Home | Food Storage | How To Properly Store Leftovers

How To Properly Store Leftovers

Leftovers can be quite a handy tool in your culinary arsenal! With them, you can quickly whip up delicious meals without having to cook everything from scratch.

But how can you store leftovers safely? What’s the best way to ensure your food retains its taste and stays healthy?

White dish with leftover lasagna on a table.

Store leftovers within two hours in airtight containers and refrigerate or freeze them. Most leftovers can last 3-4 days in the fridge, or up to 3-4 months in the freezer. Always reheat leftovers to at least 165°F for safe consumption.

The best way to store leftovers

A common misconception is that all leftovers are the same. They’re not! Different foods require different storage methods to keep them fresh and safe.

When storing leftovers, always remember to use airtight containers. These special containers lock in freshness and keep out harmful bacteria that can spoil your food.

And remember, it’s always important to put your leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible, ideally within two hours of cooking.

How to store leftover meat

For leftover meat, let it cool, then place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator, where it should be consumed within 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze the meat, ensuring it’s well-wrapped to avoid freezer burn.

How to store leftover chicken

Like other meats, the leftover chicken should be cooled, placed in airtight containers, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it for up to 4 months.

How to store leftover pasta dishes

If your pasta dish is saucy, it’s a good idea to store the sauce separately. Store leftover pasta and sauce in airtight containers in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for up to 5 days. Freezing pasta is always an option too if you won’t eat it before it goes bad.

How to store leftover fruit

For cut fruit, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate it. Most cut fruits can stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

How to store leftover produce

Store different types of vegetables in appropriate conditions. Most leftover cooked vegetables can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

How to store leftover dairy products

Dairy products like cheese should be tightly wrapped or stored in airtight containers and refrigerated. Opened milk and yogurt should be consumed within a week.

How to store leftover bread

To maintain freshness, store leftover bread in a bread box at room temperature. For longer storage, you can freeze bread in a plastic bag for up to 3 months.

How to store leftover soup

Allow the soup to cool, then transfer it to an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag for storage in the refrigerator. It should stay fresh for up to 3-4 days. If you want to store it for a longer period, you can freeze it, where it can last up to 2-3 months.

How to store leftover rice

Allow leftover rice to cool, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will remain good for up to 4-6 days. Be sure to reheat it thoroughly before eating. If you are meal-prepping and need your rice to last longer than a few days, you can also freeze it.

How to store leftover casseroles

Cool the casserole, cover it tightly, and refrigerate it. Most casseroles can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How to store leftover cake

If the cake is cut, press a piece of plastic wrap against the exposed parts to prevent them from drying out. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature where it can last for about 3-4 days.

How to store leftover seafood

Leftover seafood should be cooled and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator where it can stay fresh for up to 2 days. If you want to keep it longer, consider freezing it.

How to store leftover pizza

Cool the pizza, then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you’re dealing with multiple slices, you can place a sheet of wax or parchment paper between them. Stored this way, it should remain good for 3-4 days.

How to store leftover salad

If the salad has dressing on it, it’s best consumed on the same day as it can become soggy. If it’s undressed, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it should stay fresh for about 2-3 days.

Food safety and leftovers

It’s super important to make sure our leftovers haven’t gone bad and are safe to eat. Let’s take a look at some useful tips to keep our leftovers tasty and healthy:

  1. Always wash your hands before handling food. This can keep germs away from your meal!
  2. Don’t leave leftovers out for too long. As mentioned before, leftovers should go in the fridge or freezer within two hours of being cooked.
  3. Don’t overstuff your fridge. Cold air needs to circulate around your food to keep it cool and safe.

How long are leftovers good for?

Even when stored properly using these guidelines, leftovers don’t last forever. Here’s a simple list to guide you:

Leftover Food TypeRefrigerator (Days)Freezer (Months)
Cooked Meat or Poultry3-43-4
Cooked Seafood3-42-6
Cooked Vegetables3-42-3
Cooked Pasta or Rice3-51-2

How to reheat leftovers

When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach a temperature of 165°F. This kills off any bacteria that might have grown, ensuring your food is safe to eat.

To evenly distribute the heat and promote thorough reheating, you might want to stir your food partway through the reheating process.

Also, remember that food should only be reheated once, so only heat up what you plan to eat! If you’ve reheated more than you can consume, it’s, unfortunately, safer to discard the rest.

When reheating food, especially in a microwave, use a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe wrap.

This will keep the moisture in and heat the food more evenly. And finally, allow the food to stand for a short time after reheating, to ensure the heat spreads evenly throughout the dish.

Here are a few helpful posts on how to reheat foods properly:

Frequently asked questions about how to store leftovers

If leftovers have been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s generally safer to discard them. Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature, which can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Most cooked foods can be frozen, but the texture of some foods, like pasta or vegetables, may change after freezing and reheating. As a rule, if the food was good when it was fresh, it should freeze well.

While some takeout containers can be refrigerated, they may not provide an airtight seal, which is key for keeping leftovers fresh. If you’re storing food for more than a day, it’s best to transfer leftovers to an airtight container.


Leftovers can be a delicious and convenient part of your meal plan! Just remember these simple guidelines to keep your food tasty and safe.

The next time you find yourself with extra food, don’t let it go to waste. Use these handy tips to store it properly and enjoy your meal later on!

Online Cooking for Beginners Course

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *