9 Brilliant Ways To Store Leftovers

by Meghan Bassett

Leftovers are the only way I eat regularly throughout the week. Some may say I’m lazy, and they would probably be right, but leftovers are the bee’s knees in my book. When I first set out on my own, I realized I had absolutely no idea how to store leftovers, even though I so happily relied on them. They would go bad too quickly, and I was wasting food — one of my pet peeves. Apparently, there’s a whole world of brilliant ways to store leftovers, which I happily stumbled upon one bored afternoon online.

Life is so much easier when you can cook a large amount of something all at once, and then eat it throughout the week. Reheating versus cooking every single night certainly makes me more inclined to stay in and save my money. The Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood might know my voice by now, but after learning these tricks, they might forget all about me in a couple of weeks (probably not though — let's be honest).

Brilliant leftover storage hacks like these should be shared, so I’m putting them all in one convenient reference spot for you. That way, next time you have half a lasagna leftover, you can just pop back here, and know exactly how to store the leftovers so they last longer and taste better.

1. Save takeout containers

Purchasing nice Tupperware and other storage containers may not be high priority on your list. Why would it be, when you can simply use the takeout containers you received at the restaurant you hit a couple of nights ago? Most of the takeout containers you receive can be reused at least a few times. Simply wash them out, and voila! Free leftover storage.

2. Use ramekins to store smaller leftovers

Ramekins are the perfect size for smaller leftovers that are too little for the regular storage containers. Simply stick leftovers in ramekins, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Another great tip is to save those rubber bands from asparagus and other vegetables. They fit around the edges of ramekins to keep that plastic wrap nice and tight.

3. Divide leftovers into smaller containers so they cool faster

The sad truth is that bacteria can form on leftovers left at room temperature or warmer for too long. To cool down your leftovers faster, divide them into smaller containers. This also happens to be a great way to portion out lunches for the rest of the week.

4. Don’t use that pizza box

You might be tempted to just stick the whole pizza box in the fridge with whatever’s leftover. DON’T. The pizza won’t stay fresh long, and you’re losing a lot of valuable fridge space to that bulky box. Instead, allow the pizza to cool before stacking and storing the slices in re-sealable bags. They’ll lie flat in the fridge, and take up a lot less space.

5. Before you put that ice cream back, use wax paper

There’s nothing I hate more than when leftover ice cream gets those ice crystals. It ruins the flavor, and makes it that much harder to get out. To prevent these from forming, press a piece of wax paper directly to the ice cream before putting the lid back on. No ice crystals. Did that just blow your mind? It totally blew mine.

6. Label and date

Still don’t know what’s in that container at the back of the fridge? I’ve been there, and the funny thing is that I’ll let it sit there until I absolutely have to remove it. Get organized with a label maker, or use masking tape and a marker. Label and date the leftovers you store, so you know what they are and how long they’ve been there. Ten bucks says you’ll waste less food!

7. Lock in moisture using slices of bread

You will never have to worry about dried-out leftover cake after this little hack. Place a piece of bread on each exposed portion of cake, using toothpicks to secure the bread to the cake. The bread will lock in the moisture, and you’ll have gorgeous, soft cake to enjoy tomorrow night.

8. Freeze leftover coffee

I am guilty of making more coffee than I can drink in a day. Halfway through the pot I realize, whoops — I made way too much! Instead of pouring it down the drain, I now fill an ice cube tray with the leftover coffee once it’s cooled. I end up with frozen coffee cubes that are perfect for making iced coffee. You’ll never have watered down iced coffee again.

9. Use mason jars

If you tried the canning fad and realized you don’t have the passion for it, you probably have some mason jars lying around. I’m sure everyone has a couple glass jars leftover from a Christmas gift or two that you’ve collected over the years. These glass jars are fantastic for storing leftovers, because they will keep food fresh for a long time.

Feeling inspired to save more food? I thought so.

Images: Asha Yoganandan, Steven Jackson, Kathleen Franklin, Vanessa/Flickr; The Kitchn; The Kitchn; The Kitchn; The Kitchn; The Kitchn