Marybeth from Alarm Clock Wars here, with a kitchen confession. I don’t know what’s in my refrigerator!  Please tell me I’m not the only one…

I mean, I know the basics. There’s plenty of Diet Coke, milk, and eggs (our staples). And there’s the leftover meatballs I cooked for dinner last night. And 2 leftover pork chops from the night before. And that scoop of creamy corn dip is from Sunday… or was it Saturday… or was is last Saturday…?

how long can you keep leftovers

I’m pretty sure we all have at least one mystery container lurking in the refrigerator. And we all know that once leftovers start looking like a science project that it’s time to throw them out.

But what about the in-between time?

That time when you aren’t quite sure when you actually cooked that roast, but before it starts growing friends.

What do you do then? Can you still eat it? Should you still eat it?

All leftovers should be eaten or frozen within 3 days.

That’s right, just 3 days!

Even if your food was handled and cooked appropriately, bacteria can still grow on it. Refrigeration helps slow bacterial growth, but it doesn’t completely stop it. So after 3 days, the amount of bacteria could be high enough to make you sick, even if the food doesn’t look or smell bad!

So I guess we need to eat those pork chops soon, and I need to toss the corn dip!

Can’t remember when you made something? When in doubt, throw it out. It’s better to waste a little food here and there than to take a risk that someone in your family could get sick.

5 tips for leftovers

  1. Label everything that goes in your refrigerator. Use a permanent marker on plastic bags. You can also use permanent marker on plastic containers; rubbing alcohol should take the marker off. Or use something like Washi tape that is removable.
  2. Eat them for lunch or for dinner the next day.
  3. Make a new meal. Think about ways you can use the leftovers differently. Made a big pot roast? Shred it for sandwiches or make a big pot of vegetable soup.
  4. If you know you won’t finish everything in the next three days, wrap it well and freeze it! Yep, leftovers freeze! Be sure to label the package with what’s inside and the date. Then just follow these thawing recommendations when you’re ready to use them up. Consider freezing things in single serving sizes, so you can grab and go when you need a quick meal on the run.
  5. Be sure when you’re reheating leftovers that the internal temperature gets to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to be sure you’ve reached a high enough temperature. You’ll also want to be sure to cover your leftovers when you reheat them, especially in the microwave, or they can get a bit dry.

Do you love leftovers, or do you hate them? What are your best tips for using up your leftovers?

Marybeth from Alarm Clock Wars

I am a large animal veterinarian, cow farmer, pet owner, grocery buyer, social media consultant, so very much not-a-morning-person. Every morning, I fight the good fight to stay in a warm bed with a