How long to store leftovers is still safe for health?

Storing leftovers in the refrigerator is a familiar method that any housewife applies. However, how long is the best way to store leftovers to ensure no harm to your health? Refer to the following suggestions.

Storing leftovers and saving them for the next meal is a great way to not waste food. Many people also prefer to prepare food in large portions and store it in the refrigerator for later use which can provide convenience and benefit in terms of both budget and time.

However, regularly eating processed foods and leaving them for days can be harmful to your health. Storing leftovers can actually only be used for a certain period of time, depending on the processing method as well as the type of food to ensure safety.

What kind of foods does the preservation of leftovers apply to?

How long food can be stored depends on many factors, including the type of food combined with processing and storage. Many foods can help you easily recognize the signs of spoilage, but others do not. Therefore, the level of preservation mentioned here is the time when the food is still safe to continue to use, not causing pathogens such as bacteria or toxins that cause disease to the body.

However, leftovers are often dishes that contain a lot of ingredients. So the general rule is to rely on the most perishable foods. If you cannot determine for sure, discard unused leftovers after 3 days of storage.

Low-risk foods

Fruits and vegetables

Raw fruits and vegetables should be washed with clean water before use and should be eaten as soon as possible. After draining and storing, the fruit will begin to lose its freshness after 3 – 5 days. Fruits and vegetables with a high water content lose their freshness faster than those with a low water content.

When cooked, leftovers stored in an airtight container will keep for 3-7 days in the refrigerator. Processed canned vegetables such as beans can be stored for 7-10 days.


bag of bread

Bread stored in sealed packaging can last from 3-7 days depending on how it is processed

Homemade bread can be stored for 3 days, while store bought bread usually lasts for 5-7 days. If the cake is moldy, you should throw it away immediately.

READ MORE:  Seasonal Depression (SAD): Causes, Signs, and Treatment

Storing breads in the refrigerator will help extend their shelf life by about 3 – 5 days. However, the quality of the cake will be reduced.

Foods with an average risk of poisoning

Pasta, cooked pasta and cereals like oats and quinoa will keep for up to 3 days. If you canned and frozen them after processing, they can be stored for about 3 months before they start to lose their freshness.

Desserts and sweets usually keep for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Food with a high risk of poisoning

Usually foods with high protein and moisture content, the environment makes it easy for microorganisms to grow.

Meat and Poultry

canned tuna

Opened canned meat should be used up within 3-5 days

Ground meat and poultry that has been cooked to a safe temperature can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days at temperatures below 5°C.

Other meats such as steaks, fillets, ribs and roasts will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. If you want to defrost raw meat, transfer it to the refrigerator a few hours before cooking, preparing, and using within 2 days. In case of microwave defrosting, you should prepare and use immediately.

Opened canned and deli meats should be consumed within 3 to 5 days, similar to salads and other canned foods.

Shellfish, eggs, soups and stews

Hard-boiled eggs with shell should be consumed within 7 days of being cooked and refrigerated. Seafood can contain many pathogens or toxins such as histamine, so it should be consumed within 3 days. Soups and stews will usually keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Ready-made dishes

Food purchased from a restaurant should have a shorter shelf life than if you prepare it yourself, up to 3 – 4 days. If there are raw ingredients in the leftovers, such as fish or vegetables, they should be consumed within 24 hours.

Identify spoiled food

  • Look for changes in the texture of the dish, such as watery, colorful mold, which means the dish is spoiled, you should discard it immediately. Be careful not to sniff if mold is present to avoid causing respiratory problems.
  • Cold meats and ready-to-eat foods should also be discarded.
  • Food that is discolored, has a rancid smell can not be eaten.
  • If you don’t see any outward signs of spoilage, but when you eat it and notice that the taste has changed, try to spit it out and discard the dish.

moldy food

Do not eat food that has appeared mold

Tips for proper storage of leftovers

Bacteria thrive between 4 – 60°C. To avoid mold at this temperature, refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. If you are outdoors with temperatures around 32°C, try to refrigerate or freeze within 1 hour.

READ MORE:  Care plan for patients with gastritis

Ideally, you should store hot foods in small, shallow-bottomed, airtight containers to help them cool faster and more evenly.

In addition, some bacteria can grow in cold temperatures. Therefore, you should pay attention to the shelf life of leftovers. For easier control, you can label the processing and expiry dates, or organize items that need to be eaten immediately or stored longer by compartments in the refrigerator.

Reheat food to at least 74°C, sauces should be reheated until simmering before using. Storing leftovers, if applied properly and not overusing the refrigerator, will save you a lot of processing time as well as food costs while still ensuring health.

Easy Healthy Lifestyle