Our Best Tips for Reinventing Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving should be a time for us to be more grateful and less wasteful

Did you know that Thanksgiving is one of the biggest food waste days of the year in America?

This year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimates 45 million pounds of green beans and 30 million pounds of gravy will go to waste, alongside the estimated 200 million pounds of turkey meat that will get thrown away according to the National Defense Resource Council.

This holiday season is the perfect time for us to be more grateful and less wasteful. 

Our best tips for minimizing Thanksgiving food waste

Before Thanksgiving

  1. Estimate the exact amount of produce and buy only what is needed – most grocery stores pre-bag produce to make it convenient for shoppers, but why buy 1 1/2 pounds of green beans when you only need 1 pound? Don’t be afraid to ask your grocer if you can open a bag and just purchase what you need.
  2. Plan for recipes beyond the holiday using the same ingredients –  if you’re getting a bag of pecans for the pie, but only know you will use half the bag, write down a few other ways to incorporate the pecans in other recipes onto a sticky note and adhere to the package as a friendly reminder, such as:
    • “Make spiced nuts for salad topping”
    • “Add to chocolate chip cookies”
    • “Pecan crusted tilapia”
  3. Make room for your leftovers ahead of time – Eat from your freezer the week before Thanksgiving.
  4. Share the love and leftovers – ask your guests to bring their own to-go containers and encourage them to take some leftovers home.

After Thanksgiving

Use bold spices and herbs to give new life to leftovers!

  1. Re-invent leftovers into different dishes with big, bold spices – Our first tip is to use spices and herbs to make sure it tastes completely different than your holiday meal. Because let’s face it – holiday leftovers never taste as good as it did the first time around! Nobody wants to relive that same meal for the next four nights in a row! 
    Your new dish should feature big, bold spices. Flavors like Curry, Chimichurri and Spicy Salsa all feature bold flavors that can stand out on its own. This also allows you to use not only your holiday leftovers, but gives new life to every last bit of vegetables in your refrigerator.

    Need some inspiration? We LOVE this Mango and Golden Raisin Chutney and this Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette.

    Other ideas:

    • Chop up leftover turkey for Tikka Masala
    • Dip leftover roasted cauliflower in buffalo sauce
    • Stir in leftover green beans in Thai Curry
  2. Don’t smother everything in sauce –  When you’re serving your big holiday meal, remember that you don’t have to sauce everything.

    If you’re serving pork chops in gravy for the holidays, serve the gravy on the side or if you’re serving green beans with a garlic herb sauce, portion out what you’ll think your guests will eat and set aside unsauced green beans. 

    Unsauced leftovers are so much easier to re-use in another recipe — especially when you can flavor the leftover with bold, exciting flavors like the ones we mentioned above. 

  3. Label leftovers with a purpose – When it comes to leftovers, the freezer is your friend. BUT here’s the key: label your package with a purpose.

    It’s not good enough to just stick a bag of turkey in the freezer, and write TURKEY. If you do that I guarantee that come spring, you’ll have no idea what to do with this frozen glob of meat. Instead, freeze in smaller batches and label with a meal in mind: add to meatballs, for nacho night, for Italian chopped salad. You’re more likely to use your frozen package if it inspires a recipe in an instant.

    • “Turkey for Italian chopped salad”
    • “Add stuffing to meatballs”
    • “Ground beef for nacho night”
 

Here’s a quick guide to labeling packages in your freezer!

How to Freeze Leftovers

Get Creative to Repurpose Leftovers

Need some more ideas to use up your holiday leftovers? Check out some of our favorite turkey recipes here:

Masala Turkey Buddha Bowl

This Masala Turkey Buddha Bowl uses Indian flavors to make turkey shine!

How are you repurposing your leftovers? Let us know in the comments below!