What happens after a party? We all go home, our hunger satisfied, and usually a little tired. But we also find ourselves carrying home a little extra weight. Not just in your belly, but in a few containers full of leftovers sitting in the back seat. Food is plentiful, and there’s bound to be some leftovers, but how can we preserve them to ensure that what we eat over the next couple of days isn’t going to make us feel a little sick?

When properly storing food, be sure that you take these precautions so that you can enjoy an extra meal or snack for days to come. Ideally, your refrigerator should operate at around five degrees Celsius (approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent bacterial growth. Since refrigerators don’t normally have a built-in thermometer, a meat thermometer is handy in this situation, and can be found at most grocery stores.

Fridge storage

Refrain from placing metals in the fridge. If you have open cans, such as soda or canned goods, place their contents in plastic containers instead. The metal from the containers can easily contaminate food products, especially in a refrigerated environment. Not only can it ruin the taste, but also be harmful in high enough quantities.

You should also make sure that food is completely cooled down before you place it in the refrigerator. It is best to refrigerate food as quickly as possible (ideally, approximately 90 minutes), but warm or hot food can transfer heat throughout the refrigerator, leading to bacterial growth as well.

Although keeping food in the fridge does help it last longer, it only slows down the effects of aging and reduces bacterial growth. You should make sure that you eat any leftovers within two days to ensure their quality. Avoid eating any week-old pizza or steak, or your belly may regret it.

Storing fresh meats

Of course, not all of your leftovers are always cooked. You might not have had enough time (or perhaps over-ordered) to need all of your food. For meat, it’s very important that you take precautions to ensure that it lasts until you’re ready to use it. Your first step is to freeze any meats before their expiration dates. Make sure that once again, you don’t use metallic containers or material to contain the food. There are several devices on the market which are excellent for helping seal and preserve meat for freezing storage so that it won’t become “freezer burned” and ruin the taste or texture.

When it comes time to thaw the meat, place it in a bucket or other container where liquids can drain out and away from the meat. This will help in preventing any bacterial contamination. Possibly the best way to thaw meat is to place it in the fridge and allow it to thaw slowly, without getting warm enough to grow bacteria.

You don’t have to throw away your party’s leftovers at the end of the night. With the proper preservation methods and a good refrigerator, you can enjoy tonight’s party goodies tomorrow and the day after.