Planning for Leftovers


Last week was Thanksgiving here in the United States. As we went elsewhere to eat we came home without leftovers. I know what you’re thinking, crazy! A few days after the holiday we were all craving leftovers so we did the next best thing, we cooked our own Thanksgiving feast, just for the leftovers. In fact, we made TWO, you can read about what we did at the end of this post.

The holidays are a time when people expect to have leftovers and they prepare for them. Judging from my Facebook feed, my friends are thankful for leftovers because it means they don’t have to spend the days after a holiday shopping or cooking. While this is true, it doesn’t hold to just the holidays. Planning to have leftovers any time of the year is actually a pretty frugal thing to do, both financially and time-wise.

There are a couple of ways you can approach leftovers, each is good for different reasons. Here are some of the ways we incorporate leftovers into our meal plan.

1. Lunches – Cook a little extra (or eat a little less) and package the leftovers for lunches. If you take just one leftover lunch to work each week you could easily save as much as $40 a month!

2. Cook two – If you’re already making one casserole you might as well make two, it won’t take much extra time to prepare. Package the second casserole for freezer storage, if you prefer you can package it into individual servings. This is also a great way to have an on-hand gift to help out a family who just moved into your neighborhood or had a baby.

3. The meal that keeps on feeding – Thanksgiving dinner is definitely in this category. Cook a turkey (or whole chicken, or ham, or roast) and stretch it until it screams. Eat leftovers as they are and when you’re sick of them you can make casseroles, salads, soups, etc.

4. Freezer soup – Freezer soup is served here once a month, typically that last week of the month before payday. During the month I throw all of the small bits of leftover meat and veggies into a container that is stored in the freezer. Early in the morning I bring out the container and run it under warm water for a few minutes, then I dump it into the slow cooker. Pour in some broth or water (enough to fill the crock halfway in most cases) and turn it to low. I let the soup cook for 8-10 hours, longer if possible. About an hour before serving taste the soup and adjust the spices as needed. If your family isn’t excited about soup for dinner you can make bread bowls to serve it in, they won’t be able to stop eating!

Here are just two examples of how you can plan to use leftovers. My husband cooked both of these meals this weekend so we’d have the leftovers stored and ready to use over the next few weeks.

Turkey Dinner Leftovers (we used an 8lb whole turkey purchased on sale for under $5)
meal #1 – traditional holiday meal
meal #2 – turkey pot pie
meal #3 – broth made from boiling skin, fat and bones used in soup (broth is frozen until needed)
meal #4 – cranberry turkey salad sandwiches

Ham Dinner Leftovers (5lb semi-boneless ham was purchased on sale for just under $10)
meal #1 – traditional holiday meal
meal #2 – scalloped potatoes with ham chunks
meal #3 – bean soup made with ham bone & skins (you can wrap skins in cheesecloth for easy removal, or puree them before adding to soup. You could also just make broth from the bone and skins and freeze for future use.)
meal #4 – spinach quiche made with ham chunks
meal #5 – ham salad sandwiches

Ideas for using the non-meat leftovers:
-Cranberry sauce can be frozen and added to muffins and waffles.
-Mashed potatoes and other veggies can be added to your freezer soup container (another good way to use the turkey and ham broth)
-Sweet potatoes can be fried into pancakes or made into hand pies. You can also freeze sweet potatoes in small portions and use them to make muffins.
-Stuffing/dressing can be crumbled over casseroles, stick under the broiler for a few minutes to recrisp.

Do you plan to use leftovers during your normal cooking or just around the holidays?

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2 thoughts on “Planning for Leftovers

  1. I made homemade cranberry sauce. This year we got together with a group and I was told that 50 people were coming. I made a LOT of sauce and only 25 people showed up. We have eaten cranberry sauce for days now. Yesterday, I saw the cool whip container that had one serving left but no pie. I saw the cranberry sauce that had about 2 cups left. I combined the two and made what I now call Cranberry Fluff. It was delicious!

  2. Another stuffing solution (from The Chew):

    Cut stuffing into chunks and dry it in the over. You can use this for croutons on your salad!

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