Storing food and leftovers might seem like an uncomplicated and straightforward process, but there is a correct way to do it, and not everyone is aware of it. Having to deal with food and leftovers is not uncommon, but correctly storing them is essential to maintaining the taste and preventing foodborne illnesses. Follow our tips below to learn more about which storage solutions to use, how to wrap and store food, the ideal condition for keeping it fresh for longer, and when it is time to toss it.
- Figure out what should go where
The first step to correctly storing your food is to decide what items should go into the fridge. You can tell which foods should go in the fridge based on whether they are marked with a “Use By” date or the label instructs to “Keep Refrigerated.” Most perishable foods should be stored in the fridge in order to keep it fresh and safe from germs.
Leftovers, on the other hand, should always be stored in the fridge or freezer. Leftovers can last up to four days in the fridge if the temperature is set to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and up to four months in the freezer if the temperature is below 0 degrees. It is essential to refrigerate leftover food promptly – if more than two hours have passed since you cooked the meal, it is better to toss it.
- Keep food airtight
The USDA emphasizes the importance of wrapping leftovers well before placing them in the fridge. Wrapping your food airtight is important to maintain its moisture, prevent it from picking up the odor from other foods in the fridge, and to keep bacteria out to prevent illness.
Some materials you can use include:
- Resealable bags
- Clear food wrap
- Fold top bags
- Clear plastic containers with a lid
Plastic containers that are also microwave safe are a great option, as you can simply take your food out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave.
- Storing meat and poultry
Ensuring that you are correctly storing meat products is especially important to prevent foodborne illness. Keep meat and poultry in the bottom drawer of your fridge to avoid cross-contamination, and so it will not drip onto other food. As another safety measure, cover the meat with wrap, or store it in plastic containers with a secure lid – leakproof containers are the way to go! While meat can last for a few months when frozen, if you are storing leftovers in the fridge, the USDA recommends eating them in a span of four days. Final tip: Remember to never re-freeze raw meat that has been defrosted!
- Keep out of the danger zone
The USDA refers to temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit as the danger zone. Bacteria can grow and thrive in this temperature range, so keep your foods out of the danger zone! We previously mentioned you should put leftovers in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible, with a max of two hours since the food was made. Keep that in mind also if your food was sitting outside in 40+ degree heat, it could be now unsafe to eat.
Finally, the last best practice when it comes to keeping your food safe from germs is to store it in small portions, in several shallow plastic containers. Once in the fridge, it can cool faster, in turn eliminating bacterial growth.
Follow our tips to keep your food and leftovers fresh and safe to eat! Interested in learning more about food storage solutions? Check out our blog. Also, to find unbeatable deals on all your food storing supplies, visit the ReStockIt website.
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