Tips For Packaging And Storing Holiday Leftovers

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / hedgehog94

After celebrating the winter holidays, there is a lot of cleaning up to do. There are ornaments and string lights to carefully put away. Decorations must be stored, and the once-pristine garland and Christmas tree need to be brought out to the curb before the pine sheds all its dead needles on your floors. But before you pack away your holiday decor, you first need to find a way to pack and store your holiday leftovers.

When packaging and storing holiday leftovers, make sure your hands and storage containers are clean. Cool the food so you can freeze it quickly and preserve freshness. Use airtight containers when storing food and always label containers with food type and date. Remember, you can freeze lots of foods to preserve freshness, including holiday cookies. Eat your leftovers within four months of freezing and four days of thawing.

The holidays tend to be a time of over-indulgence, especially when it comes to food. The odds are you will have a lot of food left over after the holidays, and you shouldn’t let any of this delicious food go to waste. You can eat some leftovers right away, but other food should be stored, so it can last longer and safely in the freezer. If you are anticipating lots of leftovers this holiday season, then keep reading to uncover our top tips for packaging and storing your holiday leftovers.

10 Tips To Successfully Package And Store Holiday Leftovers

1. Make Sure Your Hands, Containers And Counters Are Clean

One of the most important steps to ensure you are safely and effectively packaging your holiday leftovers for later consumption is sanitation. Most people focus on making sure the food is safe, but you also must think about everything that comes in contact with the food as it is transported into containers.

You should wash your hands with soap for at least twenty seconds before handling the food you plan to store. Also, make sure any spoons or spatulas you use are freshly cleaned, and not the same utensils that were used during dinner. Lastly, make sure you wash your Tupperware before using it to store food.

2. Cool The Food Quickly Before Storing

Another important factor to consider when storing your holiday leftovers is timing. After a long day of cooking and celebrating a holiday, proper food storage is probably not at the forefront of your mind, but it should be. Remember that the sooner your food is properly stored, the fresher it will remain.

You also need to remember that you don’t want food to stay in the danger zone. The danger zone for food is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is when bacteria have a high chance of survival and and replication. Therefore, cool food quickly to below 40 degrees to keep food out of this danger zone.

3. Properly Label Your Leftovers

Another tip for helping store holiday leftovers is a quick step that can save a lot of confusion down the road — labeling. You must label all your holiday leftovers with the name of the food as well as the date you store the food. This is important for a few reasons.

For one, it reminds you how long the food has been in the freezer, and is a friendly reminder to eat it sooner than later. Also, food can look different once it’s frozen, and foods can look quite similar. Labeling your leftovers ensures you are always pulling out the right food. Some refrigerator designs make it difficult to see items stored at the back of the freezer, which is why labeling with dates is critical.

4. Use Airtight Sealed Containers

Arguably the most important factor and greatest variable when it comes to successfully storing holiday leftovers is the container’s quality. You want to use durable and air-tight containers made of strong plastic or even glass. Durability is important, as weak and cheap plastic can break in the freezer and ruin the food. Containers with extra air can contribute to freezer burn, which is why airtight containers are ideal.

5. Don’t Wait Too Long To Freeze Leftovers

It can be tempting to wait several days to freeze your food after a big holiday feast, but you should not wait too long. The longer you wait to store the food, the less fresh it will become, and the more susceptible to bacteria and mold.

Never wait longer than four days to freeze your leftovers, and ideally, you should package and store your holiday food the day after at the latest. Instead of grazing over leftovers for days, focus on eating the food that doesn’t freeze well, and then work on eating the frozen food later. This is the best way to ensure prolonged freshness.

6. Consider Freezing Meal-Ready Portions

One way to make holiday food storage helpful and easy in the long run is to store complete meals in the freezer, instead of storing each item individually. You can have your lunch Tupperware containers filled with protein and multiple sides.

This makes it easy to grab food out of the freezer the night before and bring it to work for lunch. You can also pull a few of these ready-to-go meals out of the freezer when you don’t feel like cooking. It is a great way to ensure all your leftovers are eaten, and a time-saver when it comes to re-heating your holiday food.

7. Freeze Your Christmas Cookies And Sweets

Not only can your hot food like ham and side dishes can be frozen, you can freeze all sorts of items that you normally keep at room temperature. This includes the ever-popular holiday cookies, chocolates, and baked goods. Freezing cookies and other sweets is a great way to prolong freshness. Cookies and chocolates in the freezer last months, while left out on the counter they go bad in a matter of days.

8. Try Not To Prepare More Food Than Your Storage Capacity

The main goal of properly storing and packaging your holiday leftovers is to ensure none of the delicious food you and your loved ones prepared goes to waste. Properly storing your food goes a long way to ensure it never goes to waste, but you must also take into account the available space in your freezer. You can only store as much food as you have space.

Therefore, try and use up items in the freezer before a big holiday. Also, do your best not to prepare more food than you have space to store it. If you have too much food, send lots of it home with guests.

9. Use More Smaller Containers Instead Of One Large Vessel

Another tip for making the most out of your holiday leftovers is to store them in multiple small containers instead of one giant container. Using multiple small containers means you can take out small portions of each item at a time.

This works particularly well for side dishes like potatoes, as well as proteins like ham or turkey. It prevents you from getting sick of eating one item and allows you to make multiple types of preparations on each dish over time.

10. Use Leftovers Within 4 Months Of Freezing And 4 Days Of Thawing

Lastly, the key to packaging and storing holiday leftovers is to ensure you not only pack the food properly but also use leftovers in a timely manner. This means using all holiday leftovers within four months of the date you package them. While the food might still be safe to eat, it will quickly begin to lose its flavor and freshness.

Once you thaw food from the freezer, you need to eat it within four days. Eating food after four days of thawing presents an increased risk of bacteria and other issues that can result in many unwanted stomach and intestinal issues.

Wrapping Up How To Pack And Store Holiday Food

After enjoying a delicious holiday meal, it is critical to properly store all your leftovers so no food goes to waste. To make sure the leftovers are properly packed and stored, make sure you use clean containers and utensils when packaging food. Use airtight containers and remember to label all the food. Opt for multiple small containers over one large container. Remember that you can even freeze chocolate and holiday cookies, but all your leftovers should be eaten four months after being frozen and four days after they are thawed.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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