MUM-of-two Kate Hall, 35, from Orpington, lives with her husband Matt, 38, a quantity surveyor, and their children Ellie, five, and Josh, two.
She tells Anna Roberts how she intends to have a stress-free Christmas - by prepping dinner well in advance.
“Peeling the spuds, I carefully piled them on the chopping board. But instead of laying them in a roasting dish, I blanched and cooled them, bunged them in a bag and popped them in the freezer. It was mid-September, but this was not your typical Sunday lunch prep – I was organising Christmas dinner for my entire family, before freezing it, ready to cook three months later.
Friends are a bit baffled, but I know that I’ve discovered how to have a stress-free Christmas Day. I’m not a super-planner in other areas of my life, but I’ve become obsessed with freezing food.
I started doing it while I was on maternity leave after my son Josh was born in October 2018. When I was furloughed and subsequently made redundant from my job in magazine publishing during the pandemic, we were on a limited income, so I decided to freeze even more.
I started preparing Christmas dinner early for the first time last year, when rumours began swirling in November that the big day was going to be ‘cancelled’ due to Covid. I wanted to get ahead, so started slicing and dicing potatoes, carrots, parsnips, green beans, sprouts and cauliflower.
Matt was initially sceptical, but helped with the peeling and chopping after I promised him it would mean he could put his feet up on the big day itself. I also bought and froze a pre-prepared turkey, stuffing balls and pigs in blankets.
Come Christmas morning, I casually popped a few baking trays into the oven while sipping a glass of fizz, which was a much calmer experience than usual. The food was delicious – just as good as preparing it fresh. So earlier this year, I decided to do the same this Christmas – and I’m glad I did, with rumours of empty shelves and panic buying swirling.
This year we’ll have my mum Jan, 67, and dad Andy, 68, round, as well as Matt’s mum Linda, 67, which means I’ll be cooking for seven. So in September, with the radio playing in the background, I prepped the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and sprouts and made gravy, before putting it all in a special drawer of our jumbo freezer.
It took me about three hours, spread across two days. I always blanch the vegetables so they’re still fresh and retain their colour, and each item goes in a freezer bag that is labelled and dated, like a food filing cabinet. There are none of the mystery boxes of who-knows-what that many people have in their freezers – I can see in an instant exactly what’s in there. I don’t defrost anything before I cook it, except for meat, which is fine so long as you cook it until it’s piping hot.
The only things I won’t freeze are mayonnaise, salad and jelly – I’ve tried, but it just didn’t work. Anything else is fair game. If I don’t finish a pot of tea, I’ll pour the rest into ice cube trays and use it to make an iced tea later.
I freeze my kids’ sandwiches for packed lunches, too. Some friends think it sounds awful, but when you’re a busy mum trying to get out of the house in the morning, it saves loads of time. They defrost in time for lunch and taste absolutely fine.
Meanwhile, ice cubes of red and white wine dregs go into pasta sauces or risotto, and a half-used tin of chickpeas or refried beans also goes in the freezer. I even freeze eggs that are nearing their use-by date. I just beat them, pour them into ziplock bags and lie them flat to save space. Matt once dropped a box of eggs on the doorstep. Instead of binning the broken ones, I shelled and froze them.
I now share tips on my Instagram page, which has 22k followers, and the response is generally positive. People ask if it’s safe and it really is – freezing stops germs growing, and so long as you follow food-safety guidelines, you’ll be fine.
Since I started, I’ve saved £50 every week, but for me it’s more about reducing food waste. And come December 25, while other people are sweating in the kitchen, I’ll be beaming with a glass of prosecco in hand.”
The average Brit will consume over 5,000 calories on Christmas Day.
In the UK, 10 million turkeys are served up each December 25.