Love your leftovers with these smart and safe tips

(BPT) – From family feasts to office parties, the holidays bring an abundance of leftovers. Think mountains of turkey, buckets of gravy and stacks of side dishes.

“This season, give yourself and your family the gift of enjoying holiday leftovers with food safety top of mind,” says Shelley Feist, executive director of Partnership for Food Safety Education. “Nobody wants to get sick during the holiday season, but unfortunately foodborne illness does affect about 1 in 6 each year. A few simple tips can help you avoid wasting leftovers and help you keep your family safe.”

Make another safe and delicious meal with holiday leftovers. The nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education offers these smart and safe tips for storing, reheating and enjoying your holiday leftovers:

  1. Store leftovers promptly and properly.
    • Follow the two-hour rule for storing leftovers. While it’s tempting to leave the buffet food sitting out for all-day grazing, if you want to enjoy leftovers safely, perishable foods need to go into the refrigerator within two hours of serving.
    • When it comes to storage, small portions are better. Cut up the turkey and divide large quantities of stuffing among several shallow airtight containers. Storing in smaller portions allows the food to chill more quickly and evenly.
    • Your refrigerator should be at or below 40°F. Use an appliance thermometer to measure the temperature.
  1. Get creative in the kitchen.
    • Blend and puree. Shred turkey into a hearty soup, blend pumpkin pie and ice cream for an indulgent milkshake, and transform your leftover veggie tray into a vitamin-rich juice.
    • Think beyond the go-to turkey and cranberry sandwich, and try turkey quesadillas, sweet potato hash or turkey pot pie.
    • Always reheat refrigerated leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°F. Bring gravy to a boil before re-serving.
  1. When time’s running out, freeze is the word.
    • Leftovers are typically safe to eat for three days. If Sunday after Thanksgiving creeps up and you can’t imagine eating another bite of turkey, tightly package leftovers in freezer-safe containers and store for three to four months.
    • When you are ready to eat your frozen leftovers, there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Never thaw frozen leftovers at room temperature.

This holiday season, the Partnership for Food Safety Education has teamed up with food industry leaders including Ardent Mills, Cargill, Costco Wholesale, and the Frozen Food Foundation on the Story of Your Dinner food safety education campaign. For more information, including food safety tips, recipes, videos and kids’ activities, visit

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