How long do your Thanksgiving leftovers last

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CLEVELAND– The back of the fridge is a land full of good intentions. Healthy foods you never ate and tasty leftovers you didn’t want to go to waste. But everything has an expiration date.

As you pack up that turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, here are some tips to keep those Thanksgiving leftovers fresh and your family safe:

Don’t let the food sit out

It’s OK to sit on the couch and enjoy some football before you clean up the kitchen, but leftovers should be cooled as quickly as possible. That avoids the food “danger zone” of 40 degrees to 140 degrees. Experts tell WebMD to store all leftovers within two hours of cooking. Anything left out longer should be thrown in the trash.

Pack your leftovers in separate containers

In order to cool food fast, put it in small, shallow containers and don’t stack them on top of each other, according to FoodNetwork.com. They also recommend taking the stuffing out of the turkey and placing it in a separate dish. While it’s easier to throw some plastic wrap over a half-empty bowl of green been casserole, stick with clean Tupperware or plastic bags.

Store it in the fridge

Leftovers packed in the fridge last between three and four days, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. Foods made with sugar, like sweet potatoes, keep better than dishes with a lot of dairy, WebMD explains.

Or put it in the freezer

Decide you want to enjoy grandma’s famous stuffing months from now? You can move it to the freezer from the fridge anytime in that four-day window. Frozen foods can last forever. But the U.S.D.A. says use them within two to six months for the best quality.

Food Network says the best way to freeze your turkey is to slice the meat, wrap it in freezer paper or foil, then seal it in freezer bags. Leave a little extra room in the container for soups and gravies since they expand when frozen.

Still have questions? Just type in the food on StillTasty.com and it will tell you how long things will keep under certain conditions.