Often when we cook at home or eat in a restaurant, we have leftovers. To ensure that leftovers are safe to eat, make sure the food is cooked to a safe temperature and stored correctly. Safe handling of leftovers is important to reduce foodborne illness. Use these tips to store leftovers:
Freezing. Almost any food can be frozen. Freezing leftovers is easy to do and simplifies meal planning and preparation. If you know you will be short on time next week, freezing your favorite recipe this week is a good option.
Wrap leftovers well. You can wrap food in freezer paper; place in freezer bags, making sure to let all the air out; or place in freezer-safe storage containers. This helps keep bacteria out and preserve moisture.
Label and date. Label and date all leftovers so you know what is in the package and how long you can safely store it before throwing it away.
Storage. Leftovers should be eaten, frozen, or thrown away after four days. If frozen, use leftovers within three to four months for the best quality.
Thaw. Safe ways to thaw leftovers include the refrigerator, cold water, and the microwave oven.
Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the microwave to 165°F in a microwave safe container and add liquid if needed. Stir the food halfway through the reheating process. Check the temperature of the food in several places before serving it as dense food needs more time to cook.
Sticking to your budget while eating healthy is possible! Planning is the first step. Menu planning helps you save time, save money, and make healthier choices.
You can personalize your menu by choosing nutrient-dense foods you enjoy. Nutrient-dense foods are high in vitamins and minerals without much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.
Start with these tips below:
Check what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for foods that will soon expire or need to be used up. Make a note of how to use those ingredients in your planner. This can save you money at the grocery store and decrease food waste.
Don’t throw that away! Plan for leftovers. For example, if you make a spinach salad on Monday, use the leftover spinach to make a smoothie for breakfast. Another idea is if you make grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in chicken salad.
Use MyPlate. Healthy meals can be simple and tasty. Plan a meal that has something from at least three MyPlate food groups. This is an easy way to make sure your meals are healthy and nutrient-dense.
Think ahead to your family’s schedules. Do you need quick and easy meals? Are you hosting company? Do you need to harvest your garden? Using a five-day meal planning worksheet can help you plan a menu based on your weekly needs.
When in doubt, throw it out! To keep your family safe, keep leftovers for only three to four days in the refrigerator. Label condiments with the date you open them. Below is a list of how long they can last.
This is a good reminder to either eat or freeze Thanksgiving leftovers within three to four days. To handle leftovers safely, use the following guidelines:
Refrigerate food within two hours after cooking to keep it safe.
Eat or freeze leftovers within four days.
Use labels or masking tape and a black marker to write dates on food for the refrigerator or freezer. If you label leftovers in the refrigerator with the four-day-later date, you will see right away the last day you can safely eat them.
Use Food Safety Charts, www.foodsafety.gov, to learn how long food can be safely stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Learn more about leftover food, www.fsis.usda.gov.