Here's How Long You Can Safely Eat Your Holiday Leftovers



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Cracker Barrel Holiday Meal
Cracker Barrel

'Tis the Season To Steer Clear of Food Poisoning

With the holiday season in full bloom, the trees trimmed, and the dangerously enticing smell of cookies and sweets filling the air, it's time to start thinking about how you're going to make the most out of your holiday leftovers. 

In these financially trying times, the last thing anyone wants to confront is the grim and avoidable scenario of letting perfectly good food go to waste. Let's take a look at what you can do to ensure you enjoy all your holiday leftovers — before they start to spoil.

Bob Evans Holiday Feast
Bob Evans

The Night of the Feast

After you've enjoyed your holiday dinner, your first step is going to be to pack up the meal. Make sure you take your time to pack leftovers into smaller containers and resealable plastic bags. Really, the smaller the better to fully optimize your storage space. You can also make use of freezer- or storage-specific plastic bags and wraps. These are options that are intentionally thicker and designed to help prevent against unwanted freezer burn

Try to force out as much air from the bags as possible, and limit any exposure to the surface of the foods that you have on hand. You’ll have to toss perishables like salads, as they’ll wilt after roughly three days. 

Boston Market Easter Meal
Boston Market

The Day After

Any breaded dishes you have on hand will dry out very quickly. You can freeze dinner roll leftovers, or you can chop them into cubes and crumbs for other dishes. Wrap those dinner rolls in foil first, then plastic wrap, so that the rolls are able to go right into the preheated oven once you’ve removed the plastic wrap. 

You’ll want to store dinner rolls in plastic bags with all the air forced out as well. Even if you opt for freezing the bread items, remember that bread has a short shelf life (no more than a month). 

You can freeze leftovers like casseroles or cooked grains if you want as well, and those will keep for up to three months. Think about what the folks in your home like to eat when it comes to wintry meals. Perhaps shred the meat dishes so that you can use them in stews or casseroles, or finely dice them for the health nut in your home that insists on eating salads every day.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Three to Four Days Later

We’ll kick it off with your cooked vegetables, which could include roasted, steamed, or fried veggies. At this point, these dishes should be used or consumed. There are plenty of ways to get creative with the veggies you have on hand, either by making a filling or using them as toppings for pizza, omelets, quiches, and tacos

If you have any leftover mashed potatoes or stuffing, these should be consumed by three to four days after the meal. This is largely due to the makeup of potatoes and how whole cooked potatoes simply refuse to freeze well. However, if you mashed or used potatoes in a gratin, they'll be able to keep for up to two months. 

Last, gravy should be used up or frozen. You can freeze gravy in small containers and store it for up to two months. 

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Pecan Pie

Four to Five Days Later

Any baked casseroles, which could include a gratin or lasagna dish, will need to be consumed at this point. Also, any holiday pies that might have been lingering around will have to be consumed. Pies can be frozen to prolong their lifespan, but you’ll be rolling the dice in terms of how their textures could change.

Related: Shepherd's Pot Pie Is the Cheap, Hybrid Casserole Dreams Are Made Of

happy friends having christmas dinner at home

One Month Later

We figured we'd fast forward a bit, and round this crash course on how to best use up holiday leftovers with the month later checkpoint. If you still have holiday leftovers taking up space in your freezer a month later, you'll want to discard any items that show signs of freezer burn. 

Related: How Long You Have To Safely Eat Unrefrigerated Foods