Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope it was wonderful, that you overate and were surrounded by loved ones (even if they’re annoying.) And I hope you had help with the dishes.
If you’re like me, family & friends are the best part of any holiday, but the leftovers come a close second. Leveraging those Thanksgiving leftovers into more great meals is one the most frugal things you can do. If you have a freezer (and you should) pick up more turkeys at rock bottom prices; its one of the cheapest proteins you’ll find.
If you’re a planner, have a few recipes in mind for your leftovers and shop for them when you shop for your turkey dinner. Then you know you’ll use the leftovers. (All of this applies to chicken, too.) If you had ham, see my 12 Days of Ham post.
Let’s talk Safety
First of all, remember the two-hour window for leaving food out at room temperature. Break the turkey down and refrigerate it as soon as possible. I find it’s always hectic, messy, and I’m tired after a big feast, but treat that food right and you’ll never have any doubt about food safety.
As For the Turkey:
Big old turkeys usually don’t fare well in the fridge: turkeys are hard to wrap and it’s hard to find room. If you’ve accomplished both, the turkey gets pulled out, nibbled from, rewrapped (probably poorly) and shoved back in to dry and shrivel. Sometimes by the time someone deals with it, it’s to take it out, & dump it in the trash.
Take the time to break that turkey down right away, and at the very least slice off the breast meat and wrap or put in Ziplocs for sandwiches or casseroles and do the same with the legs & thighs,
If you’re making turkey soup, think about getting it started while you’re doing the cleanup, or wrap the carcass well. To make it easier, prep all the soup ingredients ahead of the holiday – carrots, onions, celery can all be in a large Ziploc waiting to go, and if you’re smart, that can include a lot of the potential waste from all the Thanksgiving preparations. Celery tops, onion skins, carrot peelings, etc.
After a couple days in the fridge, turkey can dry and taste gamey. Assess what you have in the way of leftovers (the same day or the next) and portion out for sandwiches and recipes, label and stash back in the fridge or freezer. Cooked turkey won’t last long in the freezer; maybe a couple of weeks before it gets dry. The freezer will buy you some time, though, so you don’t literally have to literally eat turkey for 12 days!
Here are a few recipes we love to use those turkey (or chicken) leftovers in; I hope you’ll find a recipe or two that you and your family will love, too.
chilis & chowders
cold sandwiches, fillings & salads