How long do you keep leftovers?

FOOD THANKSGIVING-LEFTOVERS KCHow long are leftovers good???  I am so guilty of saving food that I know won’t get eaten.  Very guilty.  I think most of us have a problem with throwing good food away so into the refrigerator it goes.  Most of the time, the next time I see it I have no idea what it was when it went in there.  This was on the Good Question the other night so I thought a post about it was a good thing to discuss.

According to all the “experts,” it all depends on how fast you get the food into the fridge and that any longer than two hours can drastically change “how long it will be good.”  I can tell you here and now that I have put things away WAY longer than 2 hours after we ate it.  Which then leads me to ask why we don’t get sick?  Or are we just not sick enough to notice or we may get a slight case of the runs or feel a little “off?”  We may not be sick “sick” but just feel “not good?”  It also depends on the time of year and how cold or hot it is where you have your food sitting.  

Here is a food guide as to how long things will stay “good” in your fridge.

Chicken, Turkey, Fish      1-2 days
Ground Beef/Poultry         1-2 days
Beef, Veal, Pork, Lamb    3-5 days
Cured Ham                     5-7 days
Uncooked Sausage         1-2 days
Milk                               5-7 days after date
Eggs                           3-5 weeks
Bacon, Hot Dogs, Lunch Meat   
   UNOPENED: 2 weeks
   OPENED:       5-7 days
Deli Meat        Up to 3 days

Okay, I will say that I keep food a lot longer than this in my fridge. Am I the only one?  I’m sorry but I feel this guide is way off.  I feel it also depends on how it’s been cured or how it’s been processed. Why is it on, say a package of hot dogs, the expiration date is months away from when you bought it?  It’s okay to sit in the store but not in your own fridge?  Or is this just a “guideline” for people? If so, I think it’s way off because I’ve had hot dogs or bologna or even bacon in my fridge for a lot longer than it states here and it’s still, if not opened, got another month according to the date stamped on it from the packing plant.  Is this some kind of a “scare” tactic???  Here is another link to what expiration dates really mean and according to this report, they don’t mean much.

I’ve also heard that you should always go down the dairy isle last because for example, milk will lose “days” on the expiration date according to “minutes” not kept cold.  So things that are kept cold, lose days on that date and none of us know about it?  So then what’s the point of the date then?  Why the heck in most grocery stores is the dairy isle right in the center of the store?  Or way in the back?  I know in all our Walmart’s around here, the dairy isle is in the far back corner of the grocery dept.  In the grocery store I shop at the most, it’s in the dead center of the store.

leftovers2I just have one more thing to ask.  I know things are different now with all the additives that are added to our food and how things are “made” and prepared but I can remember my grandma used to buy her eggs from her sister who had chickens and she used to by DOZENS of eggs at a time.  They were never kept in her fridge.  I can see them in my mind to this day sitting in the “egg” spot on her counter.  Why now do we have to hurry to get them in the fridge so they don’t spoil?  How can eggs be different now?

I also know people who keep things in their fridge that I don’t and vice versa.  I know people who keep soy sauce in the fridge.  I don’t.  A lot of my relatives don’t keep ketchup in theirs but I do. Who knows what’s right and what’s not?  Does it  have anything to do with the way society is now?  If I eat a bad egg and get sick I sue someone??  

HELP!!  What do you do?  Are you guilty of not getting food into the fridge fast enough and do you still eat it?  Are you a strict “expiration” date person or if it looks okay, smells okay and feels okay, you will eat it?

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20 Responses to How long do you keep leftovers?

  1. holeycheese says:

    I keep cooked food for 2-3 days.. maybe even four days if it’s something I know doesn’t get bad that easily.
    But we don’t have much problem with the lefteovers. Hubby is making food boxes for work from that.. and I also check now and then and throw into the freezer.

    with other stuff I don’t really have a problem. my nose and my tastebuds are really something, so I usually feel when something is starting to get bad. I can tell that the milk in my coffee is getting bad when my husband and the kids can still drink it right the way without noticing.

  2. Eric Richardville says:

    I keep leftovers for just about as long as possible. I don’t know what my deadline is. I kind of just play it by ear. I look to see if there is mold or if the smell is funny, if not it’s still good.

  3. JQ says:

    I am an EXTREME date freak. I think it’s all personal preference. For example, I’m the freak at the store digging to the very back of the shelves for THE FRESHEST product date. Fresh cut deli lunch meat such as poultry I keep for no longer than 4 days. If it’s cured ham or salami, I keep it a bit longer. Eggs seem to keep forever… I do try to keep an eye on them and make sure to rotate them to use the oldest first. Cheese is good until there is mold. LOL! Leftovers, I love left overs and they are usually eaten w/in 3 days and then get scraped into the disposal. I truly enjoy cooking! I always feel best about what I’ve made when all my ingredients are fresh *OCD much?*

    Things like Mayo, etc. I also keep an eye on them because I think personally, after I open it- the expiration date changes. Things to me can only be “fresh” AFTER being opened for so long. I have no problem throwing away a jar of mayo or miracle whip that’s been opened for a month in the fridge.

    When I was first married, I use to go through the fridge and throw out mass quantities of things (from the week before only) such as unused coffee creamer, cottage cheese, maybe a bag of shredded cheese with only 1/3 of the bag left,… anything that was opened and not consumed.

    I have definitely changed as I got older. I now keep that 1/3 bag of cheese and USE IT ALL UP, I will not toss out creamer if I’ve only had it opened for a week and I have made a huge effort NOT to waste food buying only what I think we will use.

    Funny, my mother (saint, and mom to 12 kids) cleans out her pantry and when I stop by she’ll have about 12 things for me to “take home” because she wont use them. THEY WILL ALL HAVE BEEN EXPIRED. Never opened but expired and I just look at her and say, “Nope. No thanks.” She thinks I’m off my rocker girl! And she and I laugh about it but there is no way I’m putting that in my mouth… LOL!

    Now, Twinkies, they have a life of their own I’m told! ROFLMAO!

  4. JQ says:

    Sorry there is more Joy….. furthermore, I cannot stand- simply cannot STAND when someone takes some left overs from a large container… then eats like 3/4 of it and leaves the little bit left over still in the same large container -GAH! Would it be asking too much for that person to grab a smaller tupperware and put it away neatly? Oh, and God forbid, clean the big old dirty large container- NOOOOOOOooooooooo! Ha! Ha! Ha! I wouldn’t want to grap a 2 qt. casserole pan to find a cups worth of left over tuna noodle casserole- ick! That would ruin it for me.

    I don’t know the actual technicalities of the whole left over thing, I just do my own bizarre little things.

    My mom would cook 2 year old hamburger meat if it was frozen. I will put the date on it and cook it w/in 4-6 mos at the most. But, my mom is healthy and just shy of 80 years old. So what is the right answer? I do not know. I just know I feel better about eating fresh food.

    Oh Joy, you have just scratched the surface of my OCD tendencies…..

  5. Laura (LS) says:

    If I open the fridge and am knocked over by the smell? It gets cleaned until I find the culprit – usually some unidentifiable wad of goo in a container in the back corner. At that point, I haul out the Haz-Mat gloves and mask, and wrestle it into the disposal, before it can do the same to me…

    I’m pretty persnickety about milk – nothing worse than turned milk. gag. But cooked stuff? I still have a cooked, marinated chicken breast in the fridge. It’s gotta be a good two weeks old, and it’s still good. Usually, I eat leftovers pretty quickly – that one was just part of a mass-cook thing that I did so I could have chicken salads. Apparently, I made a bit too much.

    I also do a lot of freezing. I’ll go and buy a 20lb roll of ground beef when they have it on sale for $.88/lb, and divide it into 1/2 lb sections and date/freeze them. That way, it’s ready for burgers or whatever. I do the same with steaks, whole chickens, etc. I LOVE my freezer. I try not to go overboard, though, ’cause I’ve run into plenty of freezerburn. Most meat stuff only lives in the freezer for about six months. I try not to keep it in there longer than that.

    As for your question about Grandma’s Eggs? I have to wonder if our lawsuit-happy/”overeducated” society hasn’t contributed to that. When Grandma was a young wife, everything was about the farm – even if they were in the city. They “marketed” often, and had their own storage plans. The “icebox” was only for those things that REALLY needed keeping cold. Nowadays, we’re bombarded not only by scientists doing experiments on stuff, but mostly by food marketing companies, whipping us into a frenzy, telling us that we must have ever-newer stuff, whether it be eggs or iPods.

    I’ll stop rambling now.

  6. pammy wammy says:

    I cant throw anything away so I do have left overs.I try to put my cooked stuff in the fridge once its cooled down.Left-overs dont last long for me.I love heated up food the second day,to me most stuff tastes better second time around,The times I do find a forgotten container in the fridge,I immediatly throw out the whole thing.Milk I only use for baking or coffee.So once it starts to curdle in my coffee,out it goes.Eggs,I keep in the fridge for months sometimes.I have never checked my eggs expiry date and I dont no why.They have so many things they always tell ou to watch out for.I stop listening sometimes.I have literally been out on my own for over 30 years.I am still here.I just keep doing what I do,cause it seems to have worked for me and my family.

  7. Doraz says:

    I just do like Eric and play it by “eye, smell, feel and taste.”
    If the food passes the test….it gets eaten!
    If it fails….out it goes!
    On the farm, we would give it to the pigs!
    Maybe we should all have pigs running around in our yards!
    Good idea?

  8. Gary says:

    We keep leftovers for about 3 to 4 days. They usually get ate pretty quickly here in my house so it’s pretty rare that we have to throw any leftovers out.

    I also watch the expiration dates pretty closely. I figure they are on the product for a reason so I should use them to my advantage. 😀

  9. SKL says:

    I try to eat leftovers ASAP because the reality is, if I don’t eat it pretty soon, I will have no appetite for it, regardless of “expiration date.” About 95% gets eaten within 48 hours or sits in the fridge until the next garbage day.

    I make an exception for Indian food because the spices make it last longer. We usually stock up for a few meals and eat them over a couple of weeks.

    I do think those guidelines you listed are off. Not that I have a better list, but I’ve been on this planet for a long time and my gut tells me differently. I think a lot of times “expiration dates” on products are accelerated to get people to throw stuff in the garbage and buy more.

    I’d keep doing whatever has been working for you all these years!

  10. starlaschat says:

    I had really bad food poisoning once. So the When in doubt throw it out rule is a good one. Because I never want to get that sick ever again. It is tough like you said some things seem to last a lot long then others. And the milk thing, I never thought about picking it up last that is a good idea. In restaurants they are very big into food safety so I have taken a few classes on the subject. Keeping things the right temp. in the frige, a lot of restaurants date things with a small piece of tape. I don’t but maybe a good idea. I try and get things into the fridge right after we eat, because of having this drummed into my head at food safety meetings. Does my head look drummed on to you? Feeling a little silly this am. Great post it is a good reminder to think about.

  11. Sue says:

    I also have leftovers, but often times they don’t get eaten. According to that chart, I keep my stuff a lot longer than I should. I go by smell and looks. I’m not about to throw away 3 day old deli/lunchmeat b/c some chart says it’s bad. We’d be at the store more than me are now…and that’s a lot!

  12. I think it all has to do with how it smells or tastes. I mean, sometimes milk can be a day or two after its official expiration date and yet if you taste it you can tell it’s still completely and utterly fine!

  13. javajunkee says:

    cheese doesn’t stay long around here. I don’t drink milk so I depend on the milk drinkers to know when the milk is bad.

    lunchmeat — week or so even after it’s opened.

    cooked left overs 3 days

    mayo will work for at least a month after opening.

    here is something else to add to your question many of you are all freaked out about storing shit and reheating it in the microwave in plastic? That’s another scare tactic. Which yes I store it in plastic and nuke it in plastic. I’m digging those glass containers up there but ok…those would get broke in a week here. We are some pretty clumbsy ass people in this house.

    • Joy says:

      That’s funny you mentioned that picture. It’s not my photo but I have the top and middle one just like this that I got at an antique store and I just think they are so cool. We used to have a butter dish like this at our cabin that held a pound. I have a TINY obsession with old bowls and old glassware in general. They always remind me of my grandma and I bring them home and hardly ever use them.

      I reheat in plastic. What’s the scoop now on that? Is that now bad?

      • nikki says:

        The reheating in plastic I have never really done, because I was told that there are some kind of toxins or SOMETHING that went into the food from the plastic. It very well may be fine it’s just something that has always stuck with me. But I’m weird so don’t take my advice lol.

        • Joy says:

          LOL Nikki!!!

        • javajunkee says:

          LOL yep that’s what I’ve heard..the reheating and the plastic collide and form some kind of toxin. Well there goes the fucking tupperware ladys job!

          I’m going to have to risk it and keep on doing it because I would bet glass containers are really hard to come by and they would be expensive. They are supposed to be making that BP free plastic now. If you see a number 2 on the bottom of your container…BAD! Same with water jugs.

          I guess as long as we’re breathing something is gonna be bad for us righ?

  14. nikki says:

    LOL…I don’t really keep anything! I know full well left overs don’t get eaten. If it’s something that I know I will eat I will save it but only up to 2 days. My brother on the other hand sometimes makes me so mad. I clean our fridge out once a week, when we grocery shop. He will save 1/4 of spaghetti rings that my niece didn’t eat and WON’T eat! UGH! So irritating!
    Jason was talking about eggs being left out too a few weeks ago, and we couldn’t figure out what has changed either!
    According to your chart though when it comes to lunch meat and bacon and stuff I keep it probably twice as long as that and we’re still alive and kicking. lol Pretty interesting thou, I wonder how many people really go by that!?

  15. Great tips for storing food. It’s hard to know what to do with food sometimes. Your article provides some helpful guidelines.

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