It's a day after Thanksgiving, and your refrigerator is full of leftovers. So what are you supposed to do with all that food staring back at you?
Last year, Americans threw away about $293 million worth of turkey after Thanksgiving, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And that’s just the discarded turkey meat.
“The whole point of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for this food,” said Jonathan Deutsch, professor at Drexel University’s Food Lab in Philadelphia. “It’s been lovingly supplied for our sustenance, so to be so dismissive and let it to go to waste, especially where people don’t have food elsewhere, is problematic.”
Every year, consumers are responsible for 43 percent of the $218 billion in food waste that happens across the U.S. But what are you supposed to do with all that food?
First, look at it fondly. Leftovers are ingredients in disguise and they’re hassle-free because they’re already prepped.
“I love Thanksgiving leftovers…I enjoy not cooking,” said Ally Zeitz, Food Lab manager. “People who don’t like leftovers, I think are crazy. You’re saving yourself time.”
If you can’t stomach any more turkey, then freeze it. Just don’t throw it away.
We asked Drexel’s Food Lab to come up with some ideas on how to eat Thanksgiving leftovers that go beyond turkey sandwiches or soup. This team is at the forefront of finding practical solutions to food waste.
They found ways to turn surplus bananas into smoothie bases for food banks and grocery stores alike. They figured out how to use excess vegetables from a local hunger-fighting organization to make Rescued Relish, an artisanal condiment sold all around Philadelphia.
Here’s what you can do with your Thanksgiving leftovers
- Put stuffing into a waffle iron to make savory breakfast waffles you can top with eggs and leftover gravy.
- Add a fried egg, rice, beans, veggies and salsa to a bit of turkey and then wrap it in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito.
- Freeze diluted cranberry sauce into a granita or use it to make sorbet.
- Make a cranberry sauce margarita.
- Blend leftover sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie with your choice of almond butter, milk, banana or water and make a smoothie.
- Put macaroni and cheese into mini muffin tins and make mac and cheese bites.
- Pile a mix of turkey, gravy and veggies into a baking dish and top it with mashed potatoes to make a version of Shepherd’s pie.
- Make a chef’s salad by topping romaine and kale with turkey, cranberry sauce, veggies and a cranberry sauce vinaigrette.
- Save vegetable peels, turkey and ham bones to make stocks.
- Make stuffed potato cakes by mixing mashed potatoes with eggs and breadcrumbs. Stuff the mixture with cheese or meat and then fry it.
- Use squash, potatoes and green bean casserole to make soups. Or use leftover mashed potatoes to thicken soups or stews.
- Freeze gravy in ice cube trays to use later in other dishes.
Cook with a 'Guest-imator'
If you’re not a fan of eating leftovers, a good way to deal with them is not to make them in the first place. Only make as much food as you think can be eaten in one sitting.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has a free digital calculator to help you figure out how much food to make per guest for large meals.
Called the “Guest-imator,” it lets you enter how many small, average and heavy eaters you’re expecting and then choose which dishes you’re making. Then it tells you exactly how much food to make total.
What's for dinner? More importantly, how MUCH is for dinner? 🍽 Introducing: The Guest-imator! Our new tool will help you plan your next dinner party. 🎉 Stay tuned over the next few weeks as Chef @JoelGamoran of Sur La Table and host of @CookScraps plans out a Scrappy Thanksgiving. 🦃 Check out the Guest-imator at the link in the bio. ☝️ #SaveTheFood #Food #FoodWaste #EndFoodWaste #ZeroWaste #RescueFood #Reclaim #CookWithScraps
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