Follow Us:

Blog: Every Bite Counts

Making the Most of Thanksgiving Leftovers

We love gathering with friends and family over Thanksgiving and enjoying a delicious feast together. But isn’t it ironic that a day meant to celebrate and give thanks for a bountiful harvest can lead to so much food waste?

We’ve gathered our top tips and favourite recipes to help us all make better use of Thanksgiving leftovers. If you’ve got other tips and recipe ideas to add, please share them with us by tagging us in your post @lovefoodhatewasteca.

1. Plan for leftovers.

  • Make room in the fridge and freezer for the after dinner clean up.
  • Have reusable containers on stand-by.
  • Keep a resealable bag in the freezer so you can easily add peelings, trimmings and giblets for making soup stock.
  • Prepare and serve food with leftovers in mind. For example,serve green salads with the dressing on the side so it can be served the next day. Cook green beans or other vegetables without sauce so they freeze better. Instead of pre cutting and buttering dinner rolls, serve the butter on the side so you have more options with leftovers.
  • Ask guests to bring reusable containers so they can take leftovers home and help eat them all up.

2. Be food safe when handling leftovers.

  • Remove stuffing from the turkey immediately and store separately from meat.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Use warmers or ice to control temperature.
  • Don’t keep prepared food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Cool food quickly in shallow containers before storing in the fridge.

3. Eat the most perishable foods first.

Some leftovers last longer than others. Use the chart below to see which have the longest shelf life and which ones you should eat right away.

Thanksgiving Leftovers in the Fridge

Cool food before wrapping well and storing in fridge.
Turkey, ham, beef3-4 days
Meatballs3-4 days
Stuffing3-4 days
Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes3-5 days
Cooked/baked squash3-5 days
Cooked vegetables3-4 days
Gravy1-2 days
Cranberry sauce2 weeks
Coleslaw (dressed)2-4 days
Salad (dressed)1 day
Cooked rice (white, brown, wild)4-6 days
Cooked casseroles3-5 days
Pumpkin pie3-4 days
Apple pie4-5 days
Cheesecake7 days

4. Freeze leftovers ASAP.

After taking stock of your leftovers, decide what you can reasonably expect to eat within three to four days,and freeze the rest right away. Don’t wait.The sooner you freeze it, the better it will taste.

Here are some helpful tips to remember when freezing food.

  • Cool food thoroughly before freezing to avoid condensation.
  • Wrap tightly and/or place in an airtight container.
  • Freeze in convenient portion sizes so it’s easy to thaw and reheat for a quick meal.
  • Label and date packages. Adding re-heating instructions is a helpful bonus.
  • For best flavour and texture eat within three to six months, although as long as it stays frozen, food will be safe to eat for years.
Some Thanksgiving foods are more ideal for freezing than others.
Thanksgiving Food Ideal for FreezingThanksgiving Food NOT Recommended for Freezing
These foods are not unsafe to freeze, but their texture becomes less appealing
Turkey, ham, beefMilk/cream based foods
Cooked/baked squashVegetables cooked to very tender stage
Cooked casserolesMayonnaise based dishes
Cooked vegetables (if not too tender)Pavlova
Pumpkin pieFried foods
Stuffing Gravy (flour based)Cucumbers
Apple/fruit piePotatoes without fat
Mashed Potatoes (with butter)Gelatin-based foods (jello, aspic)
Cranberry sauceRadishes
CheesecakeLow fat mashed potatoes
Sweet Potatoes (cooked/mashed)Meringue or custard pie
Cooked rice/quinoa/whole grains

5. Repurpose and enjoy leftovers in new and creative dishes.

Reheating leftovers can get boring fast. Luckily,many Thanksgiving leftovers can be used to create new and creative dishes. Here are a few of our favourite ways to repurpose common Thanksgiving leftovers.Check our Leftover Recipes section for more ideas. You can even search for specific ingredients!

Savoury Holiday Leftovers Pot Pie
Turkey/Chicken Stock
Chicken/Turkey Noodle Soup
Omelet Wraps
Sweet Potato and Chive Biscuits
Leftover Mashed Potato Gnocchi
Turkey and Chickpea Coconut Curry
Spiced Pumpkin Feta Lentil Salad
Leftover Vegetable Quiche Cups
Tomorrow’s Sweet and Savoury Squash Pancakes

For even more inspiration, check out our 5 Ways With favourite Thanksgiving ingredients like…

Turkey/Chicken Potatoes
Bread Herbs
Cranberries Lettuce
Pumpkins/Squash Veggie Scraps

What’s your favourite way to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers?

We think enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers is an important part of the holiday festivities and would love to share your ideas with others via our social media. Post a picture of how you repurpose your leftovers and tag @lovefoodhatewasteca.