Properly using leftovers is a great way to increase the efficiency of home cooking. For example, a big slow cooker of pinto beans can be used for several days as a hearty lunch, a filling for breakfast burritos, and a side dish for tacos. While leftovers are great, you should familiarize yourself with best practices for avoiding foodborne illnesses.
Always refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible, ensuring they don't stay at room temperature for over 2 hours. (This time limit drops to 1 hour in hot weather.) Ensure your refrigerator is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) to prevent the rapid growth of bacteria.
Label each container with the date so you remember when it was prepared, and always throw it out if there is any question concerning its safety. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Assuming your leftovers are properly sealed and stored, most foods can last 3-4 days in the refrigerator before you need to toss them. The following table shows a few exceptions to this rule.
|Food||Maximum Storage Time|
|Bacon||4-5 days||Egg (hard-boiled)||7 days|
|Gravy (meat-based)||1-2 days|
|Ground meats||1-2 days|