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From seafood to dessert: This is exactly how long you can keep your Christmas leftovers.

It’s Boxing Day and if you’re anything like us, your fridge is right now overflowing with leftover ham, chicken, salads and other festive foods.

While making a mental note to buy less food next year, you might also be wondering what to do with all this food. If you can’t eat it all for lunch or dinner today, what will still be fresh – and, more importantly, safe – to eat tomorrow?

To find out, we spoke to food waste expert Amanda Kane, who runs the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Love Food Hate Waste program.

Kane says there are some foods that last better than others, but all can be kept safer for longer is their stored properly.

“It’s really about keeping your food as cold as possible, as often as possible… from when you’re shopping at the supermarket to when you’re packing things away on Christmas Day,” she says.

This starts with when you do your Christmas shopping. (A lesson for next year). Kane recommends taking chiller bags or an esky to the supermarket, butcher or fishmonger and even turning down your fridge a degree (to 3 degrees) to compensate for the extra food and the amount of time it will be opened and closed Christmas Day.

So let’s get down to it, how can you keep your Christmas leftovers?

Prawns

Eat within: 2 days max.

Seafood, including oysters, prawns and other shellfish, have a pretty short shelf-life.  Kane says prawns are safest eaten within two to three days of purchase. So if you bought them on Christmas Eve, you’ll want to be eating them today.

So keep them tasting as fresh as possible, store them in an airtight container and leave the shells on. And if you’re looking for a different way to eat them, prawns go great cooked in a curry or stir-fry. You could also freeze them for up to three months if moved there today, just be aware they’ll have to be eaten the day you thaw them.

However, Kane has one disclaimer: “If your seafood spent longer than two hours out on Christmas Day, I wouldn’t eat it.”

LISTEN: Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester deep dive on Melania Trump’s bizarre first Christmas in the White House. Post continues after audio. 

Ham

Lasts up to: 3-5 days.

(Image via Getty.)
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Traditionally, your leg of ham will be stored in the fridge, wrapped in a cotton cloth that has been dampened in a vinegar solution (one cup water to one tablespoon white vinegar).

However, when it comes to your ham post-Christmas, Kane recommends slicing your ham off the bone, then wrapping it in cling wrap and then foil to store in the fridge.

Kane says ham "really doesn't keep for as long as you might think" and recommends eating it within three to five days. (However, New South Wales' food authority says legs of ham can last several weeks in the fridge with proper handling. You can read their guide here.)

If there's too much ham to eat in a few days, portion your sliced ham out into single serves to freeze for up to two months, so that you can take it out as you need it.

There's no need to waste the bone either, as a ham hock with a bit of meat still on it is the perfect base for pea and ham soup. For other recipe ideas for using up your leftovers, check out the Love Food Hate Waste website.

Turkey and chicken.

Eat within: 3 days.

You want to be eating your leftover poultry within three days, says Kane. And chicken and turkey is perfect for sandwiches the next day. However, Kane says to proceed with caution if your chook was left out longer than two hours on Christmas Day.

"After you clear the Christmas table, put things in containers in the fridge and then that's fine, you can relax and go on with the festivities knowing you've got food that is nice and safe for the next day."

Pro tip for next year: Stock up storage containers before Chrissy and sending each person home with a serve of chicken, slice of pavlova and any other leftovers you won't be able to eat by yourself.

Salads

Eat within: the next day.

Put your leftovers in the fridge as soon as your clear the table and you'll keep yourself safe.(Image via Getty.)
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For salads that taste their best - including egg and potato, you'll want to be eating them today - especially if they have cheese or egg-based dressings in them. However, if you've got leftover salad ingredients, like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers store them in airtight containers with a sheet or two of paper towel, suggests Kane. The paper towel will absorb excess moisture and you could be making salad for the next fews days.

And if you've got some unused boiled eggs in your fridge, the good news is these will last for up to a week.

Roast veggies

Lasts up to: one week.

While Kane recommends eating roast veggies within three to four days, she says lower water content veggies, like sweet potato, could be stretched out to a week.

Looking for ways to eat your leftover veg? They work well thrown into a pan with some beaten eggs to make a tasty omelette or frittata. You could also make bubble and squeak - a handy way to use some ham too.

Cherries

Lasts up to: 3-5 days.

The key to keeping your cherries fresh, Kane says, is washing them before you eat them, not before you store them.

"That's because washing them makes them soggy. That's a rule for all fruits really."

How long your fruit lasts will depend on the quality and how fresh it was when you bought it, but should last in an airtight container in the fridge for three to five days.

Custard and creamy desserts

Eat within: the next day.

Delicious. But it won't stay that way for long. (Image via iStock.)
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Custard, pavlova, chocolate ripple cake and all desserts heavy on the cream are only going to be truly safe to eat today, unfortunately. (But really - how much longer were they going to last in a hungry household anyway?)

As with most of your leftovers, this is dependent on you having returned the desserts to the fridge within two hours.

If you found yourself with too many sweets today, Kane suggests next year stock up on plastic containers and, as with the poultry, give guests a container of sweets to take home with them as they leave.

Fruit mince pies

Lasts up to: a week.

If you've served up the homemade kind (which, let's be honest, most of us haven't) they'll last stored in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to a week. If your fruit mince pies come from the supermarket, take note of the packaging's 'best before' or 'used by' date before you transfer them to an airtight container.

If you really want to, you could also freeze these for up to three months.

Christmas pudding

Lasts up to 3 months.

Good old Christmas pudding has incredible keeping power and will last up to three months in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer, Kane says.

"Alcohol in the Christmas pudding is a preservative. It's the moisture in fresh foods that causes it to off quickly, so with pudding that moisture has been taken out and it's got sugar and alcohol acting as preservatives."

"Christmas pudding comes from a time years ago, before we even had refrigeration when it was the mid-winter you made things that lasted for a long time. So it's nice that we still have that tradition these days."

And if you have a Lions' Christmas Cake in your cupboard, relax. That thing will still be fine to eat next Christmas.

For more tips on how to save your leftovers from the bin, visit Love Food Hate Waste or download the Love Food Hate Waste app.

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