Tips to Keep Your Leftovers from Spoiling
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Managing leftovers can be a struggle, but if you learn to follow a few simple food safety rules can help you avoid wasting food, make your leftovers last longer, avoid food poisoning, and keep your grocery bill down.
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Here are 10 essential tips to help you keep your food from spoiling.
1. Record when you cook and put your food into the fridge.
We’ve all been there, foraging in the fridge, sniffing an open container and wondering: “Is this tuna salad from Tuesday… or the Tuesday before?”
Next time, grab a dry erase marker to record the date and time you cooked the food into the fridge or freezer — write it right on the Glasslock.
2. Monitor your fridge and freezer temps.
To keep your food from spoiling, your fridge should be at or below 40 degrees, and your freezer should be at zero.
Not sure if your appliances are doing the job? Buy a special thermometer designed for either appliance, put it inside, and check frequently.
3. Take care when defrosting on the counter.
You should aim to keep your perishable food out of the “Danger Zone” of 40 to 140 degrees entirely, or for as narrow a window as possible.
Defrosting a pot roast? The USDA recommends you don’t leave it out on the counter for more than two hours to avoid breeding bacteria — and make that one hour max in a heat wave.
Ideally, when time permits, thaw your food in the fridge.
4. Invest in resealable containers.
Glasslock products, which latch tight, are easy to reopen, have glass bottoms that won’t hold odors or stains, and are safe for the oven, freezer, or microwave.
5. Don’t overstuff your fridge.
That cold air needs room to do its job.
6. Clean that fridge out regularly.
Keeping your refrigerator clear of rotten food will help you keep bacteria from spreading.
7. Educate yourself on how long different foods will last.
Cleaning out your fridge isn’t as easy as dumping everything into the trash every few days — some foods last longer than others.
Egg salad is good for three to four days, but an unopened package of hot dogs should be fine for a couple weeks — here’s a handy chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to guide you.
8. Plan to work through your leftovers before your big parties and holiday gatherings.
The day after Thanksgiving, you know you’re going to crave a turkey sandwich with help from yesterday’s bird — meaning the veggie risotto you shoved into the back corner before the holiday is all the more likely to spoil before you remember it’s there.
Tackling that risotto for dinner before the holiday will help you avoid spoiled food, while also clearing out shelving room for the next pile of leftovers.
9. Freeze, freeze, freeze.
If you’re not going to get through that whole pot of chicken soup in a few days — a person can only consume so much soup — get it into the freezer, where it will be safe. Then simply thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready for more.
10. Invest in a vacuum sealer.
A good vacuum sealer can help you say goodbye to freezer burn and dramatically extend the life of your delicacies, helping make spoiled food a thing of the past.