To eat or not to eat…leftover etiquette

Picture this: you are wandering around your house aimlessly, like a Walking Dead zombie, hungry and not entire sure what to eat for lunch (or dinner). Your inability to plan your meals has left you weak and delirious from hunger (ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration!). So, you poke around the fridge to see what goodies you may have leftover from previous meals… You open Tupperware after Tupperware, sniffing and poking at the contents to see if there is something edible amongst the bunch. Your hunger is overriding your intuition that whatever is in these containers is most definitely not edible. But, you tell yourself “it’s only been in the fridge for a week”.

No? This has never been you? NEVER? Really?

I have found myself, on several occasions, doing this exact dance with the contents of my refrigerator*. Lately, I have been asking myself “if a restaurant gave you week old reheated food, would that be ok?” HELL TO THE NO IT WOULD NOT BE OK. I’d be writing a review on yelp so fast the reheated leftovers wouldn’t have a chance to get cold. So, why is it ok to do this at home? It’s not.

I decided to do a little research on the shelf life of leftovers. According to the Mayo Clinic “Leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator. Be sure to eat them within that time. After that the risk of food poisoning increases.” I have had food poisoning, it’s not pretty. It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy (ok, maybe my worst enemy, or maybe Ann Coulter).

The USDA also provides some tips and guidelines for handling your leftovers, and even provides a live chat for those of you with nothing better to do than ask questions about leftovers. I mean, really, if you need to get on a live chat with someone from the USDA, don’t you think you should just throw that shit out?!

I recently made a lovely mushroom ramen soup, and allowed the leftovers to cool on the stove. I woke up the next morning to discover that I had forgotten to put the pot in the fridge…ugh, there goes my lunch. I have always thought that you should let food cool before putting it in the fridge, but according the USDA “Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating”.

Going forward, I am going to try my best to label my food with the date it goes in the fridge, that way I won’t have to rely on my sense of smell or my elephant memory, as my husband likes to call it, to remember when I cooked what. I’m sure there’s an app for that.

Bottom line, if you are the least bit suspicious, or need to smell the contents of a Tupperware container, it’s safe to say you should probably throw it away…

*It just took me multiple attempts to spell that correctly.

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