3 Ways to Preserve Your Thanksgiving Leftovers and Add Them to Your Pantry

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Headline News | 16 comments

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    This article was originally published by Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper

    This weekend, most people’s refrigerators are so full with Thanksgiving leftovers that getting to door shut requires the family engineer to play Tupperware Jenga with all of the containers of food. Inevitably, in many households, much of the leftovers go to waste after the 10th turkey sandwich in a row.

    In this economy, none of us can afford to let anything go to waste, however. There’s a lot more you can do with those Thanksgiving leftovers besides referring to your What To Do With Leftover Turkey cookbook. (Who knew there was actually an entire cookbook on this?!?) The preserving goes way past turkey – there are lots of tasty ways to preserve your other leftovers too.

    Instead of fighting the Black Friday weekend crowds, spend the day adding things that are frugal and delicious to your pantry. Here are 3 ways to preserve your Thanksgiving leftovers.


    Nearly all leftovers can be successfully frozen and used in other meals. For Tess Pennington’s guidelines on freezing food, click HERE.

    • Freeze vegetables in cheese sauce to be used later in a pureed soup. Cheesy cauliflower and cheesy broccoli soup are big hits in our household. Simply thaw the veggies in cheese sauce and add to some white potatoes boiled in water. Thin the mixture down as desired with milk and serve piping hot.
    • Freeze chopped meat mixed with gravy as the basis for a future speedy stew. If you want, you can also add cooked carrots and roasted potatoes to the mixture.
    • Freeze leftover dinner rolls. You can reheat them as needed to use as rolls or you can dice them finely and freeze them for use in stuffing.
    • Freeze desserts in individual servings for brown bag treats. They’ll be thawed out and delicious by lunchtime.
    • Freeze single servings of casseroles, lasagnas, etc. You’ll have the best lunches in the office!


    Another way to preserve your leftovers is by dehydrating them. Whether you have a commercial dehydrator or you use your oven on a low setting, you can fill many jars with home-dried holiday leftovers. If you’re new at dehydrating, you can find detailed instructions HERE. (Use this handy rehydration chart for bringing them back to life!)

    • Dehydrate the remainder of your veggie tray. I find that veggies dehydrate very nicely when they are coarsely grated with the biggest holes in the cheese grater. Be sure and squeeze the excess moisture out with a paper towel to cut down on the drying time. (Ditto for your fruit tray!)
    • Dehydrate leftover turkey or ham to be added to casseroles and soups.
    • Leftover fruit can be pureed and then dehydrated into homemade fruit roll-ups.
    • Dehydrate mashed potatoes, then run them through the blender for instant potato flakes.  You can use these to thicken soups or gravies naturally. (Note:  I haven’t done this but it sounds like it would work very nicely.)
    • Dehydrate leftover stuffing, then rehydrate (“Stovetop Stuffing”-style) with broth when it’s time to serve it. Make sure to get it completely dry and crumbly.


    Everyone knows that canning is my favorite way to preserve food. If you have some jars and fresh lids, your kitchen already contains everything you need to add an abundant amount of food to your stockpile. The following recipes are from my book, The Prepper’s Canning Guide. Turkey, veggies, and cranberry sauce will all make beautiful additions to your home-canned goods. Use these recipes as a guideline to adapt what you have left over to nutritious homemade meals in jars.

    Canning Turkey in Broth

    Bone broth is all the rage if you happen to follow the teachings of the Weston A. Price foundation. A cookbook based on Dr. Price’s findings recommends many different ways to prepare the broth, and recommends that every has at least a cup per day. Your Thanksgiving turkey carcass can provide you with jars and jars of delicious, nourishing broth. If you don’t have time to process your turkey immediately, wrap the carcass well and put it in the freezer until you do have time.

    After a few meals of roast turkey, remove most of the meat from the bones and place it in the refrigerator. You’ll be left with a rather desolate-looking carcass.  Put that in your crockpot along with the reserved neck and giblets (if you didn’t use those for gravy). Add some veggies from the holiday snack tray – carrots, peppers and celery are great additions! Add a couple of tablespoons of salt, a head of garlic and 4-6 onions. Note:  there’s no need to peel the garlic and onions as long as they are organic – just wash them well. Fill the crockpot with water and add your favorite spices (not sage – it tastes terrible when canned). I used whole peppercorns, salt, oregano and bay leaves.

    turkey carcass cooking

    Put the crockpot on low for 12-14 hours and let it simmer undisturbed overnight. Zzzzzz……

    The next day, strain the contents of the crockpot into a large container – I use a big soup pot and a metal colander.  After allowing the bones to cool remove any meat that you would like to add to your soup. I always give our dog a big treat – a bowl of turkey with gristle, fat and skin. (She’s a little on the skinny side because she runs constantly when she’s outside so I think that the occasional fat intake is good for her.) She also likes the mushy carrots.

    Doggie wants treats

    Take all of the meat that you put in the refrigerator the night before and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I like a mixture of light meat and dark meat for this purpose.  Also cut up the meat you removed from the crockpot.

    Place approximately 1 cup of turkey in each of your sanitized jars. (I ended up with about a cup and a half in each jar.) Add 1-2 cloves of garlic to the jars.

    You will have a rich, dark beautiful stock from the overnight crockpot project. Ladle this into the jars over your cut-up turkey and garlic. Leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jars. If you run out of broth, top it up with water – don’t worry – your broth will still be very flavorful.

    Wipe the lip of your jars with a cloth dipped in white vinegar. Place the lids on and process them in your pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure, adjusting for altitude.

    Your result will be a deep golden, rich meaty soup. This is an excellent base for turkey and dumplings, as well as any type of turkey soup. When you’re ready to serve it, just throw in a handful of noodles or rice to cook in the broth as you heat it up.

    op Chicken broth

    Canning cranberry sauce

    If you have leftover cranberry sauce, you may can it for future use. (In our house, I actually make a triple batch when I make cranberry sauce, just so I can put some up for later.) I like to use teeny little half pint jam jars for this.

    1. Heat the cranberry sauce to a simmer on the stovetop.
    2. Ladle the sauce into sanitized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.
    3. Wipe the rims of the jars, then place the lid on them.
    4. Process in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

    whole berry cranberry sauce - glass jar and small ceramic bowl on a grunge wood

    Thanksgiving Soup

    This recipe is adapted from one in my book, The Prepper’s Canning Guide.

    Round up whatever veggies that you have left over from Thanksgiving. Don’t worry if they have some butter and seasonings on them – it will all add to the rich flavor of your soup. However, if they are in a cream or cheese sauce, you need to rinse that off before canning.

    My soup contains carrots that were cooked in honey, green beans with some butter, some diced sweet potatoes, and corn with butter. Use whatever you have. Don’t be shy about raiding your veggie tray either: chop your crudites into bite-sized pieces and add them raw to your jars – they’ll cook beautifully during the canning process.

    1. Add one cup of your vegetable mixture to each sanitized quart jar. If you want, throw in some peas and diced potatoes too.
    2. Add 1 cup of chopped turkey to each jar (dark meat is perfect for this!).
    3. Season with a clove of garlic and 1-2 tablespoons of chopped onion in each jar. Because the vegetables were already salted, I did not add any additional salt to my soup. If you have it on hand, you can also add some carrots and celery.
    4. Top your veggies and turkey with one cup of your delicious stock that you made above. Then fill it the rest of the way with water. The flavors will blend – don’t worry!
    5. Wipe the lip of your jars with a cloth dipped in white vinegar and then place the lids on.
    6. Process the soup in your pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure, adjusting for altitude.

    Variation: If you want a different type of soup, add 2 tbsp of tomato paste to each jar and season with some Italian spices like basil and oregano.

    At serving time, you can add some cooked rice, barley, or pasta to your soup.

    Vegetable soup

    Want more fantastic ideas for building your pantry?

    Check out my online course, Build a Better Pantry on a Budget. You’ll get loads of ideas for stocking up with delicious, healthful food on the cheap.

    What do you do with YOUR leftovers?

    Do you eat them right away? Do you preserve them? Please share any ideas I haven’t covered in the comments below.


    Here are some links to great leftover ideas for all those Thanksgiving goodies:

    And some further resources:

    The Pantry Primer

    Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to The Organic Prepper and the following bio.

    Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her websites, The Organic Prepper and DaisyLuther.com She is the author of 4 books and the co-founder of Preppers University, where she teaches intensive preparedness courses in a live online classroom setting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter,.


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      1. Best way to store food is to freeze dry it. Last more than 25 years in Mylar or mason jars with and O2 absorber. Freezing food starts to freezer burn usually only lasts a year and have to spend energy and space – money to keep it frozen. In a power outage it’s gone. Dehydrating makes food tough and shrinks it and the heat destroys almost 85% of nutrient value. Harvest Right dot com is where I got my Freeze dryer.

      2. My Thanksgiving meal was sweet potatoes and baby green peas. I eat zero meat and don’t miss it.

      3. leftovers rarely last 48 hours in most households, so why bother? If youre making SO much food you have enough left to dehydrate or whatever, you wasted money on the initial meal.
        I do make and can broth from the turkey carcass, easy to do.

        • …which is pretty much what I wrote but my comment never posted.

          One of my mentors ran a kitchen and if his crew had leftovers, it meant the staff had screwed up. Want to mess up a soup? Use leftovers.

          It is cheaper to bake fresh rolls then bake excess, freeze them, thaw them, and serve them.

          For gosh sakes, how many of your family members eat dark turkey? Not many yet people roast whole turkeys then throw it out.

          You can make absolutely delicious whole cranberry sauce for very little money and effort from scratch.

          • “You can make absolutely delicious whole cranberry sauce for very little money and effort from scratch.”

            yep, my wife makes it, basically just simmer the berries in sugar water until they burst. bag of berries is cheap, and its way way better than the canned jello stuff

            • Well, more then just basically, One pound bag fresh cranberries, one cup sugar one cup water, simmer till you know they are done. So simple and soooo good.

              • Try the above with a little orange juice or whatever you have on hand plus some port wine. The berries “pop” in the boiling sugar water mixture so it’s a bit unusual as the skin cracks slightly. I could eat a little fresh cranberries every day.

                Supposedly it ends up applying a phytochemical in the kidney and bladder tract and thus prevents an infection like cystitis which is one of the MOST common ailments especially with newlyweds.

      4. Leftovers? I have 6 dogs and 14 cats. If shtf I’ll eat them lol.

        • Yup, my doggie gets whats left. But then we don’t do thanksgiving or any other fraudulent BS holidays…

          • I always share a bit of my meals with my dog. Imagine if you were a dog….. “gee dad whats for breakfast’?
            “dog food and water”
            Gee dad whats for lunch”?
            “dog food and water”
            gee dad whats for dinner?
            “dog food and water”
            See what I mean? I love my dog and provide him the best life I can. In fact I just baked him some homemade treats that are way healthier than store bought shit. Here’s the recipe:

            3/4 cup organic buckwheat flour… 3/4 cup coconut flour… 1/2 cup organic peanut butter… 2 eggs… 1/4 tsp. baking soda… 1/2 cup organic chicken broth… real bacon bits 1/4 cup… bake at 350 for 14 minutes (make it into little cookies). He loves them too!

            • I also make a 50/50 mix of organic coconut oil and organic peanut butter and mix well and refrigerate. Take a tablespoon or so and mix it in his (top shelf no byproduct) food and he loves that too. He has a beautiful coat and bright shiney eyes and is happy and healthy and very smart!

              • He also gets beef bones sliced with the marrow in them. And an occasional flank steak with bone in (cheap). I don’t spoil my dog……. errrrr YES I DO! 😛

      5. Cook Less???!!!???!!???

      6. Cook Less? ! ?

      7. In my household, after the initial dinner and subsequent turkey sandwiches, my fallback dish is turkey ala king. I usually make enough for 8-10 servings. It is quick, easy, and freezable. I have not tried canning it, but that may be a future endeavor.

      8. I think that the turkey was cheaper than regular dog food, and was sold at below production costs. 39¢/lb of meat, compared to the cost of store-bought feed for 2ish years? Someone must be subsidizing that.

        I don’t like this industry, and, if I had the room to DIY everything, would never buy it. I have eaten it all, gratefully, and without waste.

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