Tips for Leftover Thanksgiving Food–Avoid Food Waste

By Larraine Roulston:

Thanksgiving — a holiday celebration when tables are graced with a bountiful harvest. At the end of the long weekend holiday, most likely there will be plenty of leftover food from those turkey and vegetarian dinners with all the trimmings — a perfect time to utilize casserole recipes. I also reach for my Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste by Lois Carlson Willand. Its unique layout categorizes foods by type, and includes tips and recipes on how to use up leftovers.thanksgivingisover

Ideas to help:


  • Cut into meal-sized portions, and freeze for casseroles and stir-fries.
  • Mix with mayo, chopped celery and onion for cold turkey salad.
  • Make turkey soup.
  • Add to vegetable, pea or bean soups.


– Heat and serve over french fries, cooked rice or bread with turkey slices.


Cover and bake until heated through for any of the following:

  • Thin cooked squash with cream or orange juice. If desired, sprinkle with crushed pineapple or raisins.
  • Top with applesauce.
  • Mix squash with chopped green onions, dairy sour cream, salt and pepper to taste.


  • Yam and Pear Casserole: Combine equal amounts of sliced pears and slices of cooked yams. Arrange in layers in a baking dish. Sprinkle pear layers with brown sugar and chopped walnuts. Spread yam layer with generous amounts of butter. Bake at 350o for 45-50 minutes.
  • Pineapple Yams: Slice cooked yams. Place in skillet with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Place pineapple slices on top of yams. Pour pineapple juice over all. Simmer until heated through.
  • Use in place of pastry over a chicken or meat pie. Mix mashed cooked yams with salt, butter, orange juice and orange rind. Bake at 350o until meat mixture is warmed through and yam topping is lightly browned.
  • Mash cooked yams, then mix with chopped nuts, softened butter, salt and a little orange or cranberry juice if desired. Spoon into hollowed-out orange shells and bake at 350o for 15 minutes.


  • Add to soup.
  • Use as extender for hamburger and meat loaf.
  • Place cooked rice in greased baking dish. Cover with cheese sauce and top with grated cheese. Bake at 350o for 20 minutes.
  • Sauté cut up onions and mushrooms. Add leftover rice, cut turkey pieces, and mix in an egg and cooked frozen peas.


  • Put into a casserole dish with a mashed potato topping and bake until hot.
  • Blend with leftover sauces to make a cream soup. Add wine, a bit of gravy, extra spices, and top with a dollop of sour cream.


  • For fruit salad dressing, combine 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup honey, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Chill.
  • Add to an apple crisp.
  • Glaze for ham. Combine 1 cup whole cranberry sauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar, dash of nutmeg. Pour over ham during last 10 minutes of baking.


– Crumble it further to make sweet crumbs as a topping for puddings.

– Break up into chunks and fold into whipped cream.

  • Fold into a dessert sauce such as lemon or chocolate, and chill.
  • Make a trifle by breaking it into 2-inch sections, sprinkle with rum or sherry, spread with jam or fruit and cover with a custard.


  • Cooked pumpkin can be substituted for winter squash.
  • Use to make soup, pies, breads, muffins, cake, jam, squares, cookies and puddings.
  • Toast pumpkin seeds with salt and oil.
  • Cooked wedges can even be used as a pizza topping.

Be sure to handle leftover food safely. Refrigerate as soon as possible or freeze it if you cannot use within four days. A good frugal cook can create amazing menus with leftovers.

Related Links:

Food poisoning: How long can you safely keep leftovers? – Mayo

Tips for reducing food waste at Thanksgiving

Larraine authors the Pee Wee at Castle Compost book series at www.castlecompost.com

Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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