4 Simple Steps to Clearing the Thanksgiving Leftovers

leftover food containers

The quickest way to clear the table: Send everyone home with a doggie bag. These easy steps will help you prepare ahead of time, and get it all packed in a jiff. Before you know it, you’ll be putting up your feet and enjoying one last sliver of pie…


1. Plan ahead. When you write out your Thanksgiving shopping list, include a generous supply of inexpensive, disposable food-storage containers. If you’ve got a restaurant-supply store or warehouse club nearby, they should have a few bulk options to choose from. Snag divided trays if you see them – that way you can send each guest home with a single container holding multiple foods. If you’re the crafty type, go to town with fancy containers and baker’s twine.

2. Play it safe. To avoid any risk of foodborne illness, make sure your food (both hot and cold) is packed up and refrigerated no more than two hours after serving. That two-hour limit gives you plenty of time to linger over a festive meal, but it also provides the perfect excuse to start cleaning up.

3. Make an assembly line. After the plates have been cleared, bring out the containers and a few permanent markers (so guests can label their packages). Line up the serving dishes – each with two spoons, if you have enough – down the center of the table, and stack the containers at either end. Let guests walk the line from both sides, filling their containers as they go.

4. Designate a “to-go” shelf in the fridge. Food safety, remember? It’s not enough to have your guests pack up their leftovers – you’ll also need to have room to refrigerate them until everyone hits the road. This one’s especially important if post-feast game-watching is on the agenda.

What does your family do with the holiday leftovers?

Debbie Koenig writes about family and food, and is the author of the cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too. Find her at http://debbiekoenig.com.

Image ©iStock.com/clubfoto

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