The annual food shop storage crisis rears its head every Christmas – a combination of buying ahead and numerous big meals means that even the most organised kitchen starts to groan under the pressure of endless bagfuls. Fear not, as help is at hand with our 10 top tips for fitting in all your culinary components, from meat and dairy to make-ahead meals, drinks and leftovers.
1. Keep meat at the bottom of the fridge
If you’re feeding a bunch of hungry carnivores, you’ll probably need to get a big turkey, sausages, sausagemeat, bacon and possibly a gammon into the fridge. Meat should always be kept on the bottom shelf. Take the shelf above out of your fridge and pop in the bird. Pile the rest of the meat in a dish next to it.
2. Store vegetables out of the fridge
Root vegetables, sprouts, cabbages and potatoes will be perfectly fine out of the fridge. Stick them in a vegetable rack or pop them in a box in the hall cupboard. Leafy veg don’t fair as well, so if you do happen to have spinach or salad leaves, keep them in the vegetable drawer.
3. Keep dairy at the top of the fridge
Dairy should be stored on the top shelf of your fridge (or in the door for larger bottles). This said, milk, eggs and cream can pick up strong flavours, so keep cheese well-sealed in a plastic container and store it on a different shelf – just make sure it’s safe from raw foods that might cross-contaminate.
4. Seperate raw and cooked food
5. Chill prepared dishes in freezer bags
If you’ve prepared dishes ahead of time, like braised red cabbage, gravy, cranberry sauce or bread sauce, you will need to keep these in the fridge. To save space once cooked and cooled, transfer to freezer bags. Sit them carefully upright in the fridge, nestled together, preferably on a tray.
If you’ve peeled potatoes, you can pop them in a pan, cover with cold water and leave them until you’re ready to start cooking. Peeled carrots and parsnips can have the same treatment.
Put trimmed sprouts and beans in a sealed freezer bag and put them in the fridge.
6. Cover cream-based desserts in the fridge
Christmas pudding does not need to be in the fridge, but trifle definitely does, as do any desserts containing cream. Cover them well and keep away from strong-smelling foods. Make sure there’s no chance of other foods (particularly raw ones) dripping on top.
7. Store large items outside if it is cold enough
If the temperature outside is less than 5C, you can easily store food there, particularly anything big or smelly! You’ll need to make sure it’s well-wrapped and it should be kept in a shed, picnic box or other sealed container.
8. Make way for the booze
If you’re weighing up what takes priority in the fridge, then unfortunately it has to be food every time. The good news is that you can get your turkey out of the freezer up to 2 hours before cooking, so this will give you a big chunk of space to get the drinks in so they’re cold before serving.
9. Freeze what you don’t need immediately
If you’re buying or making food well in advance, consider freezing the food you don’t need straightaway, check pack instructions to see what you can freeze and take a look at our Christmas freezer guide. This will buy you some space in the rest of your kitchen and ensure freshness.
10. Keep leftovers chilled
Most of the fridge contents will be emptied on Christmas Day, but the leftovers will need to find their way back. Once served, food should ideally be cooled and returned to the fridge within 90 minutes. Don’t leave leftovers hanging around all afternoon, as they may not be safe to eat later.
The Food Standards Agency suggests eating your leftovers for up to two days. If you think yours may go on longer, freeze a few portions straightaway rather than leaving it until you’ve reached the two-day threshold.
For more ideas, take a look at our year-round feature on what to store where in your kitchen.
Visit the NHS Livewell website if you’d like to know more about food hygeine and how to store food safely.
Now you’ve expertly stored the shopping, get some Christmas recipe inspiration
Our best Christmas dinner recipes
Complete Christmas menus
Christmas menu for a crowd
How to make a Christmas cake
Freezable Christmas recipes
How to get ahead at Christmas
Family dinner ideas for Christmas leftovers
Christmas kitchen hub page
Are you feeding a crowd this Christmas? Leave your tips in the comments below…