Spending time with loved ones and showing gratitude over a delicious feast makes Thanksgiving such a memorable holiday. And the festive fun continues even after the gathering, thanks to another favorite tradition: enjoying the leftovers! If you’re wondering what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers then you’re in the right place. We tapped event pros for their clever ideas for leftovers — from turkey to apple cider — and they all agree setting up a fuss-free spread is a fun way to extend holiday joy and make the most of all those extras.
What makes leftovers so great
“One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the the leftovers!” says DIY pro Holly Hulke, founder of LegallyCraftyBlog.com. “There’s usually plenty to go around after the big meal. And this year, I’ve set out to create an easy DIY leftover station.” Whether you’re setting up a day-after Thanksgiving lunch for overnight visitors or your immediate family, this special low-key gathering is sure to delight everyone. To get the look of Hulke’s spread, as shown above, top a buffet with a plaid runner, paper turkeys and take-out boxes with festive labels. Set preheated leftovers on the dinner table for guests to enjoy at the party and encourage them to pack up their favorites before they leave. Tip: For an easy backdrop, use painter’s tape to stick a few craft-store paper medallions to the wall.
Pretty up the table with a simple fall setting
Lovely place settings kissed with golden-hued leaves make leftovers feel like a main event. To do: For each setting, top a weaved charger with a plain white dinner plate. Next, roll a checkered cloth dinner napkin into a cone and slip napkin through a weaved napkin ring; place atop plate. Place rose gold or brass utensils atop dinner plate. To finish, tuck a few yellow faux leaves (Buy on Amazon, $2.59 for 100) under plate and napkin ring. For surprising panache, sprinkle star anise on plate or leaves.
Treat them to savory-sweet turkey cranberry melts
There are few sandwiches more delicious than the ones you make with Thanksgiving leftovers! For a delicious new twist on a turkey sandwich, serve up ooey-gooey melts. To do: Sandwich mild Cheddar cheese, sliced turkey and cranberry sauce between two slices of buttered bread. Then place the sandwich in a pan and heat on the stove over medium, flipping once, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Cut the sandwich on a diagonal and garnish with fresh rosemary; serve. (Click through for more turkey sandwich recipes.)
Beautify the buffet with a colorful, casual floral mix
Boost ambience with a festive made-in-minutes bouquet! To do: Snip stems of seasonal flowers (like mums, sunflowers and daisies), lengths of leafy greenery and berry branches (from your backyard). Next, fill a vase halfway with water then insert stems one by one forming a soft, rounded mound. Make sure one large sunflower is positioned in the center of the bouquet as a cheery focal flower. Fill in gaps with the greenery and berry stems. Display on tabletop, entry console or buffet. (Click through for more eye-catching fall centerpiece ideas.)
Warm everyone up with creamy Shepherd’s pie
Don’t know what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers like mashed potatoes, mushrooms and turkey? You can easily turn these classic foods into a hearty casserole that gets flavor from convenient cream soup!
To do: Heat oven to 400°F. Coat 1½-qt. baking dish with cooking spray. In 12″ nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 rib of sliced celery to skillet; cook, stirring until softened, 5 min. Add a handful of mushrooms; cook, stirring, until mushrooms are browned, stirring in 1 clove of minced garlic during last 30 seconds of cooking time. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 3 cups cooked turkey, 1 10-oz. can of condensed cream of mushroom soup and ¼ cup water until blended. Transfer to baking dish; spread mashed potatoes over top of filling and bake until heated, 18–20 min. Cool slightly; sprinkle with parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Toast to friends and family with a signature seasonal sip
Leftover cider is the perfect base for this warm autumnal beverage — it’s such a cozy choice for a chilly day. To keep it warm, try making it in a slow cooker. To do: Two hours before your gathering, add 1 gallon of apple cider and 4 cinnamon sticks to a slow cooker, then stir in a few apple slices studded with cloves. Set slow cooker to low heat. When ready to serve, ladle cider into mugs and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Optional: Stir 1 oz. of dark rum into each mug. For more fall signature sips, check out these 10 pumpkin spice cocktails.
Add a thoughtful touch with lovely little labels
Once guests have filled their bellies and their to-go boxes with leftovers, load the containers into insulated bags (available at the dollar store!) so everything stays fresh until guests get home. Simply jot down a guest’s name or a festive saying onto colorful scrapbook paper, glue the paper to the bag and hand to them as they head out the door.
At her Thanksgiving gatherings, McKeehan pretties up her to-go boxes with special labels she designs herself! Adding these sweet labels to boxed-up slices of pumpkin pie gives the favors an extra-darling touch. To get them for free, simply download the free printable labels, print on sticker paper, trim with scissors and add to boxes.
For more inspiring party ideas, check out these stories:
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
Questions? Reach us at email@example.com