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How Long Are Leftovers Safe to Eat?

The Lifespan of Leftovers

I'm sure with all the holiday parties you've been throwing and attending, your fridge must be filled with leftovers. Cooked meats, side dishes, soups, and salads galore. I love having leftovers because it makes eating a healthy meal quick and easy. So how long are those foods good for?

Most foods will stay fresh and safe to eat for three to four days. Meat and dishes that contain meat should probably be eaten within two to three days.

You only want to save foods that have been sitting at room temperature for two hours or less. Refrigerate foods immediately in airtight containers or bags. To prevent food poisoning, be sure to reheat your leftovers thoroughly. It's a good idea to boil sauces, soups and gravies on the stove or in the microwave. Reheat casseroles, cooked veggies, and other hot foods in at least a 325°F oven until completely hot. You can also microwave leftovers, but be sure there are no cold spots where bacteria could live. To ensure that they're cooked thoroughly, cover these foods, and stir and rotate them for even cooking. If you have leftover desserts that contain fruit or cream, eat them within two to three days.

Fit's Tips: Keep some masking tape and a pen nearby so you can date your leftovers. Anything that's been in the fridge for longer than four days should probably be tossed. If something looks or smells funny, I'd ditch that too. It's not worth getting sick over.


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ISUjules ISUjules 9 years
The guidelines for frozen meat are not 'expiration dates' just a guideline for quality - when its going to taste best. From the USDA website: "Because freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only."
Giasbash6260 Giasbash6260 9 years
What about raw seafood? After buying it from the grocery store how long can I keep it in the fridge before it goes bad?
amber_castaldo amber_castaldo 9 years
I guess it's time to throw out our Christmas leftovers.
annebreal annebreal 9 years
Thanks so much aimeeb! I bookmarked that for future reference, and took a sigh of relief I've never gone outside those expiration dates. Very helpful!
emalove emalove 9 years
Thanks for this, Fit!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Oh and if you see freezer burn throw it out. It's always good to wrap the meat in another layer (other than the store packaging) to help prevent this.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
anne hope this helps: * Bacon or sausage: one to two months * Ham, hot dogs or cold cuts: two to three months * Raw roasts, steaks or chops: four to twelve months * Raw ground meat: three to four months * Cooked meat: two to three months * Raw, whole poultry: one to two months * Raw poultry parts: nine months * Cooked poultry: four months * Raw, wild game: eight to twelve months
annebreal annebreal 9 years
Does anyone know when you should throw out frozen products, like meat? That's the only thing I worry about, since meat freaks me out anyway to deal with and cook.
kgiuffre kgiuffre 9 years
Handy quote: When in doubt, throw it out.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I am to lazy to label so i just clean out my fridge once a month.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I hope most people knew all these tips but they were great to reitterate as well. I also date any and all meats I store in my freezer.
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