How to Store Leftovers Safely


It’s a common occurrence in most households – accidentally (or maybe purposefully!) cooking more than you need at dinner and ending up with leftovers.

Leftovers can be a beautiful thing, a delicious dish to indulge in at work, something homely and warm to relish.

But the very best leftovers are the ones kept fresh. There’s nothing worse than discovering a forgotten container at the back of the fridge – let’s not go there!

Here are our tips for storing and enjoying leftovers the tasty (and healthy!) way 😉

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The Pyromax Rectangular Baker from Maxwell & Williams. Shop Pyromax online at Zanui.

4 quick tips for safe refrigeration

Before dishing out into air-tight containers and chucking your leftovers in the fridge, consider these best practices for keeping food fresh and keeping you healthy:

  1. It’s a common myth that you should let food come to room temperature before refrigerating. In fact, the faster you chill your food, the better! The CSIRO recommend* refrigeration immediately after cooking to reduce microbes, especially for casseroles (apparently bacteria can survive the slow-cooking process – who knew!).
  2. They also suggest keeping cooked meats like chicken, beef, and seafood uncovered in the fridge for up to an hour before popping the lid on to seal them. This cooling process reduces condensation and watery leftovers.
  3. Don’t overload your fridge with containers, because this reduces the cool air flow between the leftovers. Leave a little space and you’ll thank yourself later.
  4. And last, but not least, always store cooked meals on shelves above uncooked or raw foods. The last thing you want is juices accidentally dripping onto tomorrow’s lunch.

*For further advice on food storage safety from the CSIRO, read their info pages here.

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The Pyromax Rectangular Baker from Maxwell & Williams. Shop Pyromax online at Zanui.

How long should I keep leftover…


One of the main concerns surrounding cooking and eating chicken is the fear of salmonella. It’s a serious thing. Always make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly before eating, storing, and re-heating.

Cooked chicken will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Soups and broths, or any chicken submersed in liquid, will last two days max.


Beef mince and red meats are a bit more flexible than chicken in terms of leftovers and re-heats.

Minced meat and offal can only be stored for 2-3 days max, whereas cuts of meat can last up to five days. That’s a long time to keep your leftovers!


We’re all familiar with those horror story food poisonings where someone ‘ate some bad prawns’ and the rest is history. Let’s avoid that, shall we?

Typical seafood will keep for up to three days in the fridge, but for crustaceans and molluscs like crab and oysters, two days is the max.


Vegetable dishes should be treated as any other general leftover, and that’s a maximum of four days in the fridge.

However, the longer you keep leftover cooked vegetables in the fridge before re-heating, the more likely you are to end up with a plate of mush. Eat wisely.

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What can be frozen?

We’ve learned the hard way that you don’t want to put raw broccoli in the freezer. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Well…

The best foods to freeze are those with lower water contents. Dry ingredients, cooked foods, and even grated cheese are good for the freezin’. In other words, not uncooked veg and salad 😉

Raw meats like steaks, chicken breast, seafood, pork, and all the rest will last for months in the freezer.

Cooked leftovers can be frozen too, and they’re super handy for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking. Just make sure you use freezer-safe containers!

The best leftovers to freeze include:

  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Curries
  • Casseroles
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Sausages
  • Burger patties
  • Cheese

Featuring storage containers from Lifefactory. Shop lunch boxes online at Zanui.

What’s the best way to take leftovers for lunch?

The whole point of keeping leftovers is to have something yummy for lunch (or dinner) the next day.

There’s something nice in knowing you’ve got a delicious, homemade dish in the fridge for later – the office will be jealous!

So it’s only natural that our worst leftovers-nightmare be finding the contents of our containers strewn all over our bag. Or that it’s gone warm and smells slightly ‘off’. No, thanks.

If you’re taking leftovers to work or school, invest in high-quality, air-tight containers. You won’t have to worry about spills, and trust us, that peace of mind is worth it.

Another handy must-have is a cooler bag or tote. This keeps your container separate from the rest of your belongings so you don’t get soggy condensation all over your stuff. Genius.

Kyra Thomsen is a writer and editor from Sydney, NSW. She has experience in copywriting, blogging, journalism, and social media. After completing two degrees in Creative Writing and English Literature in 2013 she began work with the content team at Zanui. Kyra was the winner of the 2012 Questions Writing Prize and her work has been published in print and online for numerous sources, including Writer's Edit, Seizure, and Fairfax Media among others.