Tags: DigIn, DigIn22, Magazine, DigInMagazine, Sept, September, Summer

The Next Day: Leftover Food Safety

The Dos & Don’ts of enjoying and repurposing leftovers

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Whether you’re planning meals ahead of time and batch cooking or you simply want to make the most out of your leftovers through the week by creating multiple meals, let food safety be your guiding light just as much as flavor.

The more often you include these food safety Dos into your food prep routine, the less you’ll have to remember. Hey, look at you keeping everyone safe! 😊

Do Handle Meals Safely

Don’t Leave Food Out

When you’re serving meals, keep food out of the Food Safety Danger Zone of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit no longer than 2 hours on mild temperature days and 1 hour on hot days. To maintain best food quality for future meals, and keep bacteria at bay, get in the habit of refrigerating (or freezing) leftovers immediately after serving versus leaving them out for extended periods of time.


Do Eat Leftovers Quickly

Don’t Eat Anything Past Day #4

If you’re the type of person who hates wasting food, keep in mind leftovers become unsafe to eat the further you get from the original meal prep day. Enjoy leftovers that have been safely stored in the refrigerator within 3-4 days.


Do Reheat Leftovers Properly

Don’t Use the Touch Test

Have you ever reheated leftovers and did the finger or sight test and decide “Yea, it looks good?” That’s a perfect way to end up with a stomach ache. When reheating, stir leftovers often to distribute heat and check that the center reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as verified by an instant-read food thermometer.


Do Use the Freezer

Don’t Waste

When cooking in batches for the week ahead, or simply have an excess of leftovers, remember the 3-4 day rule. If you know you won’t get to all of your portioned-out meals or leftovers in time, freeze what you can. This may require a bit of planning so less hardy foods that won’t hold up to freezing are repurposed within this 3-4 day window. Don’t fret- quality, taste and safety will win when you give time for the extra foresight.


Do Get Creative

Don’t Bore Your Taste Buds

Sure, you could continue eating slices of ham with a side of mashed potatoes and corn for 3-4 days post your Sunday meal, but what about turning that ham into soup or making Shepard’s Pie with the extra potatoes and corn?

Let your taste buds guide how you repurpose leftovers. With a little bit of creativity, you may even forget that the noodles in your colorful pasta salad during Wednesday’s lunch came from Monday night’s pasta night!

Published 9/5/2022