Delicious Holiday Leftovers

Kitchens across the globe are in a state of turmoil with holiday meal preparations underway. Dinner is served, food is eaten, and dishes are done…then the chaos really hits! “What are we going to do with all these leftovers?!”

Don’t panic. Armed with a few food safety tips (and some simplye ideas for making magical meals using leftovers), you’ll be set to feed the crew for several more days.

Think Safety First
Refrigerate leftover foods quickly (at a proper temperature) to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ensure that perishable leftovers do not sit out unrefrigerated for longer than two hours.
  • To cool the leftovers quickly, divide the food into small portions. Store each portion in shallow, uncovered containers in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid overloading the refrigerator because cold air needs room to circulate.
When It Doubt, Throw It Out
The following cooked foods will last in the refrigerator for up to the number of days listed.

Food Good For
Cooked Vegetables 3-4 days
Pasta 3-4 days
Rice 7 days
Deli Meats 5 days
Ham 3-4 days
Beef, Poultry or Pork 3-4 days
Gravy 1-2 days
Stuffing 1-2 days
Seafood 2 days
Soups, Stews or Casseroles  3-4 days

Recipe Ideas for Common Leftovers

Panzanella - Even with the less flavorful tomatoes you're likely to find in the fall and winter, this salad is still a delicious way to use up leftover bread.

Low-Fat Bread Pudding - This is the perfect dessert for a post-Thanksgiving gathering with friends.

Light French Toast - Treat your family to a wonderful breakfast using bread left over from your Thanksgiving feast.
Vegetable Quiche - You can use any kind of leftover vegetable to fill this quiche.

Garden Harvest Vegetable Soup - Soup is probably the easiest way to use up lots of leftover veggies, including corn and green beans.

Chicken Pot Pie - Get creative with this traditional pot pie recipe and use whatever veggies you have on hand.
Turkey Gumbo Soup - Instead of your usual turkey soup, try this delicious gumbo recipe for a new flavor combination.

Turkey and Rice Casserole - You can control the level of fat in this yummy recipe by using reduced-fat cheese and sour cream.

Turkey Enchiladas - Turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into a Mexican fiesta with this enchilada recipe.

Slow Cooker Ham and Scalloped Potatoes - If your Thanksgiving celebration included a ham, try this slow cooker recipe to put the leftovers to good use.

15 Bean Soup with Ham - If the weekend after Thanksgiving is particularly cold, this soup would be a perfect way to warm up.

Quiche Cups - These mini quiches are perfect for breakfast or your lunch bag.
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Member Comments

Well said, article... Liked it lot Report
Good article. Report
Great tips! I will most certainly use a few of these. Report
These are great ideas I will use one or two of them! Report
Wake up every day vowing to do one positive action to move you closer to your goal. Report
I agree, Mellebelle! Report
lol we eat stuff that's been in the fridge faaaaaaar longer than those dates, and have literally never had a problem. I think that's a little extreme. Report
Outstanding, thanks! I just cut up some avocado slices, mozzarella slices, pomodoro tomatoe sices and, 1/4 inch think 2.5 inch long sliced ham wedges. Put some dijon on our leftover king hawaiin sweet rolls. Put some olive oil on the George Foreman lean mean grilling machine grill plates and heated the foreman to 325. Stacked the slices on the buns and pressed the sandwiches for 2 minutes. yum! Report
Great tips. Thanks Report
great ideas, i learned a lot Report
Great ideas! A friend always makes turkey enchiladas the next day. After a day or so of "traditional", I love the sound of the stir-fry and fajitas. Report
So glad to see the list of throw out dates.. I have always been curious and now i wont have to doubt anymore
thanks Report
Great article. I went out to eat for the Holiday so I don't deal with leftovers. Report
Just what I needed. Love the leftover chart for the refrigerator. I guess I have some cleaning out to today lol Report
Thes sound tremendous. I make chicken gumbo soup all the time and it's delicious, so turkey would be great in it too. Report


About The Author

Becky Hand
Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.