leftovers enable you to roll food from one meal to the next provided it's stored properly. The turkey served on Christmas day can be sliced up and used in sandwiches on Boxing Day, turned into a curry the day after and the carcass is made into stock to put in the freezer and used in soup over winter. You'll need containers for all that stuff so gather it up and be ready.
Stock up on cool bag and blocks ready for the big shop
In the heat of summer, particularly when you're spending so much money on food, you'll need to protect it from the heat and the best way to do that is to transfer all your refrigerated foods straight into cool bags with frozen blocks at the bottom. Milk, cheese, butter, meat and fish should all be stored in cool packs along with salad greens and fresh herbs.
Two weeks before
Plan your meals
With so much Christmas food in the shops It's easy to go mad and buy too much. The best way to avoid that is to plan how many meals you have to make over the holiday period, what you are going to make and for how many people. Doing it like that makes it less overwhelming and you'll tend to buy less and waste less.
Make a List
Running out of ingredients on Christmas Eve is a nightmare so whatever you do, make a list and do not wing it. I've started using a mobile app called Wunderlist which has taken the pain out of shopping. Sync it up with your partner or whoever else helps with the shopping so that if they're on the way home they can whizz into the shops and have the list on hand. For the grocery list use your meal planner, and any recipes you may be using, to type in all the ingredients you'll need. Include those you know you already have in the cupboard and once the list is complete you can check you have enough of everything in the cupboard - Olive oil, condiments, jams and spreads etc. As you work through the list and tick each item off one by one you'll hear what I call a little ping of pleasure. A satisfying sound to tell you you're on your way to success!
Pre-order and arrange a time to pick up protein and seafood
Unless you love being part of the scramble at the seafood markets on Christmas day, you're always better ordering what you need a week or so in advance from the butcher and fish shop. Schedule a time to pick up and even though you may have to wait in a queue it makes the process much easier for both you and the person serving.
Shop for all the non-perishable items
Include toilet rolls, condiments, Christmas crackers, napkins, alcohol, and basically all the heavy cumbersome things. Take your Wunderlist and hear the ping, ping, ping of pleasure!
Pick up meat and seafood
Better still, give that job to someone else to do
Buy your fresh produce
Now the fun bit begins and it's time to take a serious sweep through the greengrocer's. It's Christmas so you'll want to festoon the house with bowls of cherries and nuts. A tray of mangoes will always be eaten by the hoards coming into the house. Lemons and limes are an essential as you'll need them for drinks, to cut the flavour in gravy, dressings and fruit salad. Salad greens and asparagus are your ingredients for easy summer lunches. You'll need a small handful of greens per person decorated with fennel, small truss tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and a sprinkle of seeds. Buy extra bread you can throw in the freezer and a Pandoro which is great for afternoon drop ins, and to knock up a quick dessert with fresh fruit and yoghurt. If you're going down the road of a traditional roast, you'll need potatoes, Kent pumpkin (my absolute favourite) green beans, and fresh sage for the stuffing. Brussels sprouts are out of season so, as tempting as it is for all you Brits, I wouldn't buy them! Berries for pavlova is a must and loads of other stone fruit for that killer fruit salad. Leftover turkey turned into curry will work well with eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini.
And finally, if you skip dinner at night after eating a huge lunch, feed hungry guests with a big breakfast complete with eggs with spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Congratulate yourself for making it through another year!
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