With a meal the size of Thanksgiving you can almost bet there will be some leftovers. As tasty as these snacks and second meals can be, you should take caution to ensure the food is stored correctly. Traditionally hospitals say they see a spike in food poisoning cases around Thanksgiving and the week following.

The way in which a Thanksgiving meal is prepared makes it more prone to harboring bacteria than the typical meal. However, there is good news! With these tips you can ensure your Thanksgiving meal and leftovers are fully enjoyable without a trip to the urgent care.

Know the Shelf Life

Food should not be left out for more than 2 hours. Therefore, it is important not to set food out too early if you want to enjoy a nice long Thanksgiving meal. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold right up until the meal is served. This will give you a full 2 hours to enjoy your meal and, of course, seconds.

In general, leftovers can be kept in a refrigerator for up to four days. This means Sunday should be your last day to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers before you need to throw them out. Monday morning make it a priority to clean out the fridge of any leftover Thanksgiving food.

Freeze Some Leftovers

If you have an abundance of leftover food and know you will not be able to eat it in the four-day timeframe, consider freezing some of your leftovers. Frozen leftovers can be enjoyed for up to 6 months. This is the perfect solution for those who had their fill of turkey on Thanksgiving day. You can freeze it and bring it out in a few weeks when you are ready for a little taste of Thanksgiving.

Food Storage Tips

The way you store the food is also important. Once it’s time to start packing up food there are some ways to ensure your food is being handled appropriately.

  • Use fresh containers. It may be tempting to just wrap up your green bean casserole with some plastic wrap, but this is not suggested. Instead place the remaining casserole into a clean lidded storage container or bowl.
  • Don’t overstuff. Do not fill the containers to the brim. It is actually preferred to use multiple smaller containers than one large container. This will ensure the food cools down faster in the refrigerator. IF the container is overstuff it can take too long to cool down and cause bacteria to grow.
  • Don’t stack. Stacking containers may seem most efficient to save refrigerator space, but this can hold in heat. The more surface area exposed to the cool of the refrigerator the better. Stacking can cause some items to maintain their high temperatures too long and start to grow unwanted bacteria.
  • Unstuff the turkey. If you stuffed your turkey to cook it, do not forget to unstuff it to store it. Remove the stuffing and separate it into its own container.

These are just a few tips to keep your Thanksgiving feast tasty and safe. Also check out the special holiday food safety guide released by the FDA for some more handy tips.