Holiday hosts toil for hours to create lavish meals everyone will enjoy. It’s not uncommon for Thanksgiving tables to be covered with more food than guests can conceivably (and comfortably) consume. Leftovers are the norm, but without a plan for what to do with leftovers, food can spoil or end up in the trash.
Here are some delicious and waste-conscious ways to put Thanksgiving or other holiday meal leftovers to use.
Wrap it up promptly
Even though you may want to sit around and chat with guests when the meal is finished, leaving food out at room temperature for too long can create a breeding ground for microbes that may lead to food spoilage and sickness. With a few helping hands, all foods can be packaged away in no time, ensuring that drumsticks or stuffing can safely be served another day.
Be sure to have reusable food storage containers, zip-top bags, foil, and plastic wrap at the ready. Before all of the food is put away, encourage guests to make their own doggie bags.
Plan with other meals in mind
Shop for and prepare holiday fare with a nod toward what can be used in subsequent meals. Turkey is a versatile ingredient that can be made into everything from breakfast burritos to casseroles. Turn potatoes and sausage stuffing into latke patties that can be whipped up for breakfast or lunch. Sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin can be mashed and reworked into batters for quick breads, pancakes and even doughnuts. Spoon leftover cranberry sauce over hot oatmeal in the morning or use it as a substitute for grape jelly in PB&J sandwiches. Try grinding up stale biscuits to make a breading for turkey slices and turn them into fried cutlets.
Take care of the needy
Find out which organizations accept food donations. Even if you cannot donate previously prepared foods, if you have surplus packaged, boxed or canned items, you can bring them to food pantries and soup kitchens to help others.
Organize a post-holiday pot luck
Turn leftovers into an opportunity to fraternize with friends or relatives who couldn’t make it to Thanksgiving dinner. Pool your leftover resources and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor. A pot luck can be a great place to gather to share in the bounty of the holiday season.