Is your family all about cooking healthy food at home? We sure are!
Tommy’s Superfoods started in Austin, Texas with a bountiful family garden, a kitchen full of cooks, and a penchant for mingling the best and freshest flavors on earth. We’re also super interested in sharing not just our love of good food, but also the neat tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way to maximize freshness and keep food safe and healthy.
If you’re joining us as we strive to reduce food waste, one easy way to make a difference is to “recycle” leftovers. Not sure what to do with that leftover lasagna? When saving food you have two options: the refrigerator or the freezer. Read our tips below for choosing the best storage method and find out the winner when it comes to fresher food storage.
Storing Food in the Refrigerator
Storing food in the refrigerator is a super convenient option that guarantees the best level of freshness, but only for a few days!
Last night’s dinner leftovers can serve as lunch today with only a quick blast in the microwave or a few minutes in a skillet, but after a few days, natural bacteria growth will reduce freshness and in time, result in food unsafe to eat.
It’s important to remember that refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria and microorganisms, but it does not stop it. Opened and already cooked items tend to deteriorate more quickly than unopened packages. Items such as milk, meats, and leftovers need to be kept in the coldest section of the refrigerator, which is usually the shelf near the freezer compartment.
Play it safe and make sure your refrigerator keeps a steady temperature of between 34°F and 40°F. If you’re unsure of the temperature, refrigerator thermometers are readily available for sale at most hardware and home improvements stores, as well as online.
In short, refrigeration is the best and easiest option if your meal or leftovers will be consumed within a three or a four-day window.
Storing Food in the Freezer
Storing leftovers in the freezer requires a bit more work, but it’s a smart way to reduce food waste as it gives you a more time to use the food.
Top Tips for Freezing Leftovers
- When you’re freezing leftovers, make sure the meal is no longer warm.
- To stop freezer burn, limit extra air by using appropriately sized containers for the amount of food you have.
- Be sure meat is double wrapped in plastic wrap to lock in flavors. It’s a little extra work, but it will go a long way in preserving taste and texture!
A household freezer should be set at zero degrees (0°) or below to ensure frozen foods stay frozen. The lower the temperature, the longer your foods will maintain their quality. Much like the temperature in your refrigerator, be sure to check your freezer’s temperature regularly.
It’s important to note that while freezing foods does extend their usefulness, all frozen foods, over weeks, months, and years, will lose their color, texture, and flavor. The food will stay safe to eat, but it’s best to eat your frozen leftovers within a few weeks or months, rather than waiting until next year. (Unless it’s the top of your wedding cake – that one’s worth waiting a year for!)
Food Safety Basics
Did you know, food that is frozen will not develop bacteria that can cause foodborne illness? Freezing is the safest way to store foods and, if done properly, the best way to lock in taste and nutrition.
To prevent leftovers (like this delicious one-pan pecan-crusted pork loin) from going to waste, freeze them immediately if you know you won’t be able to eat them within a three-day window. While refrigeration lends itself nicely to conveniently reusing leftovers in a short period of time, freezing leftovers guarantees freshness and ensures food is safe to eat for a long time.
However, freezing will not destroy any microorganisms which may have developed before the food was frozen. So, if you were thinking about freezing any leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for several days, you might want to think again.
If you’re looking for more information about storage times for various food items, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services offers a handy guide for safe storage of food. It’s worth printing out a copy to place on the door of your refrigerator, so you always have the information close at hand.
USDA Food Safety – Safe Storage Guide
Even better: start from frozen!
The tricky thing about fresh fruits and vegetables is that it’s hard to tell how long they will last. Some fruits and vegetables in the produce section may already be weeks old by the time you purchase them to cook your favorite meal.
Not sure how long those fresh veggies should last? Take a look at Tommy’s Superfoods produce shelf life guide. This handy guide allows you to compare the shelf life of common fruits and vegetables when stored at room temperature, in your refrigerator, and in your freezer. It’ll help you to ensure that your food tastes great, plus don’t forget that you’ll need to keep in mind the age of the produce in any cooked food you want to store as leftovers.
Want your leftovers to last longer? Start with fresher veggies…start from frozen!
Each bag of our easy-to-prepare mixed frozen vegetables requires minimal cooking time while providing maximum flavor and nutrition. With frozen vegetables, you use only the amount you need for a meal or snack while saving the rest of the package for another day. It’s a great way to cut back on food waste and save money on your weekly grocery bill, plus they were flash frozen at the peak of ripeness and are fresher than fresh!