Picture: Ello/ unsplash
Picture: Ello/ unsplash

Christmas leftovers? This how you can store them in your refrigerator

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Dec 26, 2021

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It’s that time of year again where families and friends get together — either in person or virtually to share a meal during the holidays.

Holiday meals can be very large, so you will likely end up with leftovers to store and enjoy for a couple of days.

Refrigerating your food correctly is important to ensure that your food remains safe to eat and stop harmful bacteria from spreading from raw to ready-to-eat foods.

From meats to cheeses and leftovers, use these tips to ensure you are storing foods safely in the refrigerator to ensure that every serving remains safe to eat the following day.

Bottom shelf

According to reports from Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Food Safety, it is best to store raw food items such as meat at the bottom of the fridge.

Meat items should not be stored on the top shelf as there is a high risk that raw meat juices may drip onto ready-to-eat products and cause contamination.

In addition, meat items must be placed in a closed container to avoid cross-contamination with other food products.

Top and middle shelf

Ready-to-eat foods, such as dairy products, ready meals and packaged foods, leftovers, cooked meats and prepared salads, should all be covered or kept in sealed containers to prevent contamination. Ready-to-eat foods are stored at the top of the fridge, away from raw foods, so that harmful bacteria cannot transfer from the raw food to the cooked food.

Door storage

Fridge doors are the warmest part of the fridge, and as such, items such as drinks, sauces, and natural preservatives such as jam and condiments are best to store in this area as they are the most resistant to spoiling.

If you have a double door fridge, it is best to store juice, water and other drinks in one side of the door while storing sauces in the other door interior to avoid cross-contamination of items.

Salad drawer

Fruit, vegetables and salad vegetables that have been washed prior to storage. Make sure that your fruit, vegetables and salad are wrapped in paper or plastic with air holes to keep them protected from any contamination. For salads and herbs, try wrapping them in a damp paper towel before storing them to prevent them from drying out and to keep them fresher for longer.


Here are the ins and outs of storing leftovers according to Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Refrigerate promptly – even if leftovers are still warm – to ensure they don't enter the danger zone, between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Store large amounts of leftovers in several small, shallow containers to cool faster.
  • Carefully date leftovers and keep them at the front of the refrigerator where you can see them and use them right away.
  • Discard all leftovers after four days.
  • Remove as much air as possible from storage bags to keep foods fresh longer. The less you handle food, the better.
  • Cooling foods keeps them out of the "danger zone" — between 40°F and 140°F — and slows the growth of illness-causing bacteria. Refrigerate promptly and properly to reduce your risk of food poisoning. Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter. Also, toss expired foods.

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