How long can you REALLY keep your leftovers for?
Hacks, tricks and storage tips to help you minimise waste (and avoid food poisoning).
(1) Christmas ham:
If you want to freeze your Christmas ham (we don’t need to tell you how much space they take up in the fridge), cut thick slices and wrap them in plastic, and then in foil. You can keep your ham slices frozen for up to a month. When you’re ready to revisit Christmas ham, these croque monsieur toasties are the perfect easy entertaining recipe, no matter the size of the party.
Ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight for up to three days. Once ripe, eat immediately or store in the fridge. If ever you have an abundance of mangoes, this mango and coconut ice-cream should be your first port of call.
(3) Christmas cake:
To keep cakes fresh, it’s best to store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. If you don’t have an airtight container or cake tin, you can also use an overturned bowl (although it won’t keep the cake as fresh). To keep cakes fresh for more than 1 week, try freezing them. Wrap individual portions or the whole cake tightly in several layers of cling wrap then a layer of alfoil and place in an airtight container in the freezer. Defrost as needed (or according to sweet cravings!) An ingenious hack to transform Christmas cake is to turn it into this delicious fruit crumble slice.
Seafood has the shortest leftover span, so eat your prawns, oysters and pieces of fish first. Transfer leftovers to clean airtight containers or place in an even layer on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Don’t keep seafood for any more than two days and make sure it isn’t out of the fridge for too long. For an easy way to use up your seafood, try this quick seafood yellow curry.
(5) Christmas turkey:
Leftover turkey should be eaten within three days – make sure it’s back in the fridge no more than two hours after it’s cooked. Remove the flesh from the bones and the stuffing from the cavity, and store it all in airtight containers. If removed from the bone and frozen, your turkey can last for about three months. For a light lunch on Boxing Day, serve these fresh and easy turkey rice paper rolls.
When buying your Christmas potatoes, choose ones that are heavy for their size and have firm, dry skin – they’ll have a longer shelf life. Store in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to two weeks. If you’re over eating potato salad, cook this frittata, a great way to use up those fresh or cooked spuds.
We all enthusiastically buy cherries and other festive stonefruit but after a couple of days in the heat, they start to shrivel. Once they’re ripe, store in the fridge to make them last longer. Or you could let them soften on purpose as the perfect excuse to make a cherry cocktail!
Nuts contain a lot of oil and can become rancid if stored in the pantry. Instead, place them in separate airtight containers or sealable plastic bags, then label, date and freeze for up to six months. There’s no need to thaw them before cooking – just use them straight from the freezer. Easily use up leftover nuts by throwing a handful from the freezer straight into your weeknight salad or stir-fry. We love this simple chicken, broccoli and cashew dish.
(9) Christmas pudding:
Theoretically, if it’s wrapped properly, your Christmas pudding and cake will last for ages, even at room temperature. But it’s always best to store in the fridge or freezer. If you have a little too much Christmas pudding on your hands this indulgent Christmas pudding ice cream is a great way to enjoy the flavour of Christmas for weeks to come.
There is no easy answer to how long wine lasts once opened. Different properties of each wine determine how long they will remain drinkable. Universally though, the best way to store any opened wine is to recork or reseal the screw cap securely to limit the oxygen exposure. For red wines, keep bottles in a cool, dark place or in the fridge. For whites, sparkling and rose, always keep them in the fridge. Keeping the temperature down can help slow oxidation and spoiling of the wine. Cooking is a fantastic way to use up opened wine. This succulent lamb ragu with red wine and herbs is a winner.
Fresh herbs should be stored in the fridge. Wrap mint, chives and oregano in a damp paper towel in a sealed plastic bag. Wrap basil in a dry paper towel, then store in a sealed plastic bag. Place parsley and coriander upright in a glass containing 1-2cm of water and cover with a plastic bag. The storage life of fresh herbs ranges from a few days to a week. Save your herbs just before they look too sad and make this stunning chimichurri sauce that’ll transform any barbecue dishes for weeks to come.
Store-bought custard generally keeps longer than homemade, so follow instructions on the packet. Fresh custard only lasts a couple of days. Extend the life of your custard by a couple of days and bake these impressive, yet easy homemade Portuguese tarts.
Firm avocados will take three to five days to ripen if left at room temperature. Store unripe avocados with bananas in a paper bag to accelerate the ripening process. Once ripe, they will last longer in the fridge but still only have a couple of days before they will start to soften. Then, they’ll only be good for guacamole or these healthy Ferrero Rocher inspired slice!
(14) Roast chicken:
Cooked chicken needs to be kept in the fridge and lasts for 3-4 days. After that, it can carry bacteria that causes food poisoning. Mix up your easy dinner routine and use up your leftover chicken in these tasty Greek chicken quesadillas.
Some cheeses can keep up to six weeks in the fridge. Hard cheeses like parmesan keep longer than soft cheeses such as brie. If you spot a mould on a non-mouldy cheese you’ll know it’s past its best. When cheeses come towards the end of their life, use them up in this stunning three cheese and caramelised onion pull-apart.