Cash strapped Brits are being urged to learn how to store leftovers to avoid upset tummies and inedible food.
Healthy food retailer MuscleFood.com has looked at how to store and reuse common leftovers safely.
With the cost of living crisis continuing to bite and hard up families making cash and the weekly food shop stretch further, using up leftovers is a sensible way to cut costs.
But, stored incorrectly bacteria can quickly reproduce leading to upset tummies and wasted food.
As a rule, any leftover food needs to be put in the freezer or refrigerator within two hours of being cooked to stop harmful bacteria reproducing. Store all leftovers in sealable, shallow containers as this will help them to cool quicker.
It is best to store food in the fridge quickly to stop bacteria from multiplying. If you’re eating leftovers from frozen make sure to defrost them in the fridge, as this again is the safest way to prevent bacteria from growing.
Leftover food must be below 5°C when stored and at least 60°C when reheated. Anything in-between is considered the ‘danger zone’, as this is the perfect temperature to allow harmful bacteria to grow.
Ashleigh Tosh from MuscleFood.com said: “Nobody likes to see food go to waste, but when people throw out perfectly good leftovers fearing they might make them ill this is exactly what happens.
“However, just because leftover food might taste or smell okay doesn’t always mean that it’s safe to eat. Knowing exactly how long your food keeps in the fridge or freezer is crucial to making sure you don’t fall ill when reusing food.
“Making the most of your leftovers is not only an important way to cut down on your food wastage, it’s also a great way to save cash.
“The next time you go to throw away the lunch that you didn’t eat or the remains from dinner, think about the best way to store that food, and if done properly it could be used to make something equally delicious another time.”
These are Musclefood.com’s recommended guidelines for correctly storing and reheating your leftovers.
Rice can make for a tricky leftover meal as it causes severe food poisoning if not cooled and reheated correctly. Unlike other food, rice should be refrigerated within one hour, and has a shelf life in your fridge of just one day. It’s best reused and eaten cold but if you do reheat, make sure it’s steaming hot. Uncooked rice can contain spores of a bacterium called Bacillus cereus which can survive being cooked. The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins will make the rice unsafe to eat.
Regardless of whether it is red or white, meat can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of two days once cooked. Make sure it’s piping hot and above 75°C when reheated. The best leftover meat to freeze is anything in sauce based meals like soups, stews and bolognaise. Joints of meat will freeze but dry out when defrosted, whereas meats cooked in sauce will retain their moisture.
The trick with veg is to allow it to cool to room temperature before sealing and storing in the fridge. Once refrigerated, consume within a maximum of two days. If you’re freezing leftover veg, the best solution is to blanch it first. Once your vegetables are boiled, briefly run them under ice cold water to halt the cooking process before draining and placing in a freezer bag.
There’s little that refrigerating can do for any leftover bread that might be out of date, but placing it in a reusable bag in your freezer is a great way to keep it edible for several months. If you have any baguettes or crusty loaves that are stale, sprinkle them with water before placing them in a low-temperature oven, they’ll taste good as new.
Never reseal leftover cheese in plastic wrapping, as this will cling to the fats and oils which affect its taste. The best solution for any cheese is to grate it and place it in a freezer bag. It will take less time to defrost and be kept edible for an extra two to three months, making it perfect to be used in cooking or as a topping.
Cooked pasta can be safely refrigerated for around three to five days, and lasts for eight months in a freezer. A good tip is to toss the pasta in a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together, before storing in an airtight container. Avoid overcooking pasta if freezing, otherwise it will become mushy when defrosted. Once unfrozen, leave your pasta for a short amount of time before dropping it straight into boiling water until it is completely heated through.