The “Ready Plate Method” Is My Brilliant Little Secret for Making Thanksgiving Leftovers a Breeze

published Nov 22, 2023
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Stuffed Turkey for Thanksgiving Holidays with Pumpkin, Peas, Pecan, Berry Pie, Cheese Variations and Other Ingredient
Credit: GMVozd/Getty Images

I love hosting Thanksgiving, and I’ve done it enough times now that I’m quite satisfied with my routine. I even have a few traditions that aren’t intentional but still happen more often than not, like setting the sweet potato casserole marshmallows on fire and needing to make more pie the next day because no one got their fill of leftover pie for breakfast. What a celebration!

I’ve brined turkeys in refrigerator drawers and coolers, I’ve used pie weights to par-bake my pecan pie crust, I’ve even hosted a week after having a baby (twice!). I love every single second of it, and although I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I do feel like I pretty much have it down by this point. It is, however, still so much work. Days of planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning — I boycott cooking and try to steer clear of the kitchen for a few days afterwards. It works out because we tend to have a good amount of leftovers. In fact, I try to make a significant amount more than we need at our actual Thanksgiving feast so that we’re all set with leftovers for at least a few days (which is a lot of food when you have a family of seven). 

The last few years, we’ve done something a little unusual when it comes to storing our leftovers. I call it the “Ready Plate Method” — you may have another name for it — and it makes those scrumptious Thanksgiving leftovers even better. 

What’s the Ready Plate Leftover Method?

In the past, we’ve stored our leftovers like most people probably do: by type. We’d put whatever we had left into smaller containers so they’d take up less space in the fridge, but everything stayed separate. When it came time to eat leftovers, we’d haul out every container of leftovers, uncover them, and set out plates so everyone could serve themselves buffet-style and heat up their food. 

The Ready Plate Method, on the other hand, involves portioning out the food before storing. Everybody helps combine the food into pre-portioned dinner plates, kind of like TV dinners. Then, these get stored, ready to be heated up and enjoyed. 

When I first started storing leftovers from big dinners like this, I used some small glass food storage containers, but now we use reusable meal prep containers that we can also use the rest of the year for school lunches or snacks on the go. They are just the right size, have their own lids so they’re stackable, and they’re microwave- and dishwasher-safe. (Oh, and they’re freezer-safe too, in case you get sick of leftovers before they’re gone.) You can also opt for these microwave-safe divided storage containers.

The Ready Plate Method saves so much time, effort, and space in my fridge. Rather than pulling out every container, uncovering them, using utensils to get the food, and then re-covering everything before putting it away, all you have to get out is one plate per person per meal. In addition, you end up cutting down on extra dishes that need to be washed. You can wash the original serving dishes after portioning everything out and then you aren’t faced with a stream of food storage containers to wash as the days go by. 

Instead of stashing containers with a dwindling amount of food inside them or putting leftovers into smaller and smaller containers and generating more dishes to wash, you’re only storing containers with food and getting those containers completely out of the fridge as the food is eaten. The Ready Plate Method makes our post-Thanksgiving days more restful than ever, so we can recover, do some Black Friday shopping from the couch, and gear up for the next holiday feast.