Thanksgiving and Holiday leftovers, how to store and remake ideas

fast meal ideas leftovers thanksgiving turkey

With Thanksgiving coming this week and Christmas in a month (sorry, but it's true!), I wanted to share how I create my family meal plans with holiday leftovers in mind. I absolutely hate wasting food and it's one of the reasons I love meal planning so much - it really helps reduce waste!  So, I like to plan my meals after a holiday based on leftovers. Or, at the very least, have some ideas for potential leftovers so it doesn't all go to waste. Below are some awesome family meal ideas for the most common leftover foods from major holiday meals.

Ham

Breakfast, brunch, or brinner (breakfast for dinner): Reheat slices in a skillet with a little non-stick spray until they get a little sear and are heated through. Serve alongside eggs, pancakes, and/or fruit to round out the meal.

Casserole: Cube ham and layer with frozen hashbrowns, eggs and cheese in the slow cooker for a simple and hearty breakfast casserole. Here is a great recipe from Fresh Family Meals, just use the ham in place of the Morningstar Sausage (link).

Pasta bake: This Ham and Kale “Alfredo” pasta bake recipe (link) is so simple and tasty, and surprisingly healthy. It’s a great “template” recipe that you can take a lot of different directions. It also freezes really well, so make a double batch to get a meal in your freezer before the back to school and work craziness hits!

Freeze: Ham is so easy to freeze. The best way is to vacuum seal it in portions that are good for a family meal (2-3 cups). If you don't have a vacuum sealer, use a freezer zip top bag and get as much air out as possible before freezing. You can thaw it in the fridge and throw it in to any of the meal ideas above.

Mashed potatoes

Croquettes: This is just a fancy word for crispy fried mashed potato balls! This recipe is easy and reliable and does NOT feel like you are eating leftovers – Win! (link)

Freeze: This will work for mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Use an ice cream scoop, disher, or ½ cup measuring cup to scoop individual servings onto the sheet. Freeze, then move the potato mounds into a large freezer zip-top bag for long-term storage. Reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stove with a couple tablespoons of milk or butter. They will keep for up to a year!

Bread or rolls

Freeze it. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Bread and rolls freeze so well with no special treatment. Simply leave at room temperature for a couple of hours to thaw when you want to use it. And you can use bread in so many recipes down the road, from sandwiches to casseroles to french toast or garlic bread. Get my recipe for breakfast casserole (great for leftover bread from the freezer) here!

Turkey

Use in place of chicken: The easiest answer for leftover turkey is to use it in recipes where you would normally use shredded, cubed or sliced chicken. Grab our free 25 min meal guide for four fast and tasty recipes. Click here to get yours

Stock: I also make stock in my Instant Pot after Thanksgiving. For stock to use for gravy on Thanksgiving Day, I buy turkey necks and wings and make the stock the weekend before Thanksgiving - that way it's one less thing I'm stressing about on the big day.  But the day after Thanksgiving, I make several batches (usually 2-3) of stock in my Instant Pot.  For a great recipe, check out this one from Pressure Cooking Today (link).

Freeze: Use the same method as ham!  Freeze turkey for a future meal. The best way is to vacuum seal it in portions that are good for a family meal (2-3 cups). If you don't have a vacuum sealer, use a freezer zip top bag and get as much air out as possible before freezing. You can thaw it in the fridge and throw it in to any of the meal ideas in the meal guide, or check out my big blog on leftover turkey meals here