What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

If you're like most families, you'll have a lot of leftovers after your Thanksgiving meal. And that's a great thing! It can save you time and trouble in the coming weeks - or it can help you feed friends and family. But remember: Safety first. Don't let the food sit out for longer than two hours without refrigeration. 

If you've prepared a stuffed turkey (or other stuffed bird), be sure to remove the stuffing before storing. To make the refrigerator less crowded, also remove the meat from the bird before storing it. For the longest storage life, put all leftovers in Ziplock-style bags or air tight containers. Most refrigerators are colder in the back, so put as much in the rear as possible - or freeze leftovers and use them within four months.  

Think Stock! The first thing I encourage you to do is save all the bones from the bird, as well as any parts nobody wants to eat (for example, the dark meat). Either refrigerate it and make your own, delicious, better-than-store bought poultry stock within the next couple of days, or put these "scraps" in the freezer to make stock later in the year. If you're serving some other sort of meat containing bones, you can make stock with it, too. Making stock is super easy; click here for directions.

Feed Others

If storing and using leftovers seems like a hassle to you, be sure to give away as much as possible. Stock up on some inexpensive air tight containers (the "disposable" kind are pretty cheap) or Ziplock bags. This way, you can send friends and family home with food and nobody has to worry about returning dishes.

Using Leftovers Yourself

Use leftover cheese to top casseroles or baked potatoes, or add it to sandwiches, or use it to top crackers. Most meats reheat well and can be added to omelets, casseroles, stews, soups, burritos, enchiladas, or shepherd's pie. And, oh yeah, sandwiches.

Mix leftover cranberry sauce with plain yogurt or use it as a topping for ice cream. Or make it a chutney from it by adding chopped nuts and applesauce.

My favorite way to use leftover veggies is to freeze them in small Ziplock bags. Then, whenever I'm making omelets, casseroles, quiches,stir fry, stews, or soups, I can just toss in a bag.

Leftover potatoes are considered a real treat at my house. I shape them into small pancakes and pan fry them in olive oil. Then I season them with salt and pepper (and perhaps herbs) and serve them as a side dish for any meal. Mashed potato salad is another good option. Or use leftover potatoes as a topping for shepherd's pie.

If you're more likely to have sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving, use them to make baked goods, like sweet potato bread or muffins.

French toast is a great way to use leftover bread - even “quick” breads like pumpkin bread. Bread pudding is another excellent option. Or chop up the bread and freeze it to use for breading later in the year.

Make a delicious treat from leftover stuffing by pressing it into a muffin pan. (Spray with oil first.) Bake at 350 degrees F. until the stuffing muffins are crisp on top.

If you're lucky enough to have leftover pie or cake this Thanksgiving, consider freezing it. Cut into single servings first and place in Ziplock bags. Then you'll have ready-to-go desserts when unexpected company arrives.

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