4 Things We're All Doing Wrong With Holiday Leftovers
And tips to help you keep enjoying them in delicious new ways.
Overestimating from the Start
Leftovers are one of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving—but most of us don't want to be stuck with a massive amount of food for days. To avoid throwing away excess amounts of uneaten turkey, stuffing, vegetables or other dishes (according to Natural Resources Defense Council, last year, about 200 million pounds of turkey meat were thrown out over the holiday week), it can be helpful to not overbuy in the first place. To help cut down on food waste, NRDC and the Ad Council created a public-service campaign called Save The Food
. Its most useful tool is the "Guest-imator,"
a digital calculator that lets you plug in how many people you're cooking for (and specify if they're small, average or big eaters), what you're planning to serve (everything from turkey to tofu) and if you want leftovers then tells you exactly how much you'll need of everything, from the weight of the turkey to the number of potatoes.
Letting the Food Linger at the Table Too Long
Your glorious meal has ended, and now everyone is enjoying the time to relax and chat around the table. But before you get too comfortable, remember the food. The USDA
recommends letting food sit at room temperature no more than two hours; after that, it should be refrigerated—and, says NRDC's senior scientist and food/agriculture expert Dana Gunders, the sooner you can put the food away, the better, because cooked food sitting at room temp is in what the USDA calls the "Danger Zone" (between 40 and 140 degrees), where bacteria can grow rapidly and the food can become unsafe to eat.
Storing the Food in Any Old Container
For food storage, just about any goes, from clear plastic to glass to zip-top bags. The one mistake Gunders says many of us make is repurposing opaque containers, such as ones that originally held yogurt or sour cream. If you can't see what's inside, it's too easy to forget about it, she says, so stick with see-through vessels. Food will keep safely in a 40-degree-or-below refrigerator for at least three to four days, says Gunders.
Photo: © Meredith Corporation
Just Making Sandwiches
A day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich can be a thing of beauty, but don't neglect to use up the other foods you ate on the holiday, such as mashed potatoes. If you're stuck for more easy ideas, we have recipes for everything from a turkey pot pie
that uses leftover turkey and gravy to a cheeseburger pie
topped with leftover mashed potatoes. And if you have any fresh cranberries that you didn't use for decorations or sauce, you can incorporate them into a simple yet stunning cake
; plus, this brilliant recipe for curry sauce
calls for cooked sweet potato to give it a creamy texture and lightly sweet taste.
Get the recipes: Turkey Pot Pie, Cheeseburger Pie
and Curry Sauce