Don’t Let Leftovers Get You Green

leftoversThere is a time limit on leftovers.

While leftovers can be a lifesaver for figuring out lunch the next day or dinner when you’re in a time crunch, it is important to remember safe food handling practices including eating, freezing or tossing out refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days.


Limits to leftovers
Put leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible; make sure your refrigerator temperature is 40o F or colder. When possible, label your leftovers with a date and eat within 4 days. If you want to enjoy your leftovers longer than 4 days, transfer them to the freezer. TIP: When placing hot foods directly in the refrigerator, separate the food into small, shallow containers. This allows the food to cool more quickly.

Storage for Leftover Foods – Best Quality

Product Refrigerator (40o F) Freezer (0o F)
Casserole, quiche, omelet 3-4 days 2 months
Hard-cooked 1 weeks Do not freeze
Soups & Stews:
Vegetables 3-4 days 2-3 months
Meat added 1-2 days 2-3 months
Meat Leftovers:
Cooked meat & meat dishes 3-4 days 2-3 months
Gravy & meat broth 1-2 days 2-3 months
Cooked Poultry
Fried Chicken, plain pieces, cooked poultry dishes 3-4 days 4 months
Pieces, with broth/gravy 1-2 days 6 months
Chicken nuggets, patties 1-2 days 1-3 months
Cooked Seafood:
Fish 3-4 days 3 months
Crab 1-2 days 3 months
Shrimp 3-4 days 2 months

Fight Bacteria
Follow these four safe food handling practices to keep your foods safe from bacteria:

  1. Clean: Wash surfaces and hands before and after handling food products.
  2. Separate: Keep foods separate and don’t cross-contaminate.
  3. Cook: Cook and reheat food to at least 165o F (gravy, soups, and sauces should be reheated to a boil). Measure temperatures with a food thermometer.
  4. Chill: Bacteria grow quickly between 41o F and 140o F. Keep your food out of the danger zone by refrigerating it promptly.

For additional food safety information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Faculty member in your area.

Partnership for Food Safety Education.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. August 2013. Basics for Handling Food Safely.


Author: Ricki McWilliams –

Ricki McWilliams is the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent in Walton County, Florida.

Living Well in the Panhandle


Avatar photo
Posted: November 14, 2014

Category: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: DON’T, Green, Leftovers, Living Well In The Panhandle

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories