Food Safety and Leftovers

Leftover night

I mentioned in a previous menu planning post that Tuesday night is leftover night at our house. I love it. I don’t have to think about what to eat or have to cook one night a week. It keeps my fridge cleared out and has helped with my food budget. As a family, we call it our “best of” night, since we get to eat a little bit of the best of what we ate in the previous days.

Whether you eat leftovers like we do or if you re-purpose your leftovers into something else, food safety with leftovers is important. We all know to be careful handling raw meat and eggs, to keep dairy cold, and to cook meat to the proper temperature. But the traditional “there’s no mold and it doesn’t smell yet” test really isn’t good enough when it comes to leftovers. Here are a few food safety guidelines for leftovers.

-Leftovers can keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 to 4 months in the freezer. Frozen leftovers can last longer but will suffer in quality after that amount of time.

-Wrap your leftovers well. Don’t just put the whole pizza box in the fridge. You want airtight containers to prevent moisture and bacteria from spreading around.

-Cool your leftovers quickly. Don’t let your food sit out on the table or the counter for a long time. Prepare it for the fridge or freezer as quickly as possible. Use small enough containers that foods will cool rapidly.

-Reheat your leftovers properly to at least 165 degrees F. Soups or sauces should be brought to a boil. Reheat leftovers as quickly as possible, which may mean safely thawing them first if they are frozen.

For more information on leftover food safety, visit the USDA website.

What are your favorite leftovers or uses for repurposing them? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

2 thoughts on “Food Safety and Leftovers”

  1. I’m a big fan of roasting a whole chicken in the slow cooker. We never eat all of it in one meal, so I pick the frame clean that night and refrigerate the meat and bones separately. The next day I make stock with the bones, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, pepper, and salt. I either freeze it in 1-2 cup portions or use the stock for chicken soup. If I’m not up to making soup, I’ll freeze the chicken or use it for enchiladas later.

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