Prepare Christmas dinner in advance
How would it feel to know, weeks or even a month before Christmas, that the majority of your Christmas dinner had been prepared in advance? We spoke to self-confessed “freezer geek” and anti food waste advocate Kate Hall of The Full Freezer, to get the lowdown on how to prepare your Christmas dinner in advance, and what the personal and environmental benefits are of this kind of forward planning.
8 minutes to read
What are the benefits of preparing Christmas dinner in advance?
There are a few key benefits of preparing your Christmas dinner in advance. From food waste reduction to alleviating stress and being able to spend more time with your loved ones on the big day.
One of the biggest benefits of preparing your Christmas dinner in advance is avoiding the food waste that is associated with Christmas.
But how can preparing your Christmas dinner in advance actually help reduce these numbers?
This is where your freezer comes in! By preparing and freezing as much of your Christmas dinner as possible in advance, you can save food by:
- Only cooking what is needed on the day. If you’ve prepared a meal for 10 people and only 8 end up coming, you can leave those final two portions in the freezer, ready for an easy January or February Sunday roast.
- Using up what’s in your fridge now. Have you bought a bag of carrots (or any other veg!) in your weekly shop and only used one or two? No problem! Rather than throwing them away when they start to go bendy, you can prep and freeze them now, safe in the knowledge you’re all set for Christmas.
- Rescuing “orange/yellow label” food. Instead of doing a huge shop for your Christmas food now, consider buying reduced items in the supermarket now. Then you can feel like a food waste superhero, swooping down to rescue food that would go to waste, AND you can get it prepped and frozen so you don’t have to scrabble for four bags of potatoes on Christmas Eve.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have everything pre-prepared on Christmas day so you can relax with a glass of something cold or a mug of something hot, catch up with your guests, and know that your meal is sorted?
By preparing and freezing your Christmas food in advance, your day will become a lot more relaxed, with more hours to actually enjoy the fact it’s Christmas.
By preparing in advance, you can also be flexible around preparation, too. You won’t need to do one mammoth preparation session (no 5 am Christmas day wake up to peel the spuds!). You could simply just prep one or two things per week and hey presto, you’ve got yourself a few hours back on Christmas Day!
This method can also help to ease any anxiety you may have about whether there are going to be shortages of your favourite items closer to the time.
So, you’ve saved food, and saved time, how about saving a bit of money too?
If you prepare your Christmas dinner in advance you can save money by:
- Buying reduced items. As we touched on above, buying reduced items that would otherwise be binned by the supermarkets is a great way to save some money whilst preparing your Christmas dinner in advance.
- Buying in season. If you’re really organised, you can buy local produce that’s in season and freeze it ready for Christmas. Buying in season is great, because not only will you save money (local produce is often cheaper), you also avoid the fact that a lot of popular Christmas dinner items will need to be shipped or flown from overseas to make it to your table.
- Using up any food you’ve not eaten in time. Again, as with the saving food section above, by using up items such as carrots, potatoes or bread for bread sauce that might otherwise have been thrown away, you won’t need to buy fresh closer to Christmas. More money saved!
Preparing your Christmas dinner in advance can also help reduce the stress that can sometimes come with preparing a big Christmas meal for lots of people. You won’t have to do such a big food shop at the same time as everyone else in the country, and if something has run out or isn’t available, you can just get it next time because you’re not shopping on 23rd December for everything you need!
But won’t preparing Christmas dinner in advance make everything taste a bit “freezer-y”?
This is a bit of a myth and a stigma that exists around frozen food. Yes, you might find that pre-packaged, processed frozen food doesn’t taste as good as your home cooked meals. However, preparing your own Christmas dinner from scratch and then freezing it is different! It’s still your home cooking and your favourite flavours and ingredients that have gone into preparing your Christmas dinner, you’re just doing it in advance.
Before you start preparing Christmas dinner in advance – what you’ll need
If you want the full lowdown on how to get ready to prep your Christmas dinner in advance, check out Kate’s free download, The Stress-Free Christmas Dinner. It’s packed with tips, advice, and recipes to get you off to a good start.
In terms of what you’ll need here’s a quick list before you start preparing:
- Get your freezer ready. If you meal plan, make plans to eat any food that’s currently in your freezer to make space for your Christmas dinner. Then, get yourself a freezer thermometer, to make sure your freezer is at the optimum temperature of -18C.
- Freezer bags and foil. Get hold of some compostable or reusable single-portion freezer bags. Getting some heavy-duty aluminium foil will also help with storage, freezing and cooking.
How to use your freezer to prepare Christmas dinner in advance
Kate uses a simple technique called open freezing, before placing the food into freezer bags. This allows each piece to freeze individually so you can just use what is needed.
Preparing and freezing your meat or “main event”
Meat is the only item on this list that MUST be defrosted before cooking. Kate’s Stress Free Christmas Dinner download gives advice on how to store, freeze and cook different types of meat, including advice on safely defrosting. Spoiler alert: never defrost at room temperature, but if you do need to speed up the defrosting process you can do so by submerging your wrapped meat in a bucket or sink of cold water, and changing the water every 30 minutes. Otherwise, make sure you leave plenty of time to defrost your meat in the bottom of your fridge (for large joints this might mean a few days!).
Preparing and freezing your roast potatoes
Kate suggests using this recipe for preparing your roast potatoes in advance. You can easily make it vegetarian or vegan by switching out the duck or goose fat for oil (we like using rapeseed oil). Then, simply heat your fat of choice on Christmas day and cook your roasties from frozen. Simple!
Preparing and freezing your vegetables
Depends on what you choose but here are some of the most common Christmas dinner vegetables:
Carrots and parsnips
Prep your carrots and parsnips as usual then blanch for two minutes before plunging into ice cold water, drying and open freezing on a baking tray and storing in freezer bags once frozen until you’re ready to use them
You can then either roast from frozen (allowing a little extra time to cook compared with fresh ingredients) or boil or steam by reducing the cooking time by the amount of time you blanched before freezing.
Prepare your sprouts, blanch them for 3-4 minutes then dunk them in ice water. Dry them and open freeze on a tray before bagging them up.
Again, there’s no need to defrost veg before cooking but if you’re boiling or steaming, reduce the cooking time by the blanch time from the previous step.
Preparing sauces, accompaniments, sides and desserts in advance
There are loads of sauces, accompaniments, sides, and desserts that you can prepare and freeze in advance. To get the full list of Kate’s recommended methods and recipes, download the Stress-Free Christmas Dinner and get prepping!
Is there anything that can’t be prepped in advance?
We asked Kate if there is anything that can’t or shouldn’t be prepared and frozen in advance. This was her response:
If you’d prefer to watch Kate’s tips, tricks and advice in video format, check out her Can I Freeze It Christmas playlist, which is a collection of all of her Christmas-related video content in one place.
What to do with Christmas dinner leftovers
Hopefully, using this method, you can just cook what you need and you won’t end up with lots of leftovers.
However, if you do end up with some food left over, we will be publishing another post on Christmas Eve to help you safely store and use your leftovers. The main advice here is not to leave anything sitting out for longer than 2 hours.
Get it into the fridge (or the freezer, depending on the rules – see post to follow) as soon as it’s cool, otherwise you could risk harmful bacteria that can’t be killed with cooking multiplying in the food you’ve lovingly prepared.
If you would like more information and advice about frozen food safety, Kate has published a guide (£12.99 at time of writing) that outlines all of the key points and then provides more detail to help you understand the food safety rules and why we should follow them.
Kate Hall is the Founder of The Full Freezer™ and author of the e-book ‘The Full Freezer (Save Food, Save Time, Save Money)’.
She helps busy families reduce their food waste and cook from scratch more often by using their home freezers more effectively.