How to Use up Christmas Dinner Leftovers

how to use up xmas leftovers

In an ideal world we would generate no food waste but being imperfect humans this isn’t always the case. I take food waste very personal and get very annoyed when anything that should have been eaten ends up in the brown bin, but it still happens from time to time. Here are some simple ideas to help you minimise your food waste this festive period.

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  • Meat – Freeze in slices in portions to defrost and use in future dinners. We like it reheated with a splash of water in a dish in the over or integrated into a pie with a crispy pastry topping.
  • Cooked Veg – Make soup from leftover veg
  • Uncooked Veg – Put the ends of the wilting veg into water. This will help to crisp up lettuce heads, broccoli etc. Carrots and parsnips can be completely submerged in water.
  • Fruit – Freeze for use in future bakes or smoothies. Lemons and limes can be cut in half, quarters or slices for future use. I like to freeze the grated rind separately for use in baking.
  • Potatoes – Leftover roasted potatoes can be sliced up and used in a frittata or fried and served with a full Irish breakfast. Mashed can be frozen or used to make potato cakes or as a topping on shepherds pie or similar. Boiled or steamed or mash can make great potato salad, just mix with mayo, herbs and onions. (Thanks to Noreen for that last suggestion)
  • Gravy – Freeze or add to soup to enrich the flavour
  • Cranberry sauce – Freeze, or add to gravy for a richer taste. You can also use it as a glaze on ham or chicken.
  • Stuffing –
    • Use in sandwiches or
    • as a topping on soup
    • or mix with an egg and fry up as festive pancakes (cheers for the tip Kalpana). I’d say if you’ve sausage meat stuffing this would work particularly well
  • Whipped Cream- Freeze, or mix through mashed potatoes, or add to soup or hot chocolate or custard
  • Cake – Freeze leftover cake or break the cake into crumbs, mix with melted chocolate and make cake-pops
  • Cheese – To extend the life of cheeses take them out of their plastic packaging and wrap in kitchen paper in an air-tight container. Replace the kitchen paper when it gets too damp. You can also freeze hard cheeses or make a fondue with soft cheeses, or just make a cheese dip (see Kalpana’s comment below for ingredients)
  • Bread
    • Freeze leftover bread (sliced preferably) or
    • make breadcrumbs, fry in a little oil with garlic and herbs and use to sprinkle over pasta. This keeps for a month in a sealed jar in your cupboard, or
    • toast slices, and cut down between the toasted sides to make melba toast (Another suggestion from Noreen!), or
    • make bread and butter pudding (thanks Kalpana for the tip)
  • Crackers & Biscuits – Put these in an airtight container with a slice of bread to help keep them crisp. If they go soft you can re-crisp them in the oven for a few minutes – as long they’ve no chocolate or meltable fillings.
  • Wine – Freeze, or use in a casserole or pasta sauce
  • Herbs – Freeze

Finally for anything that won’t freeze or you can’t use up offer it to neighbours or rehome through the Olio app

Recipes to Check Out

  • Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Hodgepodge Pie as a good way to use up leftover turkey and stuffing. It also seems to use cranberry sauce and uncooked brussel sprouts, which is a bonus! (Thanks Iliana for the tip)
  • Strata is another dish that’s great for using up leftover bread, cheese, veg and eggs. We used to make this bacon and broccoli strata until my gut decided it didn’t like bread with gluten! (Thanks Kalpana for this reminder and your other tips)

Food waste is often easier to avoid than resolve. One way we do this is by not opening boxes of biscuits or chocolates gifted to us. Instead we re-gift them to a local nursing homes for the residents to enjoy.

Have I missed out on anything. Comment below and I’ll do my best to give a solution.


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

6 thoughts on “How to Use up Christmas Dinner Leftovers

  1. That is just brilliant Elaine
    Also for mashed potato , add onion Mayo hetbs for potato salad
    Bread stale slice in 2 toast as Melba toast , serve with Soup.


  2. My favorites:
    Leftover stale bread makes a good savory (or sweet) bread pudding with those leftover veg, cheese, and some eggs/milk/cream. Add an egg to leftover stuffing, then make it into cakes (like the potato cakes). Or fry it like a hash with or without more veg/meat to stretch it and add a fried egg on top. And then there’s “jumble cheese”: mix about 1/2 kg cheese with a clove of garlic, a spoon or two of leftover wine/brandy/port, and black pepper in a food processor. Pack it into a crock and bring back to room temp to use as a spread or dip – it gets better as the days go by.


    1. Oh my lord. You’re making my mouh water. I’d forgotton about bread and butter pudding or strata (savory version). We used to eat quite a bit of strata before my gut issues stopped it. Fabulously tasty and easy dish. Love the idea of frying up stuffing too.


  3. Jamie Oliver has a few recipes of what to do with Xmas leftovers that are yum. We particularly like the turkey/ham/stuffing pie (recipe available in his website). To be honest I look forward to the pie more than the plain turkey!


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