How to store Christmas leftovers – 6 food storage solutions to fit everything into your fridge

Chefs explain how to store Christmas leftovers properly to keep them fresh and fit for reheating

A marble kitchen island covered in plates of food
(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

It wouldn’t be Christmas dinner if you didn't have plenty of leftovers to last you for the following week at least – but what's the best way to store them? 

Storing leftovers the right way, and organizing your refrigerator in the process, is key not only to fitting everything in neatly so nothing is forgotten at the back, but also to ensure that your food doesn't go off too quickly, too. 

Here is how the pros store their heaps of Christmas leftovers.

How to store Christmas leftovers  

Prepping to store your Christmas leftovers should ideally begin before you've even started making your big holiday lunch. Organizing a kitchen and decluttering your fridge ahead of time will give you plenty of space to store your Christmas goodies both before and after cooking. If there is one thing that is essential to anything Christmas, it is preparation.

fridge storage solutions

(Image credit: A Place for Everything)

1. Section up leftover meat before storing

Cooked meats are the centerpiece of Christmas dinners, and are often too bulky to be stored in the refrigerator in one piece – especially if you have cooked a joint much larger than you needed. As a result, Kara Myers, recipe developer and founder of Sweetly Splendid, suggests carving the meat up and portioning it off to make storage simpler.

Although not a common kitchen organizer professionals buy, Kara likes to use vacuum-sealed bags to store meat leftovers: ‘I take the leftover meat, divide it into servings, and then vacuum seal them. Then place those items in the freezer. They will stay fresh for up to three months.

‘Then, it isn't a matter of using them up in a few days and they can be reused for meals months into the future.’

Kara Myers
Kara Myers

Kara is the recipe developer, food photographer, and creator of Sweetly Splendid. She has cooked for as long as she can remember. Sweetly Splendid recipes are simple, delicious, and perfect for the whole family. All of the recipes focus on eliminating the dinner-time battle.

2. Keep vegetables fresh in the fridge

Vegetables don't always keep the best after they have cooled down, but storing them in a dry container in the fridge as soon as possible and avoiding overcooking them in the first place can give you a better shot of enjoying them for up to three days after, recommends Lauren Click, founder of Let’s Go Compost. 

It is worth noting that some vegetables such as potatoes may change in texture after storing in a cold spot, so it might be worth using them sooner rather than later.   

3. Keep airtight containers to hand for condiments and sauces

Airtight containers are some of the best kitchen organizers and are essential to have on hand, Kara Myers, recipe developer, continues. 

‘It's important to have airtight containers on hand. You can utilize mason jars or standard food storage containers that have an airtight seal. I specifically prefer the Brilliance line from Rubbermaid. They're easy to use and always provide a good airtight seal. These are perfect for storing the extra sides, vegetables, and leftover pasta in the refrigerator,’ she explains.

4. Wrap desserts to stop them drying out

Whether your dessert needs to go in the fridge or is fine in your kitchen pantry, it is a good idea to wrap exposed edges tightly to stop them from drying out or absorbing taste from other foods stored nearby, says Lauren Click, food waste expert.

‘Consider using reusable beeswax wraps to reduce your plastic waste this holiday season,’ she recommends. 

‘Store them in a cool, dry place, or refrigerate for a few days. If you won't finish them soon, consider freezing dessert slices individually. Thaw them as needed for a fresh taste.’

Beeswax wraps are available at Amazon.

5. Freeze casseroles and broths for later

Some things are perfect for saving as meal prep for the weeks or months to come. Liquid-type foods such as casseroles and soups are perfect for this, suggests Nik Fields, celebrity chef and founder of Chic Chef Co.

‘Refrigerate these in a covered dish for 3-4 days, or freeze them in individual options. Simply bring them out and thaw them in a fridge overnight when you want to use them and reheat slowly until piping hot.’

Just be sure to organize your freezer well so that you don't forget about them.  

6. Dishout leftovers to guests

When hosting guests at Christmas, you can always package some leftovers up and pass them out as part of a goodie bag to take home, Meg Walker, president and founder of MBM Hospitality, says. 

‘If you aren’t into leftovers, buy some extra containers for the big holiday meal so guests can pack takeaway for some of their favorite menu items!’

Meg Walker
Meg Walker

Chef Meg began her professional life as a Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney. After five years, Meg decided to pursue her passion for cooking. She attended Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, CA at night and worked the stock markets during the day. Being a constant on the President’s Honor Roll throughout her training, she was honored to work in a Michelin Star kitchen in Los Angeles, Ortolan, with famed chef owner, Christophe Émé.


Can I reheat Christmas leftovers?

Most Christmas leftovers can be reheated so long as they are heated slowly until they are piping hot through to the center, and they have been stored correctly between first being cooked and when you come to eat them.  

Is five days too long to leave leftovers?

In many cases, you will want to consume properly stored leftovers within five days of storing them in your fridge. The golden rule is to eat pre-cooked leftovers within three days of storing, ensuring that they are fully reheated before consuming to mitigate the risk of consuming dangerous bacteria responsible for causing food poisoning.

One exception to this rule is things like sauces. Cranberry or apple sauce, for instance, can usually be stored in an air-tight container for seven to ten days in the fridge, so long as there are no other food contaminants in them.  

When storing Christmas leftovers, it is essential to heat them up properly before consuming them the next day, reminds Nik Fields, celebrity chef: ‘Remember to label containers with the date when you stored the food to help you keep track of freshness. 

'When reheating leftovers, ensure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill any potential bacteria. Additionally, use your best judgment and discard any leftovers that seem spoiled or have an off odor,’ she warns.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.