Guide for Storing Leftovers

Christmas Food Storage

There’s nothing quite like Christmas Day leftovers but how long should we be storing foods like our fresh cut leg ham? Our helpful hints will have you enjoying your leftovers from Boxing Day and beyond…

1. Timing is Key to Extending the Life of your Leftovers

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers as soon as possible after a meal time. If heated food is not placed in the fridge within two hours of mealtime, it’s no longer fresh and needs to be discarded.

2. Invest in Quality Airtight Containers

Ensure your leftovers are stored within the coldest part of your fridge in an airtight container or with proper covering to ensure no cross food contamination occurs. For convenience consider a container system that’s microwave safe and includes a self-venting lid which is ideal for reheating. Plus you’ll save space by having 1 type of container system designed to stack.

Suggested Food storers include:

3. Top Tips for Storing Specific Foods

When handled and stored correctly, the following leftovers can be enjoyed for days to come following the festivities…

The Leg of Ham

Typically it’s the centerpiece of any Christmas feast yet how long it will last will depend upon how your ham is initially stored. After glazing or serving your ham, return it to the coldest part of the fridge as soon as possible. To extend the life of your Leg (Bone in) Ham, keep the leg ham in a Ham Bag or a damp tea towel in the fridge. Soak the bag in a mix of 1 litre water to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar then squeeze out the excess liquid, leaving the bag damp. Repeat the process every few days. With proper handling, a whole Christmas ham will keep for several weeks(1). Leftover sliced ham can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days if wrapped in plastic or foil (2).

Ref (1)(2) NSW Food Authority


Poultry, when not handled correctly, can be deadly so make sure you store it quickly and carefully; scoop the stuffing out of your turkey or chicken and store it in separate containers before refrigerating. Roast beef or lamb is a little more forgiving but, again, make sure you refrigerate it as soon as possible to keep everyone’s stomach happy and healthy.

Vegetables and Salad

If you’ve cooked a mountain of veggies or served cold salads, both should be refrigerated and ideally consumed within four days, although some veggies, such as lettuce, will deteriorate quicker than others. Cooked potatoes cope well in the fridge but will only last five to seven days. A great way to use up all your cooked veggies is to create a simple but impressive dish (such as bubble and squeak!) for those guests who are having too much fun to go home!

Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding can be refrigerated for three months or stored in the freezer for up to six months or more, depending on the freezer temperature. Drier recipes can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature, although humidity can cause mould.

4. Avoid Food Poisoning! Storage Temperature is Important…

Use of correct storage temperatures for food is extremely important, especially when storing leftovers. Between 5 °C and 60 °C is called the ‘temperature danger zone’. This is the temperature range in which potentially harmful bacteria can multiply. Perishable food should be stored at or below 5 °C, or at or above 60 °C to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. Use a fridge thermometer to check your refrigerator is at or below 5 °C and avoid overloading the fridge; space between items allows cold air to move over the food.

Recommended Refrigeration Storage Temperature for Selected Foods 

Food storage temperature ˚C Shelf life in the home
Leftovers 0-3 3-5 days
Seafoods 0-3 3 days
Crustaceans and mollusks 0-3 2 days
Meat 0-3 3-5 days
Minced meat and offal 0-3 2-3 days
Cured Meat 0-3 2-3 weeks
Poultry 0-3 3 days
Fruit Juices 0-7 7-14 days
Milk 1-7 5-7 days
Cream 1-7 5 days
Cheese 0-7 Variable (1-3months)
Butter 0-7 8 weeks
Oil & Fat 2-7 Variable (6 months)
Margarine 2-7 Variable (6 months)
Chilled meats and meal components 0-3 No longer than ‘use by’ date

Ref CSIRO Handling Food in the Home – Refrigerator Guide

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© Copyright Howards Storage World, 2021.

Accurate as of March 2021.