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Seasonal Cleaning

Freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers

Along with friends, family and an excuse to break out your best dishes, Thanksgiving dinner brings a surplus of food that almost always results in leftovers. And after stuffing themselves on, well, stuffing and other delights, most people groan at the idea of eating turkey sandwiches for days on end. But can you freeze Thanksgiving leftovers?

Good news: You can! If you learn how to freeze leftover turkey and other Thanksgiving items, you won’t have to spend a week groaning every time you sit down to lunch or dinner. Here are some ways to freeze Thanksgiving leftovers.

General Tips for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Several days before the holiday, make sure you’ve made plenty of room in your refrigerator and have cleaned out your freezer. You’re going to need every spare square inch you can find. In addition, check to be certain you’re well stocked on freezer-safe plastic storage containers, so that you don’t end up digging through cabinets in search of tubs for gravy or slices of pecan pie.

How to Freeze Leftover Turkey or Ham

If you have leftover turkey, you’ll be pleased to know that this poultry freezes well. However, you will need to separate the bones from the meat first. (Save those turkey bones. They can be used to make a great stock.)

Once you’ve removed the meat from the bone, package it in your freezer-safe containers. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states you can keep cooked poultry dishes frozen for four to six months. However, remember that the longer you leave food in the freezer, the more flavor it may lose.

Many families prepare a ham alongside their turkey. According to the FDA, you can freeze cooked ham for one to two months. It’s a good idea to cut the ham into slices and then separate those with waxed paper before freezing them. That way you can grab just one or two pieces if you need to.

Freezer Lifespans

  • Cooked poultry dishes: 4 to 6 months
  • Cooked ham: 1 to 2 months

Freezing Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes and Other Side Dishes

Can you freeze stuffing? Sure, for about a month, but you need to be aware that the texture might be a little different once you thaw and recook it. Your famous green bean casserole and those delicious fried onions won’t freeze well, so eat those leftovers ASAP. However, sides made of squash or sweet potatoes will keep for a few months in the freezer, as will gravies that aren’t dairy-based. Additionally, mashed potatoes made with a lot of butter or cream can also be frozen for up to a year.

Freezer Lifespans

  • Stuffing: About 1 month
  • Sides of squash or sweet potatoes: 2 to 3 months
  • Non-dairy gravies: 2 to 3 months
  • Mashed potatoes with butter or cream: 12 months

How to Freeze Pies

Pies rarely factor in when you have to consider which Thanksgiving leftovers can be frozen, since these sweet treats are usually gobbled up. If you do have extra pie that needs to be stored in the freezer, it helps to know that some of these desserts are more well-suited to freezing than others. Pies with delicate chiffon fillings or meringue toppings won’t freeze well, and the same goes for those filled with custard, cream or mousse.

Fruit pies, on the other hand, freeze very well for up to four months. And while pies with egg binders — chess pumpkin, pecan and chess — will keep for about two months, they may never have the same texture as they did the day you first pulled them from the oven.

Freezer Lifespans

  • Fruit pies: 4 months
  • Pumpkin and pecan pies: 2 months

So, can you freeze Thanksgiving leftovers? Absolutely, in most cases, though flavor and texture can be altered by the process. Now that you know the answer to that great seasonal query, you can focus on bigger things, such as creating a checklist for cleaning before and after Thanksgiving.

Need help with preparation or cleanup? Contact your local Merry Maids for some holiday housekeeping backup.