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With healthy meal planning, you will probably want to put some of the prepared ingredients and dishes in the refrigerator and freezer. It also helps to save some leftovers to be used for future meals, especially when you don’t want to do any additional cooking. In both cases, you will need to know how long leftovers stay fresh so you can ensure your family is safe when eating these prepared dishes.
Tips For Storing Foods
Before you do anything, it is important that you know some of the rules of storing foods and prepared meals. First of all, you should store meat in containers or freezer bags, not the original package they come in. This ensures they are air tight and will help to avoid freezer burn. Also remember that foods you prepare has to be cooled off before it is stored. Never try to store leftovers or freeze a meal that is still warm. Also, you need to label everything with the date it goes in and the used by date so that you know when it needs to be discarded. Freezing the item gives it a longer shelf life. Check out this guide to refrigerator/freezer shelf life.
Leftovers in the Fridge
For the most part, food that has already been prepared and being stored in the refrigerator as leftovers, needs to be consumed before 4 days are up. This is when it is stored in a container with a lid or an airtight freezer bag. Never store leftovers with no lid, such as food just sitting on a plate without being covered up. It isn’t going to stay fresh and could even make someone ill from contamination. Plus, the food will dry out.
Food You Shouldn’t Freeze
While you can freeze salad, it doesn’t freeze well. It gets freezer burn easily, gets wilty, and it won’t taste very good when it is removed. This is particularly true for greens and prepared salads. Try to keep these in the refrigerator only, for up to 3 days. With other salads, such as macaroni, potato, and tuna salad, these also do not freeze well. They can stay in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, as long as it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Fridge and Freezer Times
Now for the times for various other foods in the refrigerator or freezer. In general, leftovers in the refrigerator, including prepared dishes, should not be eaten after 4 days. However, cooked meat in the freezer can last between 3 and 6 months, as long as it is kept in a good storage container. Freezing times for fresh meat and seafood depends on what it is. Bacon and sausage can be frozen for around 2 months, while poultry can stay fresh for up to a year. Luncheon meat should not be frozen for longer than 1-2 months. Be sure to check this pdf from the FDA for accurate storage information.
What’s in your freezer or refrigerator that you need to do something with?