The holidays are such a joyful time, full of three of the most precious things life has to offer: love, laughter, and leftovers. As the festivities swing into gear, so too does my accumulation of delicious day- (or more) old meals and treats. But somewhere between the never-ending pile of Halloween candy, the Tupperware full of turkey scraps, and the tin upon tin of delicious Christmas cookies, things start to get forgotten about, and despite noble intentions, food gets wasted.
So whether you still have a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers or you’re planning a huge feast for Christmas, here’s how to store some common holiday foods so you can nosh well (and not waste food!) all season long.
This yummy Thanksgiving staple has a tendency to go from moist to indelibly dry after about three days of refrigeration—not good if you’ve got a lot of extra bird to eat up. Put what you think you’ll need for the next couple days in an airtight container in the fridge, then wrap the rest in foil (to prevent freezer burn and keep meat from drying out) and stick it in the freezer. The turkey will stay good for about 2-4 months, perfect for Thanksgiving II in March (if that’s not a thing, it should be).
You can safely refrigerate a cooked ham for one week, or freeze it for up to one month. Before storing, slice it into pieces to keep the meat fresh (and to make it easier to pull out for sandwiches). Wrap up ham leftovers the same way you would with turkey—in an airtight container for the fridge and in foil for the freezer.
Meals of leftovers just wouldn’t be complete without this carb-o-licious side dish. To keep stuffing fresh and tasty, store it wrapped in foil in the freezer (see a pattern here?), making sure to thaw completely before reheating so it doesn’t end up super mushy. If your stuffing was cooked inside the turkey or contains any meat, store in the refrigerator, sealed in an airtight container for up to a week—after that, you’ll have to toss it.
Green Bean Casserole
If you like your green bean casserole the awesome way—with crushed Ritz crackers on top—remove what you can of the topping before storing, and then re-crumble some fresh cracker crumbs on top when you reheat. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a soggy, chewy, and not-so-appetizing mess of Ritz that will please exactly no one. Seal the rest of the casserole in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to 10 months.
These are a tricky one to get just right in the reheating process, but it’s not impossible. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 10 months, and reheat slowly using a double boiler, adding extra milk, cream, or butter as you go to keep the texture creamy.
What’s a mashed potato well without its gravy filling? Store your gravy in an airtight container in the freezer for 2-3 months, making sure to bring it to a boil before serving again to maintain its texture and consistency.
This side is a surprisingly well-kept leftover. Store in your freezer for up to two months in a glass container, and heat in a saucepan on the stove to bring the sugar and delicious goodness back out.
Apple or Other Fruit Pies
Fruit pies (where the fruit is mixed with sugar and cooked) are perfectly fine sitting in a pie dish in the fridge for a few days. If you think it will last longer than that (come on, be realistic here), you can wrap tightly in foil and keep in the freezer for up to two months.
This pie variety doesn’t freeze very well, as the taste and texture are hard to get back. Keep refrigerated for up to four days. Worst case scenario, you’re forced to eat a pleasant meal of pie for dinner on the fourth day.
Whatever you can’t or don’t drink can be repurposed into tons of recipes, such as hearty stews or decadent braised pork. Store red wine out on the counter and white in the refrigerator.
These tips will help you make do with any leftovers you wind up with at the end of your holiday meal. But if you find yourself with an absurd amount of turkey and pies? Consider making a joint decision with your friends and family to cook less next year and for future holidays. Or, have a delicious post-holiday party with your friends and force them to help you eat all the remaining food!