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Thrifty tips for using Christmas leftovers and crafting budget-friendly presents

11 December 2020

Christmas and delicious food go hand in hand – but often luxurious treats can stretch our budgets as well as our waistbands, and lead to waste when excess food isn’t eaten. In this article, we share some budget-friendly present ideas, which can be prepared in your kitchen, as well as listing suggestions gathered by our Food Programmes across the country for a number of simple tips to help you reduce waste, and give new life to leftovers.  

Waste not!

Leftover Pie 

If you have meat leftover from Christmas lunch you can simply cut it up roughly and place it in the base of an ovenproof dish along with gravy, peas, etc. that also haven’t been used. You can then top this with ready-made pastry for a tasty pie in the days that follow. If you’re not a fan of pastry or have some leftover mashed potato, you could also top it with this for a variation on cottage pie. 

Vegetable Patties 

Chop up any broccoli flowers and stalks and mash with a fork. Pop in any other leftover veg like carrots, mashed potatoes or parsnips and mix in an egg and you can fry it in small batches to make some tasty patties. 

Reuse your gravy 

You can save unused gravy for another day by simply dividing it into one or more ice cube trays and popping them into your freezer to use in future. You can even use them as the base for a future pie, casserole or stew.  

…and even your Yorkshire puddings 

Yorkshire pudding batter can also be frozen and reused on another day. Alternatively, you can combine them with a variety of fillings, such as leftover veg and mash or grated cheese, for a tasty snack. 

Frittata is smarter!

You can cut up any leftover meat into small pieces and mix with leftover mashed potato and any herbs and spices you like to taste. Add an egg to bind, form sausage shapes and lightly fry for tasty frittatas.  

Potato peel fries 

If you’ve made lots of roast potatoes for a large Christmas meal you’ll no doubt have lots of peel leftover. If this is the case you can simply drop your peel into cold water, dry on kitchen roll and deep fry for a snack later. Serve with a tasty dip for extra flavour. 

Try pouring over leftover veg in an ovenproof dish and bake until bubbling for a hearty and comforting meal. “

Go nuts and help your local wildlife! 

Bowls of nuts and dried food are a Christmas staple in many households, but it’s easy to overestimate how much you’ll eat. If you find you have lots of nuts and dried fruit left over after Christmas you can share a little bit of cheer with your local wildlife by adding them to lard and making up some fat cakes to hang in the garden and attract the birds.  

Freeze the cheese (or use as a source of sauce)!  

By the time many of us reach the cheese course of a hearty Christmas meal there can be little room left, so cheese is often uneaten. You can freeze this for future use but if you’ve just got odds and ends then you can also try using them as the basis of a tasty cheese sauce. Try pouring over leftover veg in an ovenproof dish and bake until bubbling for a hearty and comforting meal.  


This intriguingly named and popular Scottish dish can be made by mashing up leftover potato and veg and popping under the grill. The name alone might convince younger sceptics within the family to give it a try! 

Soup it up! 

Soups are the wasteconscious chef’s best friend, as nearly any veg can be turned into a soup with fairly minimal effort. For inspiration why not check out the super soups shared with us by families this autumn for inspiration? 


Budget-friendly presents 

Cranberry Sauce 

Alongside the traditionally turkey-focused Christmas dinner table is the humble cranberry sauce’s time to shine. Cranberry sauce is also a condiment that many families don’t necessarily keep in their pantries throughout the year, so why not provide yours with a homemade take on a classic in time for the big day by following this recipe?

Fruit cake in a jar 

Fruit cake is a festive favourite which also benefits from being cheap to make and storing well, which makes it perfect as a gift – particularly if, as our food team show in this recipe, you present it in a jar which can we decorated and wrapped to show family members how much you care. 

Fruit decorations 

Bringing the natural world indoors is something of a tradition at Christmas – we need only look to mistletoe, trees and wreaths for evidence of this. Why not take the tradition one step further by following these instructions provided by our food team for creating decorations from leftover fruit. 

Gingerbread decorations

What’s better than beautiful Christmas decorations on your tree? It’s when you can eat those decorations! In this recipe we show you how to make delicious Gingerbread shapes for your tree which will brighten up your room for… well, for as long as they last before they get eaten!  

Hot Chocolate 

We’ve already seen some very cold weather in the weeks leading up to Christmas and it’s showing no sign of stopping yet. A gift of a hot chocolate mix tailored to a friend or family member’s tastes is the perfect way to send them a virtual hug to warm the cold winter nights. Find out how with this handy help sheet.

For tutorial videos on how to craft these budget-friendly presents above, visit our YouTube playlist below:

Get more stories, ideas, and inspiration to make your Christmas magic, or contact our FamilyLine for information, guidance, and support on an issue affecting your family.