This Is How to Store Every Type of Leftover Food
What’s the best way to stash your leftover food? Should it be refrigerated or frozen, wrapped in aluminum foil or sealed up in plastic bags? Find out!
What to do with leftovers?
Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, leftovers always seem to be a thing. How long will they last, and how should you use them up? First, try these genius ways to use up your leftovers and then use the following methods to store the rest of them.
When one slice of bread gets a spot of mold, it’s time to toss the whole package. Keep your bread fresh by storing it in a bread box, where packaged bread lasts five to seven days past the best-by date (or two to three days for fresh bread). Extend its shelf life up to six months in the freezer, storing it in a freezer-safe bag or wrapping the loaf tightly in aluminum foil. Learn more about how to keep bread fresh here.
Unless it’s a dairy-based cake or made with fresh fruit, cakes will actually stay fresher at room temperature. Store them under a cake keeper to preserve the frosting work, or press a piece of plastic wrap against the cut sides. Cakes should last about three to four days on the counter (but they’re never around that long in my house!). Refrigerated cakes lose their quality after about two days.
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Unless you’re meal prepping for the next three to four days, we recommend storing leftover casseroles in the freezer. Cut them into individual portions, place them in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers, and thaw them for an instant meal. Just make sure you’re not storing these foods in your freezer with it.
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Anytime you open a new package of cheese, it’s best to toss out the original plastic and store it in a new container. After testing all the viable cheese storage methods, we definitely recommend a cheese vault (like this one), but airtight plastic bags work pretty well, too. Soft cheeses last about a week in the refrigerator, while hard cheeses are good for three to four weeks.
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Go ahead and pick up an extra rotisserie chicken at the store. The leftovers are good for three to four days in the refrigerator, and they can be used in over 100 chicken recipes! It’s easier to pull the meat off the bone when it’s hot, so shred the chicken and store the meat in airtight containers. Don’t forget to save the carcass; toss it in a freezer-safe bag and make a batch of stock when you have a spare minute.
Seafood loses its quality quickly, so we wouldn’t recommend cooking much more than you need. If you do have leftovers, allow them to cool before wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. They’re best consumed the next day, but can last three to four days in the refrigerator. Learn which foods are probably expired in your fridge right now.
The best way to store hard-boiled eggs is in their shells. To prevent them from absorbing odors from the fridge, keep them in a plastic bag or an airtight container. If you’ve already peeled them, pop ’em in a bowl of cold water and change the water out daily. Either way, they’ll last a week in the refrigerator. Beware, though—eggs are one leftover food that can make you sick.
Gravy and other sauces
Unless you’re planning to use leftover gravy or sauce within a day or two, the freezer is your best option. Depending on how you plan to use the sauce later, you may want to freeze it flat in freezer-safe bags. Or use round containers so you can cook them from frozen in an Instant Pot. To use the sauce a little bit at a time, freeze it in an ice cube tray and transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag. For best quality, use frozen sauces within four months.
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Your mashed potatoes might not taste great as a side dish the next day, but don’t throw them out! Place them in your favorite airtight storage container and keep them in the refrigerator, where they’ll last for three to four days. Plus, check out this handy tip to prevent your potatoes from going brown.