According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), 99 percent of all holiday meals generate leftovers. Wrapping food properly in airtight plastic containers can keep your favorite holiday dishes fresh and help reduce waste. Follow these simple tips for packaging and storing leftovers to make the most of your holiday leftovers.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #1
To keep food fresh longer, contain and store leftovers in a refrigerator or freezer within two hours after cooking.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #2
Be sure stored foods are tightly wrapped. When using a sealable plastic bag, try to squeeze out as much air as possible. This will conserve space and help to prevent freezer burn.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #3
Divide different parts of the meal into multiple plastic containers and freeze them separately.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #4
Store leftovers in shallow plastic containers, less than two inches deep, for rapid, even cooling. Larger or deeper containers take longer to freeze or thaw.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #5
While it is generally okay to refreeze partially thawed foods, keep in mind that refreezing can cause foods to become watery or soft. Also remember that although freezing leftovers does reduce the growth of microbes, it won’t eliminate bacteria that already exist in your food, so it’s important not to let thawed foods sit at room temperature.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #6
You can slightly undercook plant-based foods (e.g., pasta, rice, and vegetables) that will be frozen, as they can be fully cooked when they are reheated. Always be sure to thoroughly cook meat, fish and poultry before serving.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #7
If possible, thaw leftovers in the refrigerator so it doesn’t have an opportunity to sit at room temperature. It takes most frozen foods about 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Eat thawed foods as soon as possible, since food spoils more quickly at this point than when it’s fresh.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #8
Use these containers for storing leftovers in the freezer: zip-top plastic freezer bag, plastic coated freezer paper, plastic containers with wide mouths and tight-fitting lids and heavy-duty plastic wrap.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #9
Add casserole toppings (like cheese or bread crumbs) when the dish is being heated to serve.
How to Keep Food Fresh: Tip #10
When you have questions about the freshness of your stored leftovers, remember this: When in doubt, it’s best to throw it out!