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Thanksgiving Day lives on with leftovers

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN • Nov 27, 2019 at 4:30 PM

If you are like many families, Thanksgiving Day lives on for several days afterward through lots and lots of leftovers! Here are some tips to use your tasty leftovers to re-create delicious meals safely.

First, store your food properly. Keep the time the food is left on the countertop at a minimum by placing it in the refrigerator at least within two hours. After two hours, perishable foods should be discarded, so promptly refrigerate to avoid food waste. If you know you won’t eat the leftovers within the next three to four days, you could freeze the leftovers instead. Use sealed plastic containers or plastic bags to store food.

Second, reheat safely. No matter how you are using leftovers, reheat them to 165 degrees in the microwave, in the oven, or on the stove. If you are thawing and reheating leftovers from the freezer, thaw in the refrigerator or during cooking and never on the counter. Leftovers last three to four days in the fridge or three to four months in the freezer. That means that the Monday after Thanksgiving should be the day that you either throw away leftovers or freeze them.

Third, eat creatively! Look for recipes that use multiple ingredients that overlap and try to repurpose these leftovers in different ways. For example, if you have excess turkey, you could eat it on a sandwich, in a salad, or added to a soup. Some recipes may even use multiple leftovers such as a turkey sandwich with goat cheese and cranberry sauce on whole wheat bread. Use your sweet potato casserole to make whole grain muffins to be eaten for breakfast or a snack or frozen for later. Leftover stuffing works great in a frittata for brunch. When in doubt, make a pizza. Thanksgiving pizza combines savory turkey with sweet cranberry sauce and any extra veggies you have on hand.

If you know you won’t be able to utilize all of your leftovers, give them away to friends, family or those less fortunate. In a holiday season all about food, try to avoid food waste as much as possible.