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Leftovers: When To Keep Or Throw Away

Dorathy Gass

It is the age-old debate that is happening (even at this very moment) amongst many refrigerators in homes today; to keep or not to keep (those leftovers). If you open up your fridge right now, you may see a Tupperware container of half-eaten stew, takeout pizza, or perhaps left over spaghetti sauce. When is it safe to still eat these foods, and when is it best to toss them out?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the best advice to start off with are those commercially prepared products, like condiments and sauces that have best-before expiry dates. If you are hunting around the fridge to find some ketchup, and notice it is past its date, then the decision has been made for you; simply chuck it in the garage. More often than not, these dates are placed on products, not necessarily for safety, but rather flavor. Packaged items that are generally placed in your cupboards or pantry (like canned beans, rice, and pasta) have a little more room when it comes to expiry dates.

Still, what is the rule of thumb as it relates to dinners and lunches? Leftovers from last night’s dinner can be stored safely in your fridge and still eaten, but for only three to four days after the meal was initially cooked. You always have the option of freezing leftovers for another meal well into the future, but even then, the leftovers are at jeopardy of losing the initial flavor they had. Which is why it may seem that your famous lasagna tastes so much better on the day you made it fresh. As always, despite these timeframes, if a leftover meal in the fridge looks off or smells funny, it is best to use the number one rule of leftovers: when it doubt, throw out.
With the holiday season right around the corner, leftover food from festive dinners and parties will be at an all time high. If you are curious about a certain food, meal, or appetizer and its eatable leftover status, check out for all your food safety needs.

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