Storing Christmas Leftovers

You had a full house for Christmas and now you’re left with a full fridge of lovingly prepared food. It’s good enough to eat just as is, or pop onto a sarmie to give it some new life, but how do you store it all the bits?

To avoid contributing to the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year, let’s look into the best way to store Christmas leftovers – or any leftovers for that matter!


“Maggies vol, oogies toe!” Fight the inclination to leisurely pass time around the table or grab a nap before putting your leftover into the fridge or freezer, especially in our hot South African summer.

If you get up to serve dessert, ask for a hand in clearing the table of food. Feel free to mention to your guests that they are welcome to enjoy some more food, or even pack some to take home, but you would like to get it into the colder temperatures quickly. Try to get your food into the fridge within 2 hours of serving to stop bacteria growth.

There is a common misconception to wait until food has cooled before placing it in the fridge or freezer – this is false! Place leftovers in the reduced temperature as soon as reasonable and use shallow containers for large amounts so that it can cool quicker.

If refrigerated only, remember to eat your leftovers within 3-4 days. If it’s 2019, it’s too old! If you don’t think you will finish it all in that time, that’s how you know what to freeze (or give to someone else to enjoy).

Forget about freezing roast potatoes, or even refrigerating them. But, if you have leftover roast potatoes, our tip is to re-evaluate your cooking expertise. 🤣



Foil is not recommended to store your leftovers in. The reason foil is not good, is that it does not seal your food off from air. This allows bacteria to grow and it will cause the food to go dry in the fridge.

And, while it may be a plastic-free alternative, it is still a single-use item.


You’ve heard all about straws, and we’ve been paying extra for plastic bags for years but what about cling wrap? Even though it hasn’t been part of a storing media campaign, it is still a single-use plastic and totally avoidable.

Alternatives include: Wax paper, sealed reusable containers, dishcloths, mason jars, glass Tupperware or beeswax wraps.

If cling wrap is your jam, remember to remove it before you pop your leftovers into the microwave.

Shallow airtight containers are the best option for storing your leftovers.


Remove plastic from food before reheating it. Food needs to reach 75 degrees Celsius to kill most of the bacteria. Only reheat what you are going to eat, so as to avoid reheating, cooling and heating again and again.

If you are defrosting food from the freezer, let it defrost overnight in the fridge.

Watch out for leftover rice as there is a bacteria that develops on rice that is heat resistant.

Taking food home:

Take a cooler bag and ice bricks along to Christmas dinner. You would probably have brought one if you had to bring your own drinks or a cold contribution to the table. This is perfect to pop some little take home leftovers. Remember even if you receive it in foil, transport it into airtight containers once you get home.

Don’t be shy to bring a reusable container to dinner. It’s family right?! And Mom or Aunty will definitely offer you a little something to snack on later. Not only will be you be limiting the use of single-use plastic, not stealing your family’s Tupperware but if the hosting family is not likely to eat all the food, it’s better that someone can enjoy it, rather than going to waste!

If you don’t have the means to store your leftovers, why not look for someone in the community that could enjoy it?

Of course, all of the above applies for New Year’s & holiday feast leftovers too! Happy snacking.

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