Food Safety - How To Store And How Long To Keep Leftovers

Updated:Jan 13,2015
food in pyrex storage containers
  • Make sure your freezer is set at 0°F and your refrigerator is set at 40°F or below.
  • After making a dish, divide out the food you want to store.

    • Cut smaller portions of the dish and place in air-tight containers.
    • Cut meat to pieces that can be frozen and reheated safely. Items such as bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn.
    • Divide food into portions you can realistically see you or your family consuming at one given time.
    • It’s also a good idea to label your frozen goods. Just write the name of the dish and the date on a piece of tape with a permanent marker. Then you always know what’s in there!
  • Properly portioning leftovers avoids unnecessary reheating and refrigerating of food; changes in temperature and the middle-ground between properly heated and properly chilled — between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C)— make food susceptible to spoiling and bacteria growth. Food should not be left out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours – less than 1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
  • Leftovers will keep up to four or five days in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer.
  • Reheat leftovers thoroughly to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • If you are in doubt about the safety of the food you are about to eat, it is best to throw it away.
Watch our video on how to avoid freezer burn.

Check out the best way to store produce with our Produce Storage infographic.

Article copyright © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit

Last reviewed 1/2015