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Holiday leftovers for Guests?

You were invited for dinner, now hours later once home a huge craving for a turkey (or name your dish) sandwich. Can you satisfy that craving?

Me: Small crowd, big turkey at SO parents. Long visit, lots of aid in cleaning kitchen - bye-bye!
No offer of goodies to go. Thinking back on holidays of years past, in similar circumstances but different hosts, leftover turkey (enough for a few sandwiches) and often more has always been offered. I enjoyed the evening & am always appreciative of an invite. Now just wishing I had known - would have cooked a turkey breast at home for leftovers!

Must note: I adore a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, so I may be too emotionally involved.
If I cook a holiday meal I plan on enough for folks to take some home if desired. IMO the only thing worse than no leftover turkey for sandwiches is no turkey to begin with! :)

How do your gatherings handle it? (Hope everyones holiday meals were delicious & filled with love & good cheer!)

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  1. I know exactly how you feel! If I am the hostess, I rarely want to send leftovers home with anyone, unless there's tons of extra food, because I want the leftovers for my own family. I think that if a guest expects a care package to take home, that is rude and unreasonable. Yet, I know that when I'm a guest at Thanksgiving at my sister's house, it's hard to not have any leftovers the next day at our house.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Bite Me

      In our family we ALWAYS give left overs, especially at Thanksgiving/Christmas. That's why I continue to cook a 19 lb. turkey for 8 -10 people. When we came home from SIL house Christmas night we had enough potatoes, veggies, rolls, stuffing, ham, turkey for 2 meals, plus deserts. Just how we do it.

      1. re: Axalady

        Same with my family. Although my mother must have spent nearly 2 hours making "to-go" plates for everyone after dinner and she was exhausted and getting more than a bit pissy in the end. I told her next year she needs to put away what she wants for the house. Then, put out tupperware containers and let everyone fend for themselves and pack their own take home plates!
        I'm wondering what others think of this solution??

        1. re: SweetPea914

          For Thanksgiving I tell those who are interested in any leftovers to bring their own containers. I still fill them up (and yes it's a pain at the end of a long day) but at least I don't lose the majority of my Tupperware in the process.

          1. re: SweetPea914

            I hit the restaurant/deli supply store and buy the plastic containers that they use for carry-out. Just like the GladWare ones but at a fraction of the cost. Mama used to save food containers (margarine tubs, etc.) for a few months before the holidays but I don't use any processed foods so don't have them.
            Either way, you won't lose your own storage containers. People never return them. They mean to, they just forget...

            1. re: MakingSense

              Some of the Chinese takeout places around here (NYC/Long Island) use these really great flat plastic containers, white on the bottom, clear domed on the top. Some are round, some rectangular. And the soups come in the 1- and 2-pound plastic containers. I try to save some of these--the flatter ones especially are great for holiday leftovers and for freezing portioned out stews and other meals.

              1. re: Shayna Madel

                I love the soup containers! They are like gold. Often the restaurant will sell them or (if you go there a lot) give you a sleeve of containers as a gift! Usually they seemed to find my love of the container humorous. :)

                1. re: Shayna Madel

                  That's exactly what we use (the Asian take-out containers). I even saved up a bunch in the preceeding months and then cleaned out my container cabinet and brought them to my Mom's.

                2. re: MakingSense

                  we set out the to go containers and everyone does there own.

                  1. re: LaLa

                    Good to know, I was concerned that my idea of letting everyone pack their own may seem a bit rude. I think next year it is the way to go!

                    1. re: SweetPea914

                      My family does it that way. As we are cleaning up the offer is made. This way everything gets put away & we don't have to pull things out of the fridge or dirty dishes again. We tend to use a number of zip-locks where possible, takes up less space. We are also good about returning containers, since the whole family understands the often bizarre fixation of the quest for the perfect container! (The maternal mantra heard when unwrapping gifts was "Be careful - thats a good box - we need to save it")

          2. At Thanksgiving we send home leftovers because there is a ton of food. At Christmas we have beef tenderloin and NO ONE gets the leftovers. Not being bitchy but we're the ones who paid $200 for that hunk of meat and go through the work, serve up bottle after bottle of wine and champagne. We do send home desserts that are left (as our family does not have a sweet tooth) but not the beef. And if I was a guest on a holiday (which hasn't happened in over 15 years) I'd happily forgo the leftovers in the name of not having the time and expense of hosting.

            1. I do not see leftovers as a "reward" for helping in the kitchen, nor do I assume that just because there is a lot of food left, the host does not have "plans" for that food, like perhaps having friends over for leftovers the next day, as my sister did on the day after Thanksgiving this year. Perhaps the host is exhausted and decided that the leftover food would be used over the next few days to avoid having to cook. I do not "expect" leftovers when I go to someone else's home and when I cook, I do not specifically plan for enough leftovers to send people home with "care packages." That said, there is always more than enough on the table and generally there are leftovers that get sent home with people, particularly at Thanksgiving, when it tends to be a sort of "eatathon" weekend. I understand that some may choose not to send people home with more expensive leftovers, but I've never seen that distinction in my circle of people.

              1. When I cook for guests there is always more food than we can eat, & the option for them to take leftovers if they ask, I do not push the leftovers on anyone. When I fire up the smoker there is always left over ribs, or pulled pork, and guests typically ask to take some with them.. no problem, I really do not like leftovers, and rarely eat them, so I gladly let them take them.

                2 Replies
                1. re: swsidejim

                  This may seem as somewhat unusual but on the rare occasion that my family (4) are invited out for holidays, I stop by the grocers that offer the prepared holiday dinner-turkey(whole bird),stuffing,potato,veg sides-and buy the dinner the day before the holiday and put in the fridge. The next day I pop the turkey into the oven and heat up the rest so instant leftovers. I have not been disappointed and family gets enough turkey and sides for sandwiches and I get to even make turkey soup without all the long grocery list and prep. When I host the dinner, I try to send home leftovers with guests if asked but since the family is large-20-25-it gets a bit difficult to prepare that much to accomodate leftovers.

                  1. re: foodseek

                    Your solution is what got me thinking about this. I used to know a woman who cooked an entire holiday spread even if she was invited out. At the time, it was a surprising idea to me. I was raised in a tradition that would feel remiss if there was not enough to send home with anyone interested. I have been fortunate enough to be the guest of others who feel this way. This year simply reminded me "different strokes for different folks" and made me curious how others felt about this.
                    BTW: other responses infer an expectation or viewing a gift of goodies as a "reward". Very, very far off base! Was simply setting the scene & providing the details of the evening. For me the "reward" is in the gathering - and the gathering of friends & family is the joy & purpose of a holiday meal!

                2. I'm grateful when they're offered, but I don't expect them.

                  1. As a guest, I would never expect to receive nor be disappointed if I did not receive leftovers to take home. The hosts go through so much expense and work, even when I help in the kitchen, that they are fully deserving of all leftovers.

                    When we have more leftovers than we know we can eat, we will give some to our guests to take home. However, our holiday dinners have grown to 20 or more people, so there are rarely enough leftovers to give out.

                    1. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids left our house with over half an 8 lb honeybaked ham Christmas day. Our tradition is a Christmas breakfast, and we usually have about 10 people. Other meats, such as country ham, sausage, liver pudding, and bacon were set out with the ham, and not much of the ham was eaten. There was too much left for just hubby and me, so we just cut off a small amount for us, and gave them the rest.

                      1. If I'm hosting, I make too much food anyway and my ego wants to show off the food, so more than happy to make up care packages.

                        If I'm a guest, it depends on the company. Immediate family and very close friends, usually at least a sampler pack, quantity dependent on amount of leftovers. Extended family or casual friends, I don't expect anything.

                        1. Many people tolerate Thanksgiving dinner, particularly at somebody else's house, just so they can have turkey sandwiches the next day. Of course, you offer leftovers!
                          I make a much larger turkey than I ever need and usually cook another one the day before if need be, so that I can send Care packages home with everybody - like party favors. Nobody ever refuses them.
                          I don't do this for other entrées like hams or beef roasts, and I don't expect leftovers from meals at others' homes. But if I don't get a little leftover turkey when I eat at someone else's home on Thanksgiving, I'm always a little disappointed. No sandwich!

                          1. The care package solution that has sprung up organically in my family is that they go to those who would truly need them: my elderly widowed father and my poor college student son. The rest of us are hale and hearty and can cook for ourselves, even if this means lamenting the lack of a cold leftover sandwich at three a.m. No leftovers is sometimes the price paid for not have the hosting duties, but it's certainly surviveable.

                            I personally have never even thought of asking for a care package (moot at Thanksgiving, as I have hosted for 2 decades). I would probably politely decline the offer if made, with appropriate compliments, simply because I know what kind of work and money goes into the meal and feel the hosts should have a little joy in their own leftovers!

                            I didn't host either side's (Hub's or mine) family Christmas for the first time in many, many years this past Christmas, and do admit to a desire for leftovers. But the remarkable feeling of being hosted more than made up for it. Plus, I have a ham all cued up for New Year's - there are our leftovers!

                            meatn3 - make up a turkey breast with the trimmings this weekend and indulge. You'll love it.


                            1. Never have been offered left-overs, never offered them (at Thanksgiving/Christmas). If somebody asks, why not I guess, but I don't think anybody ever asked. Piece of pie to go, sure.

                              I mean, the guests are invited for dinner, not several meals after that.

                              1. This year we went to our in-laws for Christmas- along with about 20 other people. I brought dressing (made at home a couple of days before), Seafood Gumbo (cooked at their house Christmas Eve), and a Smithfield ham (which I cooked at their house Christmas morning).

                                I had made enough dressing so that I had an extra pan in our freezer, so no problem there, the gumbo was devoured so no left overs, which left the Smithfield Ham...

                                The day after Christmas, everyone wanted leftovers- so I sliced and sliced until I thought my arm was going to come off! There was still a lot of meat left on the bone though, so I packed it in the ice chest and put it in my car to carry home. Unfortunately, I forgot about it until this morning- the ice was long melted, and I didn't feel comfortable eating what was left, so everyone got leftovers but me!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                  Reading your post, I actually felt that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach which happens when you suddenly remember something like a forgotten cooler. My deepest sympathies.
                                  Your contributions to the feast sound delicious!

                                  1. re: Clarkafella

                                    Oh, no, I am so sorry to hear your story and, boy, I could sure see myself doing that!

                                  2. I spent XMAS EVE and XMAS at relatives homes and was lucky enough to walk out of both parties with enough leftovers so that I have not cooked since then. That is just the way my family cooks. Everyone brings food to the party and everyone brings leftovers home if they want them.
                                    Tonight I am going to another holiday dinner, so I won't have to cook until New Years Eve. I wonder if I will remember how. hehe

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: NE_Elaine

                                      It's different when everyone contributes to the meal. Then it's almost like a trade. :)

                                    2. Any invited guests I have have come to expect leftovers to take home. Christmas I was pretty exhausted and didn't want to look at the food any longer. At dinner, I only had a tiny slice of turkey. Somehow, I ended up with no leftover turkey and one friend was dismayed to get home with her bag of leftovers and no turkey. Next time, (if there is one!) I'm just going to set out the plastic containers and foil and let them pack up whatever they want. I'd also made those little loaves of banana bread and decided to wrap one in foil and hide it on top of the microwave -- not a good enough place because later on, it was nowhere to be found.

                                      1. I just read you post to my family, and their reactions were the same as mine: What the hell? How could a guest possibly feel entitled to the host's leftovers? What is the world coming to?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          The world is right where it has always been - a place where different customs & traditions abound. This is not about feelings of entitlement - simply curious how others handle this. My family loves turkey - each holiday it is prepared we always plan to send some home with any guest who desires it. Turkey is the only dish that we do this with. Sometimes with other meals the host may have more than they want left & offer it up, sometimes they don't. Not a big deal, no one has given it a thought. Food isn't always about the food. Many families use food as a way of expressing love, affection, care & nurture. Coming from this perspective, I am genetically incapable of not sending my guests, let alone my child, home with out a couple of slices for a sandwich later!
                                          So yes, I was a little surprised to be a guest at a very small family gathering & see a parent wrap up large amounts of leftover turkey & not ask their child if they would like a little to bring home for later. Do I feel angry, deprived, slighted - no! Simply surprised. I wouldn't have minded a sandwich later, but I am quite used to dealing with the concept of delayed gratification. :) Just one of those little moments when you remember that some people do things very different than you do. Nothing to be harsh or judgmental about - just an observation of differing customs which led to a curiosity which led to the initial inquiry.

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            When we host any event we plan on inviting our guests to help themselves to leftovers-the only exception is my brother. He has on more then one occasion helped himself to ALL of the leftovers. He thinks he's cute, being the only boy. At 20-maybe, at 37-NO. I was reared in the style too much is better then too little and send leftovers home with anyone who wants them. For the 2nd year (today) we did Cochon de Lait and there were no leftovers! We will go bigger (again) next year.

                                            I LOVE sending food home with my friends and family!

                                            What could be a better compliment to the chef-I want to eat your leftovers!