How to Use Leftovers
Whether it’s the potatoes and gravy from Thanksgiving dinner or some rice from a dinner made in a rush, keeping your leftovers is a great way to save money and reduce waste. It also teaches the whole family the importance of conserving food and, by always utilizing your leftovers, you’ll be instilling some good habits in your kids. As a bonus, some foods like casseroles are considered even tastier the next day! Correct storage and reheating methods are important but easy to learn. Embrace leftovers: you’ll never look at food in the same way again.
Freezing is a simple and effective way to keep your leftover food from spoiling. Dividing up leftovers into individual portions is a handy way to plan future meals. Be sure to use airtight storage containers or freezer bags. Leftovers you can freeze include meat, poultry, fish, bread, casseroles, soups, stews, and sauces. Put any meat not eaten at dinner in the freezer right away to help maintain taste and quality. You can even freeze leftover fruits and vegetables. Make sure that your frozen leftovers are completely thawed before reheating. You can do this in the microwave or by leaving your leftovers in the fridge overnight.
Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking. When refrigerating a plate from dinner, make sure you let it cool first: transferring from hot to cold can cause the plate to crack. Letting food chill also saves energy because the fridge has to work harder to cool food that is piping hot. Your fridge should always be set to 0 degrees Celsius. Cover leftovers with foil or plastic wrap. Unlike in a freezer, where you can leave leftovers for several months, you should only keep leftovers in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.
Reheating Your Leftovers
Most leftovers, especially meats, need to be heated to 73.8 C before they are safe for eating. A food thermometer can ensure your leftovers are sufficiently heated. Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a boil to kill any lurking bacteria. Cuts of beef or lamb can be left a bit rare provided they were initially cooked at a high temperature. If you use a microwave to reheat leftovers, be sure to use a low power setting so that you reheat without overcooking. Use a vented covering and rotate food halfway through to ensure your leftovers are reheated evenly.
How to Use Your Leftovers
Sometimes you’ll have a look at the remains of last night’s dinner and not see an obvious meal; you might have too much of one item and not enough — or none — of another. Get creative: consider adding a fresh food to your leftovers to make up a full meal. Leftover steak, chicken or vegetables can be added to noodles or a salad to make a tasty and easy to put together meal. Leftover rice, potatoes and pasta can act as an appetizing side dish to a freshly prepared meal.
Foods to Avoid
French fries, breaded foods and other fried items will be less crispy when reheated and won’t taste as good. That doesn’t mean that these foods can’t be used a leftovers, though, just be aware that they’re best first time around. If you are going to reheat fried and breaded food, it’s best to do it in the oven. Leafy green salads also don’t make great leftovers. A night in the fridge reduces flavour and makes for a soggy dish.
Other Storage Tips
If you’ve got some raw veggies that you want to save, keep them in a sealable plastic bag, squeezing out all of the air. If you have some canned food left over, you should remove it from the can and put it in a tightly sealed container — don’t put open cans in the fridge. It can also be a good idea to date-label your leftovers when you put them into your fridge or freezer. This lets you know what to eat first and how long everything has been sitting. Think of it as rotating stock for a family of hungry consumers.
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