When in Doubt, Throw it Out

November 29, 2013
by Michael Barber
When in Doubt, Throw it Out

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays is all the delicious food you get to eat. But all of that food typically leads to a lot of leftovers which is great for grabbing snacks and meals during the busy season. It can also lead to the number one question of leftover food, is it still good? Here are some tips for keeping your leftovers safe.

Related: 4 Food Safety Tips to Always Keep in Mind

Mark Your Containers

The best way to know if food is past its expiration period is to keep track of it. Label your leftover containers with the type of food that's in it, the date you made the food, and the expiration date of the ingredients in it, such as milk and eggs. Keep older containers towards the front of the refrigerator so you'll be sure to eat them first. Check the labels on a regular basis and note the dates you wrote down. If the container is still there after the food is past its expiration date, throw it out.

Use the Freezer

To keep leftovers around longer, store them in your freezer. Make individual containers of food for each meal you plan to serve with it. Store just enough for a few days in the refrigerator, and the rest in the freezer. When you've used up the containers in the refrigerator, move a few more from the freezer. This will keep your leftovers fresh and safe longer. You can even take out a container from the freezer on the day you plan to use it. Just let it defrost for a few hours before heating it up.

Learn how Long Food Stays Fresh

Different food has different expiration times. Poultry, for example, can last for months if it's already cooked and stored in the freezer. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will only stay fresh for up to a week. Learn the proper storage times for your leftovers so you'll know when they're past their prime and should be tossed. You can use these time frames when creating your storage container labels. Mark the expiration date based on the guidelines, and throw away anything past its expiration date.

Related: Accident Prone: Common Holiday Accidents [INFOGRAPHIC]

Don't Keep Leftovers Out

If your leftovers aren't being stored right away, they won't stay fresh for long. The best way to ensure your leftovers stay fresh is to store them immediately after your meal. When you're done eating, take the leftovers and place them in proper food storage containers. Update your labels if needed, then place them back in the refrigerator or freezer. If you notice a container of leftovers sitting on your kitchen counter for a long period of time, don't take chances. Throw it out.

Dry Goods

Dry goods must be stored properly as well. Be sure they are safely placed in a sealed bag or container, and then stored in a cool, dry space, to prevent them from becoming stale. Check the expiration date and toss if it's come and gone.

Related: Care Continuum: Where to Go When Your Sick or Injured [INFOGRAPHIC]

Storing leftovers properly is important for your health. By following these tips, you'll ensure the safety of your food. If you're not sure if your leftovers are good, throw them out.