Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Leftovers with Plastics

Professor Plastics

Read Bio
Plastic food storage containers

We all love a great holiday dinner—and many of us love the holiday leftovers just as much.

To make sure your extra turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce stay fresh and yummy, it’s important to store holiday leftovers properly. The right plastic containers and bags can help you make leftovers last longer and stretch your food dollars.

Food Storage Tips for Those Holiday Leftovers

After a big holiday meal (and perhaps a wee bit of wine), it can be tempting to leave the food out on the table for hours while you linger over coffee and pick at your apple pie. And nap. But many foods can quickly spoil if not refrigerated or frozen promptly.

Both hot and cold foods should be packaged and stored within two hours after preparation, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But be careful: carelessly storing your leftover holiday meals can result in a cluttered, overfilled refrigerator that doesn’t allow air to circulate at the ideal temperatures.

Plastic Packaging is Great for Holiday Leftovers

This is when airtight plastic containers are especially handy. You can keep your fridge organized and save shelf space by storing leftovers in suitable sizes of stackable plastic containers. Divide stuffing, gravy and other side dishes into serving portions and place them in airtight plastic containers. Make reheating a snap by using plastic containers labeled by the manufacturer for microwave use.

To keep turkey moist and to encourage quick cooling, try this great technique: cut leftover meat off the bone and tightly wrap varying portions with plastic wrap, and then place them in plastic bags with re-sealable zippers. Squeeze the air out of the bags before sealing them to help reduce exposure to air and to save space (a plastic zipper “balloon” full of air will waste space and food).

Store Holiday Leftovers in the Freezer

You can enjoy your favorite holiday dishes throughout winter by freezing leftovers in plastic bags or containers that are labeled for freezer use. Label and date the containers, and consume the food within a few months, while it’s still fairly fresh.

Always remember to defrost frozen holiday leftovers in their plastic container in the refrigerator—never at room temperature—to help retard bacteria growth. Or for fast, convenient thawing and heating, freeze holiday leftovers in plastic containers labeled for both freezer and microwave use, and simply transfer them to the microwave when you’re ready to eat.

What if You Don’t Want Leftovers?

If you don’t have space or desire to store your holiday leftovers, send food home with your family and friends after the meal. Keep re-sealable plastic bags on hand, and give your guests “turkey-to-go” bags that they can simply place in the refrigerator or freezer when they get home. Plastic bags and containers are durable and inexpensive—and they can be reused or recycled once the food is gone. (Many grocery and retail chains now offer bins to collect plastic bags and wraps for recycling.)

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), 99 percent of holiday meals result in leftovers. With all the hard work that goes into preparing these meals, make sure little goes to waste. Stocking up on plastic bags and containers while you’re out shopping for ingredients is a simple way to make sure you, your family, and your guests get the most out of your delicious holiday leftovers.

(And now for that nap …)