Enjoy Food

How To Make The Most Of Your Holiday Leftovers

Aly Walansky  |  November 16, 2021

Are leftovers the key to stretching your holiday budget? We break down how you can actually save money during your celebrations this year.

Holiday dinners at my parents’ house are always a whole big thing. There’s not a lot of us, but on the average holiday, my mom will make a turkey breast and a chicken, stuffing, potatoes, and a vegetable or two. It’s a ton of cooking and planning and shopping — and then at the end of the meal, it seems like there’s more left on the table than people actually ate!

This is not a reflection on my mom’s cooking (she’s actually a fantastic cook and taught me everything I know) but rather the tendency to overspend and over-serve when it comes to our holiday dinners. This tendency towards lavishness can not only be detrimental to your food budget, it’s also the recipe for a ton of waste. That is, of course, unless you make that waste work for you by repurposing leftovers… which is exactly what we’re going to tell you how to do! 

Batch Meal Planning —  Using Your Leftovers

With all the waste and spending that comes with the holiday season, food is a huge area where you can stretch your dollar. “Hosting holiday parties and dinners requires large amounts of food, which inevitably results in leftovers,” says Brenda Raftlova, shopping expert at Offers.com.

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your food budget, consider repurposing your leftovers into meals throughout the week. One meal idea is making Thanksgiving leftovers  sandwiches, where you combine a variety of leftovers, like turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce into a sandwich. This can easily be wrapped up and taken to work or school as a bagged lunch or even enjoyed at home the next day as the family enjoys day-after-Thanksgiving traditions, such as football or some scoring of Black Friday’s online sales. Breakfast is also a great time to incorporate your leftovers — turkey goes great in an omelette or in a Thanksgiving-inspired hash. (Like a traditional hash, but made with leftover turkey or sausage stuffing rather than corned beef.) 

Don’t be afraid to be creative and make those leftovers into a whole new dish, too. It may soon become a family favorite. “My favorite repurposing recipe at the moment is a wrap with a twist,” says Paul Kelly, Managing Director of KellyBronze Turkey. “Scrape every last bit of meat and skin from the carcass and put them on a chopping board with the rest of the leftover meat. Chop into thin bite size pieces or smaller.  Pan fry in butter until just turning crispy. Lay cooked meat into small thin wraps, add hoisin Chinese sauce on top. Layer small thinly sliced sticks of cucumber on top and you have a crispy turkey wrap,” said Kelly. 

Food Safety Is Everything 

Leftovers are only going to last if they’re stored correctly. “It’s very important to store leftovers correctly, so be sure to invest in high-quality Tupperware to store your goods,” says Raftlova. It can be tempting to throw foil over the serving plate, but leftovers retain the best quality when stored in smaller plastic containers. And tastes better throughout the week too! 

It is also important to remember the two-hour rule when it comes to serving and storing food. “Place all the leftover turkey in airtight containers and refrigerate within two hours,” says Bill Nolan, Butterball Turkey Talk-Line expert and a chef. For example, if your turkey was served at 2 pm, you should have put the leftovers in the refrigerator no later than 4 pm. “Do not forget to clean off any remaining meat from the turkey carcass within the two-hour window,” says Nolan.

Do not put a turkey back into the refrigerator that still has meat on the bone. “This is a food safety hazard that is to be avoided. Eat or freeze all leftovers within three days,” says Nolan.

No one wants to see food go to waste — when you waste food, you’re (quite literally) leaving money on the table. Thankfully, when you start to view your leftovers as future meal possibilities, you can rescue your food budget + make meal planning easier for days to come. After all, why not take every excuse we can find to celebrate Thanksgiving a little longer?


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