We don’t always eat everything we cook, so it is important to find safe ways to store leftovers to promote health and safety.
Leftovers make life easier for so many reasons—from cutting down time in the kitchen to minimizing the amount of food waste we create.
Please note that you can’t just look at leftovers and know if they’re safe to eat or not, because germs growing on food are often invisible to the naked eye (besides mould, of course).
We all know those who boast of having an “iron stomach” who can eat anything, but the fact is that if you’ve ever eaten dodgy old leftovers and been totally fine, then you should consider yourself lucky.
Old food can be dangerous to eat even if it looks totally fine, which is why it’s better to use time as a frame of reference if you don’t want to take the risk. One exception to this rule is seafood, because generally speaking, the most contaminated food product is seafood and it breaks down easily and quickly,”
Best Storage Practices
Store all leftovers in leak-proof, clear containers or wraps. Drop in to one of our five Household Plastic stores where we stock a few top ranges of clear, airtight containers, perfect for storing leftovers in.
It’s important to secure any leftovers to prevent odours from getting out into the rest of the fridge and contaminating your other foods.
For better, more consistent refrigeration, divide up any leftovers into smaller containers. Don’t simply place everything into one large container.
Leftover Storage Tips
Listen, leftovers are delicious and convenient, so you want to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep them fresh and safe to eat as long as possible. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- First, make sure to never leave leftovers at room temperature for more than two hours.
- And if you live in Durban or any other warm, humid climate, don’t leave leftovers out for longer than an hour before transferring them to the fridge.
- Follow the ‘first in, first out’ rule: Always eat the oldest foods first.
- Be careful to avoid cross-contaminating your food. Cross-contamination is one of the biggest mistakes consumers make when packing up leftovers
- Label everything so you know exactly how long you’ve had it. Tierno says that everything you put in the fridge should get labelled so that you know exactly how long you’ve had it for.
- If you are reheating leftovers in the microwave, use only microwave-safe dishes. Remove food from plastic wrap, Styrofoam and/or freezer containers.
- When reheating in the microwave turn the dish midway through cooking, reposition it on rotating table, rearrange or stir food, and turn large food items over.
How Safe is it to Freeze Restaurant Food?
The longer food is kept at room temperature the more likely it is to develop potentially dangerous bacteria, and if you’re at a restaurant or ordering delivery, you may not be able to get food in the fridge quickly enough. However, if you are able to refrigerate them within two hours, and the restaurant that they come from uses proper food handling practices, your risks are pretty much the same as they would be with homemade food.
The 2- Hour Rule
Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Foods left out longer should be discarded.
Refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible (within 2 hours), store in the fridge and eat within 3–4 days. Alternatively, freeze leftovers for 3–4 months. After this point, they are still considered safe to eat — but texture and flavour may be compromised.
Uncooked foods, like cold salads or sandwiches, also should be eaten or refrigerated promptly. Your goal is to reduce the time a food is in the “danger zone” — between 4 and 60 C — when bacteria can quickly multiply.
Warm Leftovers are OK
Despite what you may have heard, it’s totally fine to put leftovers in the fridge while they’re still warm. I also believed that one first had to cool food to room temperature, but that this is a mistake. The longer food spends at room temperature, the more opportunity there is for bacteria to grow
Place hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer, but don’t overload the container. Cool air needs to circulate to keep food safe.
Visit Household Plastic for a wide range of airtight and convenient containers of leftover for fridge of freezer.