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How to Make Holiday Meal Leftovers Last Longer

Written by Nicola Brown

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

When it comes to the big holiday meal, we spend a lot of time (and money) planning, preparing, cooking, serving and eating it. Inevitably, we make far too much. Most years, our leftovers constitute a full second, and often third, feast for our whole family, and then some.

Unfortunately, some of the leftover food goes to waste. Either we're too exhausted to put things back in the fridge, the dog's claimed the rest of the bird, or we're simply sick of eating the same thing.

To make sure you're not throwing time and money away, here's how to make holiday meal leftovers last longer.

Carve Up the Whole Bird

One of the biggest mistakes in saving leftovers is leaving the rest of your bird whole, uncarved.

Carving up the bird before refrigerating or freezing makes it far more likely you'll actually eat those leftovers. Would you rather grab a few pre-sliced pieces of turkey for your day-after sandwich or haul out a whole platter?

You'll end up eating more and wasting less of the precious roast, not to mention actually having adequate room left in the fridge for all your other leftover trimmings.

Don't Give Meat the Freeze-Thaw Treatment

Here's another good reason to not leave your meat in one piece: it doesn't take kindly to being refrigerated or frozen and then heated multiple times. If you're constantly heating and cooling the entire turkey, the meat won't last.

Only take out the amount you plan to eat, and leave the rest in the fridge for a few days, or the freezer if you plan to keep it longer. This is a good rule of thumb for all types of leftover foods, not just meat.

Create Grab-and-Go Meal Kits

The best way to ensure you eat up all the leftovers is to make little meal kits containing a few different items. Combine some slices of meat with potatoes and a vegetables. Freeze these as individual portions in freezer-safe resealable bags.

These frozen meal kits can last a while, so don't feel the need to eat leftovers as soon as possible. They're a great option for kids going back to school in the New Year.

Fill Up on Grains and Starches

If you want to make smaller quantities of leftovers last longer, fill out your plate with grains like rice and quinoa and starches like potatoes. These foods will help you feel full so you only need a little of the good stuff with each meal.

If you've got leftover gravy, thin it out to a broth consistency with some hot water and use it to cook your quinoa. This will stretch those flavours through every part of the meal.

When in Doubt, Make Soup

If your leftovers are starting to look and taste a little tired (floppy carrots, shrivelled potatoes), it's soup time. Add a cup or two of chicken or vegetable broth to your leftovers in a blender and turn them into a thick, hearty soup. You can adjust the thickness with more broth, test and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you prefer your soups a little chunky, blend half the ingredients and chop up the rest, then combine them in a saucepan and cook through thoroughly. You can do this with chunks of turkey, bacon and sausage too.

Try adding other ingredients, like a dash of cayenne pepper, for a little kick. Or some canned sweet corn for texture.

Leftovers don't need to be a hassle. Spend a little more time preserving up front and you'll reap the benefits of a feast that lasts with far less waste.

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