How to Store Your Leftovers

When it comes to serving your food, this is the most valuable piece of advice I’ve heard: “Keep hot foods hot & keep cold foods cold!” Most food poisoning can be prevented if the food is handled properly. Another rule of thumb is that food should not sit out at room temperature for any longer than 2 hours!  Any time the food remains between 40° and 140°, the bacteria will multiply really fast!  This means you need to take care of your leftovers promptly and correctly.

If something has been sitting out at room temperature for too long, it will start to spoil (and bacteria is not always able to be tasted or smelled ~ so don’t just rely on that!)  If you are wondering if it is still good or not, my aunt, who was a caterer for years, taught me “When in doubt, toss it out!”

I know Thanksgiving can be a day when after all of the cooking and preparation, you are exhausted and just want to fall into a tryptophan induced nap on the floor.  DON’T be tempted to nap until the leftovers have been safely put away!  You might regret it when you have to throw out all of those delicious leftovers because they are spoiled!

The leftovers can be kept for 3 to 4 days if refrigerated.  If you don’t think you will be able to eat it within that time, freeze them.

What kind of container should I use?

Allow the food to cool before storing in containers.  Divide the food into the size of portions that you will use in a meal.  I like to keep the foods in Plastic Bags or clear storage containers.  That way, I’m more likely to see it and use it before it goes bad!  (I love my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer for storing leftovers because it creates a vacuum seal.  The food keeps better and longer, especially in the freezer, because most of the air is removed. It doesn’t get freezer burn!)

If for example, you’re only going to use half of the contents of a can, don’t leave the rest in the can to store it.  The metal in the can will react to the air and affect the quality and taste of the food. Keep it in plastic or a covered glass container. I love the Pyrex Glass Containers with lids.  They can be used for both baking and storing food.

How will I know what needs to be refrigerated?

The package will tell you.  Another way is to ask yourself “where was the food in the grocery store? Was it on the shelf or in the refrigerated section?” Be aware that once opened, canned goods and some other items will need to be refrigerated (so look to see if the package says: “refrigerate after opening.)  Jams, ketchups, dressings (most condiments) will need to be stored in the fridge.

What about freezing leftovers?

First of all, don’t re-freeze something that has been previously frozen and thawed (unless it has been cooked after it was thawed.)  When you plan to freeze your leftovers, be sure to keep the food tightly wrapped (0r even double wrapped) to avoid freezer burn!  Freezer burn occurs when the food is exposed to air.  It actually causes the food to dry out!  While generally it’s not harmful to eat food that has freezer burn, it’s usually NOT very good!

Since my husband and I are now empty-nesters, I usually cook in smaller portions.  But sometimes I go ahead and cook a large amount because I want the leftovers to last us for a few days! These tips have come in handy!

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