There’s nothing better than making a delicious meal and to have a little bit leftover to save for the next day. While this might be the ideal situation when it comes to leftovers, it’s not always the case. Whether you make too much or you don’t have anything left, there are usually problems that result in the leftover process than believe it or not can actually be avoided. Here are six tips for making the most of your leftovers.
Don’t let them hang out too long
While leftovers are great to have as an easy lunch or quick dinner option, they have a very short lifespan. In fact, every second they’re out of the fridge, they lose about half their lifespan. This is why you need to make sure you package and store your leftovers within two hours of a meal to ensure their freshness. This way, next time you want to eat them, you know it’s still good to go.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen, you know that it’s imperative to label foods based on the date to keep track of its shelf-life. This method should be carried over to your own refrigerator. In general, most leftovers have about three to five days before they start going bad, based on the type of food. For meats, you should not keep these leftovers for more than four days. Fruits and vegetables on the other hand can last for at least five days or more.
If you make a big meal and have a lot of leftovers, make sure to separate them into different containers. This way, you can allow cold air to circulate in each container which will keep them fresh for the longest period of time. Additionally, if you choose to freeze your leftovers, put them into single servings for easier access and quick meals.
The smell and sight test
If you don’t do the smell and sight test, then you should re-evaluate the way you keep leftovers. Everyone’s had that experience when they look way in the back of the refrigerator and see that little tupperware container with an unrecognizable food item in it. Hopefully in this case, anyone would know to throw it out, but if there’s something that you do recognize but still think looks or smells funky, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
Plan to reuse
We all live busy lives, and it’s understandable if you forget about something you made two days ago. This is exactly why it’s useful for you to plan meals to ensure that a leftover gets eaten within it’s lifespan. If it’s a meat, plan meals that you can incorporate the meat into. If it’s something else, feel free to heat it up for lunch or dinner. Just make sure that it gets eaten before it goes bad!
When in doubt, throw it out
Did your spouse cook the meals last week and you can’t remember which days the leftovers your looking at were made? If you’re ever unsure about the quality of the food you’re about to eat, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Rather than risking your health for some leftovers, just toss them into the garbage and move on with your life. While it might be wasteful, it’s better than getting sick from eating something that’s spoiled.
Jackie Ryan is a freelance writer and self-proclaimed neat freak! She loves to cook but hates when leftovers go bad. She’s recently invested in some great food storage containers to help her keep her food fresh longer.