Preserving leftover meals is highly important as bacteria can quickly grow in cooked food that is left for long without preservation, making it unsafe for consumption.
There is no way you won’t get leftover meals in a day if you cook every day, and leftover meals make life easy whenever you have them stored up in a safe place that will enable you to get them as fresh as ever and maintain their original taste. You can always go back to them whenever you are tired or hungry; it saves you time and money for the next meal.
The reason for preserving food is to reduce the action of microorganisms on cooked food. Any food stored up for too long will eventually get worse, but you can still get your fresh food when you eat them early. The ingredients you use in cooking food and the form of preservation will go well to have food-quality control.
We have several ways to preserve food to reduce wastage and get safe food to eat for the next meal. There are traditional ways of preserving food, and we also have modern ways of preserving food. For the purpose of this post, we will be talking about proper ways to preserve your leftover food in a refrigerator.
1. Cook your food properly.
The first thing to ask yourself before considering preserving leftovers is if your food was cooked properly. Any food that is not cooked properly has the greatest chance of getting contaminated easily with bacteria spreads that cause food poisoning. This kind of food will easily lose its flavor and texture, even when refrigerated.
Bacteria are present in all food, and cooking doesn’t remove every one of the bacteria in food, but the bacteria will be drastically reduced when you cook properly compared to when you don’t cook it well. In order to avoid food poisoning or foodborne illnesses, ensure you cook your food properly and also you do well in handling the leftovers properly.
When foods reach a high enough temperature during cooking, any bacteria that can cause food poisoning will be killed by it.
The safely cooked food can stay up to 4 days in the refrigerator when kept at a recommended temperature.
2. Get the best storage containers for your leftover meals
It is important to invest in good storage containers because you will always have leftovers, mostly after every meal, and storing up your freezer or fridge needs food-grade containers that are small, flat, and can easily get all the air they need on time. The containers must be less than 3 inches deep. You can divide your food into different containers to get the most out of it.
Use airtight glass containers instead of plastic containers to avoid stains or leakage of food. Make sure this glass container comes with its own lid. You can also use zip-top bags, plastic or coated wraps for baked goods, or large cuts of meat for the best quality.
3. Label the leftover meals with a date.
Labeling your leftover meal with the date will help you to know quickly how long the food has been used in the refrigerator. We should bear in mind that food that stays longer than 4 days in the fridge will start getting contaminated. The risk of food poisoning increases once food has stayed up to 4 days or longer in the fridge. You can transfer food that you are not eating earlier than 4 days into the freezer to increase its shelf life.
Eat older leftover meals in the refrigerator before considering eating the newly added meals to avoid wastage.
Also, put your leftover meal in the storage container within two hours of cooking the food, label it promptly, and put it in the refrigerator immediately.
4. Store leftover meals at 40°F or less
Before storing your food in the refrigerator, make sure to test the refrigerator with a thermometer to be sure it is cold enough. The ideal temperature should be at 40°F (5°C) or less to minimize the growth of bacteria.
5. Store food in the freezer if you won’t be eating them within a week
It is safer in the freezer if you will not be eating food within 4days. The food will be frozen in the freezer, and the growth of bacteria in food will be limited.
Poultry food, like meat, should be kept in the freezer immediately because it can be easily contaminated in the fridge if left over 2 days in the fridge. Also, food like rice and vegetables should also be kept in the freezer as they don’t last in the fridge for more than 2 days.
6. Cover food and don’t overload the refrigerator
Cover foods before storing in the refrigerator, do not let them touch each other. Eat your leftovers on time before adding more to the ones in the refrigerator. Overloading the refrigerator with food is not good because it will not allow cold air to circulate around the food, also affecting the temperature of the refrigerator.
When you want to keep raw meat in the freezer, use a large container for it and cover it properly so that the blood from it will not drip into another container with food. This is why you need to cover all food you are storing in the refrigerator.
It is also important to always clean the refrigerator; wipe up spills with a boiled cloth, a bowl of hand-hot water, and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda added.
7. Reheat properly before eating.
Eating the food when it is very hot is better so that any harmful bacteria in it are killed. When you want to eat leftovers from the refrigerator, heat them at an internal temperature of 75 degrees and above. Use a stovetop or microwave to reheat your food and avoid reheating in slow cookers; bacteria can easily grow in the process of reheating.
On the stovetop, make sure your food is evenly heated and very hot also, in the microwave, cover and rotate foods for even heating
8. Trash it
Food in the fridge that is more than 4-6days will not look spoilt; it will still smell as if it is fresh. Trash any food you feel has stayed too long in the refrigerator. It is better to waste such food than to end up with a foodborne illness.