The Dos and Don’ts of Storing Leftovers: How to Avoid Food Waste


Leftovers can be a great way to save time and money, but if not stored properly, they can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and foodborne illnesses. By following a few simple dos and don’ts, you can ensure that your leftovers stay safe to eat and avoid unnecessary food waste.

The Dos

1. Store leftovers in airtight containers

Air is the enemy when it comes to storing leftovers. To prevent oxidation and spoilage, always store your leftovers in airtight containers. This will help maintain the freshness of the food and prevent bacteria from multiplying.

2. Label and date leftovers

It’s easy to forget when you cooked something, especially when it’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for a few days. To avoid confusion and ensure you’re not eating something past its prime, always label and date your leftovers.

3. Refrigerate leftovers promptly

Don’t leave your leftovers out on the counter for too long. Bacteria can start to grow at room temperature, so make sure to refrigerate your leftovers promptly after eating. Ideally, leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking.

4. Use clear containers

Using clear containers to store your leftovers can help you easily see what’s inside and prevent any forgotten leftovers from going to waste. Clear containers also make it easier to spot any signs of spoilage, such as mold or off smells.

5. Reheat leftovers properly

When reheating leftovers, make sure they are reheated to the proper temperature to kill any bacteria that may have grown. Use a food thermometer to ensure that leftovers are heated to at least 165°F (74°C) before eating.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t leave leftovers out for too long

Leaving leftovers out at room temperature for too long can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Avoid leaving leftovers out for more than two hours, especially in hot weather.

2. Don’t store leftovers in open containers

Storing leftovers in open containers allows air to circulate around the food, leading to faster spoilage. Always store leftovers in airtight containers to keep them fresh longer.

3. Don’t mix hot and cold leftovers

When storing leftovers, make sure to let hot foods cool to room temperature before placing them in the fridge. Placing hot food directly in the fridge can raise the temperature inside, promoting bacterial growth and potentially spoiling other items in the fridge.

4. Don’t overload the fridge

Make sure your fridge has enough space to allow air to circulate around the containers of leftovers. Overcrowding the fridge can lead to uneven cooling and potential spoilage of the food.

5. Don’t reheat leftovers more than once

Repeatedly reheating leftovers can break down the nutrients in the food and increase the risk of foodborne illness. Instead, only reheat leftovers as needed and avoid reheating them more than once.


Storing leftovers properly is not only essential for preventing food waste but also for ensuring the safety of the food you eat. By following these dos and don’ts, you can prolong the shelf life of your leftovers and enjoy them without the risk of getting sick. Remember to always use airtight containers, refrigerate promptly, label and date leftovers, and reheat them to the proper temperature before consuming. With these simple tips, you can make the most of your leftovers and reduce food waste in your home.


Leave a Comment