Food Storage Tips for Thanksgiving Leftovers

The typical Thanksgiving feast includes an overwhelming amount of food, even after all the guests are done eating. After all, the holiday is about having an abundance, so you probably planned to cook more than enough.

Once dinner is over, you are stuck in the position of wondering how in the world you are going to fit all the food in the fridge. Your main goal is to make your Thanksgiving leftovers accessible and easy to eat so you can fully enjoy them while they are still fresh, usually for about 3-5 days after Thanksgiving. They make easy meals for the weekend to give you plenty of time to visit your storage unit and pull out all your Christmas decorations!

Don't wait too long to put leftovers away
Photo: Flickr
While it is tempting to go relax after finishing the big meal, it's critical to get to work quickly putting your Thanksgiving leftovers away. One key food storage tip to remember is that hot foods should be packaged and put away within two hours of when they were cooked, and cold foods should also not be out of the fridge for more than two hours. Any longer than that, and they may start spoiling and could make you sick if you eat them.

Consider packaging some Thanksgiving leftovers in single portion containers
Photo: Flickr
Before you get started putting everything away in separate containers, consider putting together a couple complete single portions. These are perfect for work or school lunches on Monday, or for pulling out for a quick meal over the weekend without having to get out all the separate containers.

If you're planning to serve the majority of your leftovers to your whole family, or another large group of people, you will probably be best off packaging each type of item individually. This makes it easier to appropriately reheat them and set them out buffet style for people to create their own plates.

Make the most of your Thanksgiving turkey
Photo: Flickr
While it is tempting to just put the whole turkey in the fridge and be done with it, this isn't the best strategy. If you have stuffing in the cavity, you need to remove this and package it in a separate container. Then get to work carving the turkey off the bones for compact food storage.

Refrigerate as much turkey as you are sure you will use by the end of the day on the Monday after Thanksgiving. If you have more than that, you should freeze it to keep it fresh. Chop the turkey before freezing it so it is easy to toss into soups or casseroles, and then just package it in freezer bags with enough turkey in each bag for one meal for your family.

Store leftover side dishes
Whether your favorite side dishes are green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, or glazed carrots, these Thanksgiving leftovers all have one thing in common: they need to be packaged appropriately to be stored. Putting a piece of plastic wrap over the serving dish is not an ideal strategy because they will not be able to be stacked, so you will probably run out of room in your fridge.

Put each type of side dish in a separate food storage container. If you have two similar sides that you don't mind mixing, like two cooked vegetables, you can opt to put them together to save space. Also, keep in mind that mashed potatoes actually freeze quite well, so if you have more than you can eat in a few days, freezing them is an option.

Keep those pies fresh
Photo: the Kitchn
By this time, your refrigerator is probably looking quite full, but you can't forget about the pies. Thankfully, fruit pies don't actually need to be refrigerated, so you can just cover them and leave them on the counter. Putting an apple or berry pie in the microwave is another way to keep it fresh and out of the way while you're cleaning up your kitchen. Pumpkin and pecan pies do need to be refrigerated, so make space for them. Wrapping individual slices in aluminum foil is one way to squeeze them into your last nooks and crannies if needed.

Don't forget about the turkey stock!
Photo: Flickr
You're probably feeling ready to be done, but you have one last kind of Thanksgiving leftovers that you can choose to keep if you want. Your turkey bones are still full of flavor you can extract by making turkey stock. This homemade stock can be used in place of chicken stock or chicken broth in any recipe.

Make turkey stock by cutting or breaking the turkey carcass into pieces that will fit in your pot. A concentrated stock is your goal so it takes less space, so do your best to pack the bones together in the pot. Then barely cover them with water and simmer for about two hours. At that point, pour the stock through a sieve to strain out all the bones and tissue and package it in jars or other food storage containers. After refrigerating the stock overnight, it's easy to take the solidified fat off the surface. If you're not going to use your turkey stock within a few days, freeze it for use sometime during the next few months.

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The Storage Queens

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