Purposefully Using Holiday Leftovers
A sustainable, purposeful lifestyle isn’t just about recycling, growing your food, and DIYing projects. It’s about mindfully using all our resources—and that includes the food that we cook. By purposefully using holiday leftovers you can help eliminate food waste and create new recipes to delight your family!
Since holidays are often about abundance, sharing, and comfort, we tend to make large meals with plenty of leftovers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, and other fall-winter celebrations. However, throwing out leftovers is one hundred percent not sustainable, mindful, or respectful of the responsibility we have to use our resources wisely.
That being said, leftovers easily get boring and mundane. And if we don’t eat them in time, they’re often no longer fit to be eaten. We’ll start with some thought-provoking information about food waste statistics and then give you some fun, new ways that you might not have tried before to put those leftovers to good use—instead of having to throw them away.
Reasons Why Food Waste Hurts Our Planet
Did you know that if you took all the food waste that happens in the world and “combined” it as its own country, it would be the third-highest ranking for greenhouse gas emissions? Put another way, in the United States alone we waste 40% of the food that’s grown and processed for our people. That’s almost half. In the United States, this computes to about nine pounds worth of food, or about $30-$40, per person, per month. That’s an astonishing statistic; humans need to do better.
Why do we do this? We either buy too much, think that it’s gone bad before it actually has, or—get ready to cringe—we simply throw it away because it isn’t appealing or pretty enough to eat, Yet people all over the world go hungry and waste piles up, meaning not only more trash but more pollution because of all the excess energy used to make food that we just throw away.
It’s ironic when you think about it. One of the hallmarks of Thanksgiving (all controversy aside) is that we’re celebrating all we have to be thankful for. But are we truly thankful when we just toss out food without thinking about the harmful implications of taking this abundance for granted? So, let’s prepare ahead of time so that we can know better and do better this holiday season.
Creative Ways to Purposefully Use Your Holiday Leftovers
No matter the dishes that your loved ones enjoy preparing or eating, there’s a way to utilize the leftovers.
Loaded Mashed Potato Cups
Grab some of that Pillsbury dough that’s in your freezer and fill it with mashed potatoes, cheese, bacon bits, onions, peas, and anything that sounds appetizing.
These are often called latkes, but they’re almost like a buttermilk pancake. Add some egg to your leftover potatoes and fry them up in a pan for a crispy, warm twist on either breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Brunch is the best of dinner and breakfast mixed into one. So, mix some chives and cheese into mashed potatoes and toss it in the waffle maker. You could even add some gravy on top for an extra rich touch.
Stuffing and Bread
Mix your leftover stuffing with one or two eggs and bake them in some muffin cups for an easy treat or snack.
Use the roll leftovers and soak them in a classic French Toast mixture for breakfast the rest of the weekend.
Bread pudding is like French Toast taken to the next level. You don’t have to slave over the stove for this one. Soak your bread leftovers in cream, egg, cinnamon, vanilla, and any other cozy spices—you could even mix in those leftover sweet potatoes for a unique kick!
Here’s a fun one if you’re getting people together a day or two after a big meal. Cut up the leftover bread and toast it, then top it with turkey, veggies, or stuffing dollops to make bite-size appetizers.
Turkey Stuffing Quiche
This recipe does double duty! Line a pie pan with stuffing, pressing firmly into the sides. Then, scramble up some eggs and add shredded cheese, half-and-half, leftover turkey, and spices. Pour over the stuffing and bake to perfection. Yum!
If you love pho (a Vietnamese soup), especially on a cold evening, then this is the perfect way to use all that turkey. You could even use the entire turkey carcass to make a broth for the pho base—extra sustainability for the win!
Green Bean Casserole Pizza
We bet you’ve never had this one before! Scoop out that leftover casserole onto a pizza crust or a flatbread. You could even use some gravy for the base as a marinara sauce replacement. Toss on some extra French-fried onions if you’re feeling indulgent, or some leftover turkey if you’ve got any more!
Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Quesadillas (talk about purposefully using holiday leftovers)
What do you have left? Toss it on the tortilla! Turkey, stuffing, casserole, sweet potatoes, and even cranberry sauce! Think about your favorite “everything” bite on your plate. Layer it onto a tortilla and cover with another, then pan-heat it until crispy. If you’d rather repurpose it in the form of a traditional sandwich or a cold wrap, go for it!
Let’s be real: after a day or two of rich food, a salad is what feels best. So, toss some of those leftovers onto a bowl full of greens! Turkey, homemade croutons from leftover bread or rolls, or chopped-up veggies from the appetizer trays—a salad is the perfect vessel. Feel good about using food and putting more vitamins into your body.
Do you have any unique spins on these leftover traditions? What are the ways your family likes to maintain sustainability during the holidays? Let us know so that we can continue sharing traditions, tips, and ways to maintain our respect for our resources and love of our earth. After all, we want to give future generations a place we’ve taken care of as well as the memories from years past. We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org!