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What Should You Do With Leftover Food?

By Stephen R. Farris

Whether you eat at home or at a restaurant, chances are you're going to have leftovers. But the age-old problem seems to stem on how long should leftovers be kept in your refrigerator. 

In the past, when refrigeration was less of an option, leftovers were not as common, or what was left over from breakfast was usually consumed later in the morning or at lunchtime. Supper leftovers were usually thrown out of the back door to feed the animals lurking about in the yard.

Over time, as refrigeration became more available in homes, leftovers were usually stored and kept for about a day or so. That concept is still practiced by many families, but depending on what you're keeping, it may be kept longer before consuming.

Leftover food can also help when keeping to a tight food budget and trying not to be wasteful. Some folks pick a day out of the week to food prep and store their ready-made meals in the freezer for the week.

If you're unsure, according to studies, you can always adhere to the three-day rule.

Fruits and Veggies

Fresh fruits and vegetables -- after washing and cutting up -- can usually last a little beyond the three-day rule. Normally, it's 3-5 days before they start going bad. Raw veggies that have been cooked can last between 3-7 days in the fridge, as long as they are stored properly. Canned veggies that have been cooked last a bit longer, 7-10 days. The higher the water content of certain fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, etc.) usually means much less storage time and are better consumed the day they are prepared.

Grains, Pasta and Desserts

Leftover cooked pasta, grains such as quinoa and barley, usually fall into the three-day rule. However, you can store these cooked items in containers or bags designed for use in the freezer, where they can last up to three months or a little longer. If you have a sweet tooth, desserts can usually stay in the fridge up to 3-4 days.

Protein-Based Foods

Foods higher in protein and moisture should not be stored very long. Protein and moisture are attributed to the growth of certain microbes that could possibly lead to food poisoning. Some of those include rice, meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, soup and stews.

It may be best to consume leftover food within a day or two, especially if you bring that doggie bag home from the restaurant.  

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Rockville, Md.

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