The challenge of Christmas catering, 2020-style

Today, founder of The Food School and food waste expert Sue Cassell launches the HOLLY LEAF campaign to help get us better prepared for Christmas catering and the challenges that lie ahead this Covid year, given we may not know how many we’ll be cooking for. The aim is to minimise stress in the build-up to Christmas so that we can serve up sufficient (and delicious) food over the Festive period, but at the same time avoid waste or endless leftovers.

At the heart of the HOLLY LEAF campaign is advice on planning ahead (this weekend isn’t too early to start), buying for maximum flexibility, preparing food in portions, using your freezer and defrosting correctly, and involving youngsters in the kitchen.

Sue Cassell says ‘last year at home we ate turkey, but this year, I’m considering a vegetarian main course (such as filo pastry parcels with chestnut, mushroom and cranberry filling). Going ‘veggie’ also means it’s safer (from a food hygiene perspective) for youngsters to join in with the prepping and cooking.’

When it comes to using our freezer, here are some of Sue’s tips:

  • veg can be prepped in advance by par-boiling, plunging in cold water and placed in the freezer on a tray lined with baking parchment (so the veg doesn’t stick to the tray) before putting in containers. Cook straight from frozen (to avoid veg going soggy while defrosting)
  • potatoes can be roasted and then frozen. Cook straight from frozen
  • food that is easily portioned will give you maximum flexibility this year, given all the uncertainty
  • make sure you label the contents of your freezer to avoid ‘UFOs – unidentified frozen objects’
  • milk can be frozen (though it will expand slightly) so you might want to pour some milk out of the bottle (enough for a cup of tea) before freezing.

For ’50 ways to reduce your foodprint‘ go to:


Welcome to the Food School UK.  Food School is a pilot project in Chippenham (Wiltshire) aimed at teenagers and families. The aim of Food School is to:

  • tackle food waste
  • raise awareness of environmental issues relating to food (ie the carbon, chemical and water footprint of our food choices)
  • highlight social issues such as food and nutritional poverty and ‘holiday hunger’
  • gain basic skills in growing some soft fruits, veg and herbs on an allotment; and 
  • gain basic skills in meal preparation and cooking some simple, nutritious and good value meals.

The provisional dates for Food School are a weekend in Summer/early Autumn (exact dates to be confirmed).  Part of the course may be delivered on-line.

Food School may be of interest to young people completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme(s) and/or young people with an interest in the food industry or in social or environmental work.

Food School is brought to you by MAD about Waste, which is an environmental community group launched in 2017.   MAD about Waste’s primary focus is tackling waste at household level, including food waste.  

Food School is part-funded by Chippenham Community Area Local Youth Network.