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Making the Most of Holiday Leftovers

You have 3 to 4 days to freeze or repurpose your leftovers. Are you ready?


Post-holiday leftovers are a thing. And if you plan accordingly, they can be a tasty and creative thing. Gone are the days of eating leftovers for a week after guests are gone. In fact, you only have 3 to 4 days to figure out what to do with leftovers. This means Tuesday, 12/28, is the last day to make good use of Christmas Eve goodies.

Sound different than how you grew up? Food safety guidelines from experts, like the Partnership for Food Safety Education, reflect current food system conditions and advances in microbiology. For that reason, food scientists recommend repurposing or freezing leftovers in 3 to 4 days.

#1- Freeze

Promptly freeze leftovers that won’t be eaten quickly. The goal is to create a quick freeze. Do this by storing foods in shallow freezer-safe packaging no more than 2-inches thick in a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Place foods unstacked until frozen solid and then store stacked if desired.

Once it’s time to make use of frozen leftovers, thaw safely. Thaw in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only will this help with quality, it will help prevent the risk of foodborne illness caused by thawing food improperly at room temperature on surfaces like counter tops.

As you prepare to freeze leftovers, pick the lucky winners mindfully. Not all foods hold up well to freezing, like previously thawed foods (e.g.: shrimp cocktail), cream-based sauces and fresh fruit and vegetables mixed into dishes.

#2- Culinary Creativity

A little bit of artistry can go a long way when making meals with leftovers. When in doubt, take a chance and ride the leftover wave to see what comes out on the other side. For example, shred leftover rib roast for tacos and Shephard’s pie. Top Shephard’s Pie with remaining mashed potatoes or mix with onions from leftover salad for potato pancakes. The makings of crudités and charcuterie make perfect additions to individual-sized quiches you can prep and freeze in batches for on-the-go breakfasts during the work week.

However you clean up after the holidays, following these tips will help keep you feeling, and eating, your best for days (and weeks!) to come.