NATIONWIDE — The turkey has been served, thanks have been given, and your loved ones have left the table. Now, what do you do with all of those leftovers from the Thanksgiving feast?
How Safe Are My Leftovers?
Some will say that one of the best parts of Thanksgiving are the leftovers. But how do you know if your leftovers are still safe to eat?
First, there are specific ways in which you should store your leftovers. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends packaging the food in smaller portions and in shallow containers to allow for quicker cooling. It states that a whole turkey stored as such would take too long to cool to a safe temperature, allowing bacteria to multiply.
Then, always store the items either in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of cooking.
The USDA also states that if the leftovers are placed in the refrigerator, they can be safely eaten three to four days after Thanksgiving. That’s right! You can break out that turkey and stuffing until the Monday after Thanksgiving!
If you want to celebrate this most splendid of American holidays a bit longer, leftovers placed in the freezer are considered best quality within two to six months after the holiday. Believe it or not, you might be able to enjoy your Thanksgiving feast through Memorial Day.
Having trouble remembering dates? Label the leftover containers, create a virtual calendar reminder, or even download one of many apps dedicated to tracking food storage dates.
For tips on reheating, please visit the website for the USDA. If you have questions about using your leftovers safely, the USDA recommends that you call its Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888)-MPHotline (674-6854) or visit the website for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
What Do I Do With My Leftovers?
Now that you have safely stored your leftovers and want to heat them up, what can you do with them?
If you don’t want to simply rehash the meal you had on Thanksgiving, there are lots of options and opportunities to get creative. Here are some things to think about when wanting to create something new from your Thanksgiving leftovers:
- Make a sandwich: A popular option has always been to make a sandwich with what is left over from the holiday feast. Toast some bread, add a little turkey, cranberry sauce, as well as some dressing and you’ve managed to compact the wonders of the Thanksgiving meal in one handy meal. A simple search online will return many different recipes to construct just such a creative dish.
- Turkey Soup: In the winter months, nothing quite warms one up like a great soup. By adding turkey stock, shredded turkey, your leftover vegetables, and a few other seasonings, this option is sure to warm you up. To see results on various recipes, click here.
- Turkey Pot Pie: Soup not quite your thing? Then take those leftovers and bake them in a delicious pot pie! Click here if you would like to see a variety of recipes to make the pot pie.
- Milkshakes and Smoothies: Need to liquify your diet a bit? You can take some of your leftovers and make smoothies and milkshakes from them.
- Make a Turkey Salad: Take that staple of chicken salad but jazz it up with turkey instead! Throw together some of that leftover turkey with some celery, mayonnaise and other ingredients to make a delightful dish. To see a variety of recipes, click here.
There are numerous options to make something new from those leftovers after Thanksgiving!
Why Should I Keep My Leftovers?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American landfills see approximately 70 billion pounds of food waste each year. As a result, this increases methane emissions in landfills, is costly on the consumer, contributes to increasing the use of energy and resources, as well as does not support local communities.
The EPA and USDA has joined multiple partners with U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. This group works together to empower businesses and organizations to reduce food loss.
So, before throwing out those leftovers, make sure to have a little fun with creative meal options that will make the planet happy.