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Refrigerator Storage 101

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Whether you like it or not, the holiday season is upon us. That means parties, food, and lots of leftovers. We’ve collected our favorite tips to reduce holiday food waste and wrapped them up just for you!

Use the refrigerator door for items that don’t easily spoil.

Your refrigerator door is subject to the widest temperature swings. Every time you open the door, your refrigerator warms up. Save the door for items like soda or pickles. Temperature changes encourage bacterial growth and spoilage- keep meat, dairy, and eggs off the door.

Freeze leftovers in shallow containers.

Temperature changes encourage bacterial growth. Cooling down hot foods quickly will prevent spoilage. Food will cool down more quickly in a shallow container. It will also be easier to reheat.

Store dairy items in the middle of the fridge, where the temperature is the most consistent.

Dairy items have a short shelf life. Though many can be frozen, it is always better to eat them fresh. Storing them in the middle of the fridge where the temperature is most consistent can reduce bacterial growth and prevent spoilage.

Thaw frozen meat products (like turkey) on a tray on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

Thawing meat on the counter is dangerous and tricky. While the outside gets warm, the inside is cold. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. It’s also a quick way to spread bacteria and contaminate working surfaces. Thaw your food in the fridge whenever possible. Your fridge is cool enough to slow down bacterial growth.

How To Manage Leftovers

  • Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking and consumed within four days if refrigerated or six months if frozen.

  • Store your food, especially meat and dairy, in small, shallow containers. Put them in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. The goal is to cool food to a safe temperature, quickly.

  • Learn more about food storage by visiting the USDA FoodKeeper.

Compost your inedible food scraps!

Are you out of options? You’ve frozen edible surplus food, made stock out of your leftovers? Then it’s time to compost. You can compost your vegetative scrap at home or sign up for a local Food Scrap Collection service.

Looking for more tips and tricks? Access our food storage guide at

Leftover Cranberry Turkey Salad:

Looking for a fun way to use your leftover turkey? Make a salad!


  • 3 cups chopped or shredded turkey

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tsp. mustard

  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

  • ½ cup diced celery

  • ¼ cup diced onion

  • Salt and pepper to

  • Optional Ingredients

    • ½ cup Slivered almonds

    • ½ cup Walnuts

    • ¼ cup Dried Cranberries


  1. In a large bowl chop or shred leftover turkey. Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, celery and onion. Add option ingredients as desired.

  2. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  3. Add salt and/or pepper.

  4. Serve on a toasted piece of bread or all by itself.

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