How to save money by planning ahead for Christmas leftovers

save money by planning ahead for Christmas leftovers

If you want to really trim the cost of your festive food bill, try carefully planning ahead for Christmas leftovers.

For me, buying a bit extra and making some meals with leftovers afterwards really needs to hit a sweet spot. It can’t add too much to the food bill, and I definitely don’t want to end up in a situation where there’s any food waste.

Ideally that means three things: menu planning before hitting the shops, getting better value for money by bulk buying, and also not overdoing it.

Secondly, there needs to be some thought given to fuel prices. A few years ago this was less of an issue when deciding what to make with those lovely leftovers, but right now I don’t want to be putting the oven on for hours on day two. Gigantic pies and other bakes are a bit of a no-no if there are better alternatives!

In addition, fuel aside, I think it’s important to select a few menu options that are quick to prepare in case you need the extra time for socialising or childcare, or resting, or you simply want a break from cooking.

For Boxing Day and beyond this year, I’m mostly choosing meals made with leftovers that don’t need too many extra ingredients adding to them, and are fairly fuel efficient. Speaking of which, there are some useful energy-saving cooking tips at BBC Good Food in case you need a quick refresher.

Let’s talk turkey (dinner)

You can have absolutely anything you want for a Christmas dinner, but turkey’s the most common centrepiece so I’ll focus on that.

It’s important to remember food safety during the festive season too – have a look at these excellent Christmas food hygiene tips from the Food Standards Agency. As they say, it’s best to avoid the ‘gift’ of food poisoning when preparing, cooking, storing and reheating.

Leftover turkey salad

Turkey leftovers ideas

I honestly don’t think you can beat the most popular leftovers option, the classic turkey sandwich, for value for money. Most turkey-eaters love them, and all you really need to add is bread, a little lettuce and maybe some mayonnaise. No cooking required, no extra fuel costs.

You can also add in other salad ingredients, your favourite pickle or relish, and maybe some thinly sliced leftover pigs in blankets if you want to. In this house, people have been known to use leftover bread sauce instead of mayonnaise as well – try it, you might like it!

leftover turkey and potato soup

Christmas dinner soup is another relatively low-fuel option that’s good for preventing food waste. Use a pressure cooker, or a lidded pan on the hob. Have a peek at this versatile Cook Simply Leftover Soup with Turkey to see how easy it is.

You can chuck just about everything in with some water or stock, bring to the boil for a few minutes then simmer a little more. Definitely don’t add the cranberry sauce to it, but turkey, sliced roast potato, sprouts, parsnip, stuffing, carrots and gravy can all go in. Use a bit less water and add some dried herbs if you’d rather have a stew.

I know that leftover turkey curry is a cliché, but some people really do love it. Make a quick one on the hob, or use a slow cooker recipe and make sure any nosy guests don’t keep opening the lid. Try the LoveFoodHateWaste turkey & chickpea coconut curry if you need some inspiration.

Not a curry fan? Don’t worry…

In other households turkey and ham pie is more popular, but most recipes are for huge deep-filled dishes that take ages to cook in the oven.

leftover Christmas dinner pie pasty

To save fuel, make small individual pies, or do an open tart on a puff pastry base as these cook quickly. The FussFreeFlavours Leftover Turkey & Ham Pies with a Filo Crunch don’t take too long in the oven but look good in their individual tins.

Leftover turkey pies or pasties can also be cooked in an air fryer. Try this air fryer version from Recipe This, including cooking tips and advice for different machines.

Another thing to remember is this: nearly all leftover chicken dishes work really well with leftover turkey too. This includes wraps, pizza toppings, salads, coronation ‘chicken’ and more. A quick internet search is all you need.

If you’re several days in to those leftovers and you’re sick of the sight of turkey, just get it into the freezer using the FSA advice in the link I mentioned earlier.

At this point what’s done is done, but maybe consider buying a smaller turkey next time around.

And all the turkey’s trimmings

Let’s not forget all the trimmings. We’re talking leftover roast potatoes, sprouts, stuffing, all kinds of other veg, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy.

My personal favourite leftover ‘trimmings’ recipe has to be any version of bubble and squeak, made with chopped up roast potatoes, sprouts and any other chopped leftover greens. Food of the gods, my friends, food of the gods.

There are several different recipes to try, and I like both the chopped up stir fry version as well as the baked/fried/air-fried shaped cakes version. Just add brown sauce, and maybe a fried egg on top.

Leftover pigs in blankets technically do exist too, although lots of people nick them from the fridge when they think nobody’s looking. They do work pretty well in this SewWhite bite-sized toad in the hole recipe though, or just sliced onto a pizza or into an omelette along with a few vegetables.

granolia with cranberry sauce vanilla and apple

And finally, my nemesis – what to do with leftover cranberry sauce. Now don’t get me wrong, I really find cranberry sauce quite delicious, but it has a distinctive flavour that I find hard to mix with other ingredients.

If it isn’t layered into a leftover turkey sandwich or served alongside a vegan nut roast, the only famous combination seems to be cranberry sauce with brie or camembert.

This could be in a toasted cran-brie sandwich, in a pie or ‘mini calzone’, served on top of a baked camembert as a garnish, or as a relish on the side of a breaded camembert wedge (there’s a great quick-cook air fryer recipe for that at Ninja’s Test Kitchen).

This year though, I’m just going to layer it with vanilla yogurt and sliced red apple, and top with homemade granola (nice festive recipe at Tesco Food here) for healthy-ish breakfast pots. It’s easy to forget that it can be used in sweet dishes too, for a fresher flavour.

Leftovers for breakfast? Yes please.

Enjoyed this post? You may also like:

Will you be planning ahead for Christmas leftovers with your festive menu plans this year?

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