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7 Ways to Reuse Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love gathering with family and friends to give thanks for all our blessings. But let's be honest: we also get to spend the holiday preparing for and chowing down on the biggest and best feast of the year!

But when Turkey Day is over, we’re left with a mountain of food and one big question: what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers? Do you just eat the same meal over and over again until every bit of your turkey has been eaten? If you’re ready for a post-holiday plan that puts your bounty to use, here are 7 ways to reuse Thanksgiving leftovers.

7 Creative Ways to Reuse Thanksgiving Leftovers

Black Friday Morning Muffins
Are you headed out shopping (or being forced to) the next day? You’ll need sustenance to survive the long lines, jammed parking lots, and grumpy workers. Luckily, you can make these muffins with leftovers and a few additional ingredients from your pantry! This recipe makes 12.

Ingredients:
2 cups white flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1½ cup cranberry sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
¼ cup butter, softened

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F, and grease or line muffin tins. In one large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk cranberry sauce, egg, milk, and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into large bowl until well blended. Divide among muffin tin, and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Post-Thanksgiving Salad
You don’t have to eat more bad-for-your-waistline food. Give your leftovers a healthy lift by trying out your version of a Thanksgiving salad! Get creative with the ingredients, such as this favorite:

Ingredients:
Chopped salad
Diced turkey
Sliced celery
Chopped and cored apples
Mixed nuts
Toasted dinner rolls in bite sized pieces
Cranberry vinaigrette

Directions: Combine all ingredients together and cover with cranberry vinaigrette dressing. Or make your own dressing by cooking 1 cup cranberry juice with ½ cup leftover cranberries and 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar in a saucepan to a boil. Remove from stove and add 1 tbsp. of honey, ? tsp. black pepper, and 1 tbsp. of olive oil, stirring frequently until well blended.
Pumpkin Pancakes
Too much pumpkin pie? Never! While your dessert may be gone, leftover cans of pumpkin can be put to good use by making the perfect morning-after breakfast.

Ingredients:
1¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
2½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 can pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. oil

Directions: Sift dry ingredients and spices together. In separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients, including pumpkin. Pour into dry ingredients, and mix until batter is lumpy. Drop ¼ cup batter amounts onto hot griddle, turning every 1-2 minutes.
Turkey Stock
You don’t need to eat your Thanksgiving recipes immediately. In fact, you can make turkey stock to last you the rest of the year. Here’s how to do it.

Ingredients:
Turkey leftovers
2 chopped celery stalks
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 whole onion
1 bay leaf

Directions: Break carcass so that it fits into a stock pot. Add other ingredients. Cover with cold water and bring to boil on high heat. Then, simmer on low for 3 hours. Use a strainer to pour into mason jars or other storage jars. Cool, label, and then freeze.
Freeze and Save
If you would rather have your turkey whole and with a side of stuffing and pie, there are ways to maintain freshness by keeping it safe in your freezer. Almost every food item can be frozen to an extent. To help you determine how long each will last, here’s a handy guide.

  • Stuffing:
    • Storage Time: 1 month
    • Freezer Tips: Freeze separate from other food.
  • Meat:
    • Storage Time: 2-3 months
    • Freezer Tips: Chop in small pieces first.
  • Mashed potatoes or yams:
    • Storage Time: 9-10 months
    • Freezer tips: Mash up as well as possible. Never freeze whole or super chunky potatoes.
  • Gravy:
    • Storage Time: 1 month
    • Freezer Tips: Re-boil, cool, and then freeze.
  • Pie and other baked goods:
    • Storage Time: 1-2 months
    • Freezer Tips: Wrap in foil or freezer wrap and then place in freezer safe bag.

Donate
Outside of recipes, you may look at your table of uneaten or unused food and think just what can be done with so much extra. One of the most generous and selfless things you can do with your leftovers is to donate them. Extra canned good items can be sent to homeless shelters or community food pantries while certain cooked foods are welcomed by animal shelters as a tasty meal for pets without a home.
Compost
If you're unable to donate, don’t let your leftovers go bad. Instead, compost it. Everything but the actual turkey and any dairy item can be placed in a newspaper lined bin. Then, add a large scoop of the compost, sawdust, or peat moss to cover the scraps. Not only will you save your community from undue amounts of waste, but you will also be helping the environment.

Michelle is a 20-something new mom, dog lover, and freelance writer/solopreneur living in Chicago. She's currently fighting back to get in the black while learning how to make great financial decisions for the future. You can find her personal debt story at fitnpoor.com and her site for parents wanting to raise money-smart children at everylittlecent.com

Posted on November 24, 2015.

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One Response to “7 Ways to Reuse Thanksgiving Leftovers”

  1. Money Beagle says:

    My wife found this recipe where you take the mashed pototes, somehow fry them into patties, add the turkey, and top it with a fried egg, and throw in some other veggies to make a nice breakfast the day or two following Thanksgiving.

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