The menu is set and you’re cooking up a storm, but do you have a plan for your leftovers? You’ve worked so hard on this meal, and we don’t want one bit of food to go to waste. To make sure you’re prepared, we’ve gathered the most important tips for storing your holiday extras or sending them home with any lucky guests. Here, our 6 tips for safely—and easily—storing your Thanksgiving leftovers.
1. Stock up on (recyclable) storage containers
If you are having guests for Thanksgiving (and you’re feeling generous!), then you’ll likely be sending them home with some leftovers. Unless you want to track down your nice food storage containers in the following weeks, we suggest purchasing some that you don’t mind giving away. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary plastic waste, so we like this recyclable and eco-friendly option. ($32 for pack of 50)
2. Make room in your fridge
Leading up to the big day, eat as many things in your fridge as possible. This will not only help with storing your prepped ingredients before Thanksgiving, but you’ll also thank yourself afterward when you have space to hold your leftovers and aren’t trying to squeeze in that last plastic container.
3. Pack up your food right away
Try to pack up your Thanksgiving extras, especially the turkey, within two hours of setting them out for dinner. If you are taking a well-deserved break and relaxing at the Thanksgiving table, then appoint someone else to start packing up the leftovers as soon as you’re finished eating.
4. Freeze leftovers in plastic bags
Instead of trying to make room for inflexible containers in your freezer, consider freezing things like cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing in resealable plastic bags. Make sure all of the air is out of the bag and then lay it down flat on its side. Then you can stack the bags for even more space efficiency. ($11)
5. Store in smaller containers
The smaller the better when it comes to storing leftovers. Not only will this save space in your fridge and freezer, but minimal air circulation is better for food safety as well. Right-sized containers allow you to pull out and reheat only what you need, returning to the fridge ever-smaller containers each time. The same goes for your turkey—each time you take it out of the fridge, it cuts into its shelf life, so you’ll want to protect it as much as possible every time you return it. You might even consider storing your leftovers in individual portions for maximum longevity and convenience. Check out the storage options from Anchor Hocking.
6. Leftovers don’t last forever
They may look and smell fine, but your Thanksgiving leftovers shouldn’t linger in your fridge for more than 5 days. As for the freezer, our typical rule of thumb is to eat any frozen Thanksgiving leftovers before the end of the year.
Find more of our favorite storage solutions here:
Sur La Table Glass Storage Container Set ($25 for 10-piece set)