How to Prep with Those Christmas Dinner Leftovers

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Build a Better Pantry on a Budget online course

One of the best things about holidays is getting together with family and having a huge feast.  One of the worst things about the holidays is that you probably spent close to a week’s grocery money on that huge feast. If you are of the frugal mindset or on a tight budget, it can be overwhelming to spend all that money for just one meal.

So now,  your refrigerator is stuffed to the point that you have to lean against the door to close it and you never want to see another bite of turkey, ham, or roast beef again, let alone stuffing or green beans.

So what is a thrifty prepper do with all of that delicious bounty?

Preserve it!

Nearly all of your post-Christmas goodies can be put away for future use, adding to your stockpile.  Don’t let anything go to waste. Many people wait too long to preserve the food and end up having to throw most of it in the trash. It’s important to get on this right away.

I’ve published many of these after-holiday suggestions before, but for some readers this information will be all new.  For those of you who have been around a long time, please share your own leftover preserving methods in the comments section!


Nearly all leftovers can be successfully frozen and used in other meals.  (For best results, use a vacuum sealing system.) You can find Tess Pennington’s guidelines on freezing food HERE.

Don’t be deterred if your veggies are in a sauce or highly seasoned.  When an item is not particularly appetizing in its original form, soups and casseroles made from combined freezer contents can be delicious. Check out this article about The Fine and Frugal Art of Repurposing Leftovers for more ideas.

  • 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 lunch time.
  • 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 (high end or budget) or you use your oven on a low setting, you can fill many jars with home-dried holiday leftovers.

Dehydrated foods have several great benefits to your stockpile.  First, they require no refrigeration and can happily reside in a jar in a cool dark place for several months. Second, they don’t require lengthy cooking time to prepare when it’s time to use them – boiling water is all it takes. And finally, because the removal of moisture causes the food to shrink, the reduced size means that you can store a lot more food in a lot less space.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use a low heat in your oven, with the door slightly cracked to allow moisture to escape.  If you’re new to dehydrating, you can find detailed instructions HERE, and you can use this handy rehydration chart for reconstituting the foods when it is time to use them.

  • 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.
  • 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.


Everyone knows that canning is my favorite way to preserve food. Most of these foods require pressure canning to be safely preserved. I’ve included some links to specific instructions.

Shameless plug – you can find all of these canning recipes, lots of other recipes, and instructions on canning your own family recipes in my new book, The Prepper’s Canning Guide.

How do you make the most of a big holiday feast?

What do you do with all those yummy leftovers?  Please share your ideas in the comments section!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • The first in prepping is TO MAKE A PLAN. The plan for meals should be made including how many people will come, what we will eat, to make manu and shoping list. Every restaurant make it not to be bancruted soonest.

  • I always love your pressure canning methods! This year, I spent **more** than one weeks budget on food! I will preface this with the following: It did not include meat as we put up meat over the summer. It did not include vegetables as I put up broccoli, green beans (pressure canned, frozen and dehydrated), and we grew butternut squash. We did not buy junk foods or candy, but we did buy ice cream. My daughters contributed to the meal (deserts and appetizers), but the DIL could not as they traveled a long distance to celebrate with us. The total number of people at the table? Twenty. This includes nine of the ten grandchildren!

    Everyday meals for the next few days were from our “larder.” It still boggles my mind how much the food cost!

  • I don’t usually have lots of leftovers. I bought a turkey back in early November with a coupon for $10 off so I only paid $3.
    I roasted yams and carrots this year instead of the creamed sprouts that we usually have. Mashes potatoes and gravy of course and I had a large platter of homemade pickles. I grind the giblets with a bit of butter, onion and bread..season with salt and pepper and poultry seasoning, this gets stuffed in the bird.
    The turkey will give us another meal, and maybe a sandwich or two, and then the bones will go into a crock pot for a day.
    The only expense was the turkey and the yams. Everything else came from our garden or the pantry downstairs.
    I’ve always been a prepper and I’m so glad to see that there are a lot of others out there…..that I’m not the odd duck. 🙂

  • My canning shelves are groaning with bone broth, turkey in bone broth, and harvest soup. I am fighting off a cold right now, a week before flying to another country, so having tons of bone broth ready to heat is wonderful. I also freeze cooked turkey meat in smaller ziploc size bags, the packages are small enough that they thaw out quickly and can be chopped and added to just about anything. Today’s breakfast: turkey scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese.

  • Here in da deep South, Christmas ham leftovers become Black eyed Peas n’ Ham on New Years. Accompanied by Corn Bread of course. Pecan pie fur dee-zert!

  • Can tell you have girls not boys! First you make the biggest bird or ham then you peel potatoes till you can’t stand it then you make huge volumes of gravy and stuffing. The next day after the holiday for breakfast dinner and supper everyone takes a plate and puts on meat potatoes stuffing and pours on gravy also corm and bean casserole and heats on microvave then add leftover salad cranberries and pickles and veggie tray items. when food is gone Mom must start cooking again but not before ! Mom does not do this kids do this. you must take meat potatoes or stuffing veggie and salad and fresh veggies on your plate.. leftovers gone no canning or dehydrating needed. 🙂

  • This is Dec 26th. Last night I packed 5 quarts of Turkey in broth and 2 quarts of meaty broth. Today they are in the pressure canner. That’s many days of good meals for two of us.
    I kept back the 2 drumsticks and 1/2 of the breast. More than enough t for the next few days. I may still can some Pints of meat and veggies for soup or a base for fresh noodles.

  • Ditto on the turkey. We get a free turkey for donating blood at the local blood bank during the holiday season, and then can get typically 10 meals out of an 11 lb. turkey — 1. The original meal. 2 & 3. Remove most of the meat, then divide the carcass in half and make two batches of soup. 4-10. Pressure can around 7 half-pints of turkey meat. One of the cans and a handful of noodles makes a great meal for two people.

    We love your site, we read it every day.

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