After all that planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, serving & hosting, don’t let your hard work go to waste. You can easily stash leftovers to enjoy later, and I’ve got a few tips to help you do it safely and efficiently so you can make the most of your dishes.

Make the call: keep it or toss it?

The first key is to do a quick scan for perishables such as meats, dairy, mayonnaise based dressings or dips. Anything that spoils easily should only be at room temperature for a total of 2 hours max. When it comes to perishables, it’s a good idea to take the time to stow leftovers as soon as your guests are done eating.

leftovers in fridge

During the colder months, if you live in a place where it’s below 40 degrees, you can always use the back porch or fire escape for a mid-party storage substitute if the fridge is full.

Once you’ve taken inventory of what you’re keeping, use these 10 tips to store your leftovers neatly and efficiently.

  1. If you’ve got huge portions of sides or an entire meal left, consider whether you want to eat it for three days in a row or if it’s something you can freeze for later. Be realistic about how much you’ll eat and avoid those dreaded furry discoveries later. Also, you can always offer doggy bags to guests as a snack for later!
  2. When freezing, stick with glass freezer and oven-safe storage containers for easy viewing, stacking, defrosting, and reheating later. They’ll keep your freezer organized and help you avoid food avalanches. Vacuum storage systems are another awesome method as they remove air for longer storage and allow you to squeeze the packages into tighter spaces.
  3. Modify your meals as you put them away. Instead of just scooping all the sides into separate containers, why not assemble an entire meal from turkey to gravy to sides in an oven-safe gratin (or even better one that already has leftovers in it from the table…one less dish to wash!) Wrap tightly in heavy-duty foil and tuck it away for an easy feast later. Just pull it from the freezer and simply go from oven to table.
  4. When it comes to storing leftover roasts and meats it’s a great idea to slice them up now and freeze them in the sauce or gravy you served them with. This helps them defrost and reheat more evenly while keeping them juicy and delicious.
  5. Another plan-ahead tip? Dice, shred, or crumble bits of leftover ingredients to stash in small freezer baggies and keep at the ready for soups, stews, frittatas, and stir-fries. Think crumbled bacon, sliced raw veggies, diced chicken, turkey, or ham…
  6. Don’t forget the tape. Use making tape to label everything with a quick description and the date. You’ll thank yourself later.
  7. If you’ve got dishes that either don’t freeze well or that you want to enjoy within the next 3 or 4 days, save space in your fridge and keep things neat by transferring foods out of their serving dishes and into stackable storage containers.
  8. If you’ve got food that will be served chilled later, store it in a pretty bowl with a lid. That way you can pull it out as an easy, handy snack or as a treat to share with friends who drop by.
  9. If you don’t have enough containers or are running out of shelf space, zippered plastic storage bags are a great solution for raw veggies, cheese, small appetizers, salads, etc.
  10. Special veggie and salad trick. Tuck a paper towel in storage bags with vegetables and salads to absorb moisture and keep them crisp and un-wilted.

See how simple that is? With just a little prep and planning, you can easily and efficiently stash and save your leftovers with less mess, less waste and more enjoyment both while you’re putting them away, and when you’re eating them later.

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