Leftover Food Storage Tips

Good leftover food storage practices mean less people-food for Rover

Sorry, Rover

Good leftover food storage practices mean healthier food, less waste, money saved and, unfortunately, less people-food for Rover.

And it means less frustration when you know, for instance, which foods can and cannot be frozen and what foods do better outside the refrigerator. 

Below are 12 practical tips for storing leftovers. You may find a few surprises there.

12 Tips for 
Leftover Food Storage

A carved turkey means leftovers, right?

Most leftovers are headed for the refrigerator or the freezer. Some raw and whole foods, however, fair better in the pantry, making more room in the fridge and freezer.

1.  Leftover food storage and food safety are BFF. So the first rule of storing leftovers is to familiarize yourself with danger zone food safety. The gist of it is this: don't store food that has been left out too long, at room temperature for more than 2 hours. 

2.  Store leftovers as soon as possible in shallow, airtight containers that allow the food to cool quickly. Refrigerate or freeze them. 

3.  Eat leftovers within 3 days, as a rule. Reheat hot dishes well to kill any bacteria. Find some good recipes for leftovers

4.  Not everything has to go into the refrigerator. Many fruits and vegetables can sit out for a few days, (if they're not cut or peeled) more if they are ripening. Onions, potatoes, whole garlic and hard winter squashes can sit out for a month or more in a cool, dry place, in airy/mesh bags. Keep the potatoes and onions apart, though; together they spoil much faster. Take advantage of nature's containers.

Bread, chocolate, nuts, tomatoes, coffee and hot sauce all prefer life in the pantry.

Look around the grocery store. What they refrigerate, refrigerate. What they don't, don't. 

5.  Foods that cannot be frozen:  At the top of the list, mayonnaise. Also cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese and other soft cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, and raw eggs in the shell. That means that your leftover macaroni salad, potato salad and dairy-based dips can't be frozen either. Trust me; what comes out of the freezer is not what you put in. Same for canned hams.

High-water-content vegetables such as lettuce, celery, cucumbers, and mushrooms. (Unless you really enjoy limp, soggy, tasteless veggies.)

Similarly, avocados and juicy, soft fresh fruits like melons, peaches, pears, plums, citrus fruits, and apricots don't freeze well.


6.  Don't store coffee beans or ground coffee in the freezer. Surprise! The condensation in the freezer and even the refrigerator degrades coffee. Coffee does best in the pantry in an airtight container.


7.  Canned foods can be stored in their cans. Except for acidic foods like pineapple and tomatoes, opened cans with leftovers can go into the refrigerator if covered tightly with plastic wrap. Leftover food storage  can't get any simpler than that.


8.  If something in the refrigerator is in danger of going bad, cook it thoroughly. That kills the harmful bacteria and gives you more time to consume it. Once cooked, you can also freeze it.


Freezing tips:

9.  Squeezing any excess air out of freezer bags curtails freezer burn; those freezer bags with the air pumps really do work well.


10.  Meats and Fish: Separate the pieces with wax paper to keep them from becoming "one" while freezing. Togetherness is only good up to a point.


11.  Berries: Freeze berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Transfer them to freezer bags when they are frozen.


12.  Cake: Like berries, cake is best frozen uncovered, to preserve the frosting. Wrap with plastic wrap after it is frozen solid.  


Top of Leftover Food Storage Tips

Recipes for Leftovers

Food Safety Tips

Party Food Planning

How to Cook a Turkey

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