Q & A: How long is it safe to keep and eat leftovers?

Q: “How long is it safe to keep open jars of food or sauce in the fridge? -Michelle Simutis

A: The short answer is 3 to 4 days (this was the answer provided by the Food Safety Working Group for most types of leftovers).

The long answer is, well, a little more unappetizing.

But it’s important stuff.

Quick facts about food safety:

(Note: I’m not getting into meat issues, as this is a vegetarian blog, check those out here)

  • Bacteria that causes food poisoning does not affect the look, smell or taste of the food.
  • Spoilage bacteria – the type that makes food look bad or smell funny – generally does not cause illness.
  • Perishable groceries should be refrigerated with
  • At room temperature, bacteria can double every 20 minutes. This is why it is SO important to refrigerate leftover food quickly.
  • Having a party? Don’t leave the food out for more than two hours. Read the full why and how here.
  • Food poisoning is real. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 48 million people get sick every year in the United States. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food borne illness and infection. Many of those at highest risk are very young, very old or have weakened immune systems.

Food “best by” dates guide:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

Related:

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How to plan a vegetarian dinner

This by far is the most common question I get about being a vegetarian, of course after they ask why I gave up meat. Well, moral, health and sustainability are the answers to why I gave up meat. So, here goes an answer to the other question.

What to make for dinner.

Most meat-eaters I talk to say they begin plans for supper thinking about what meat will take the stage. Chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc. Then they think about what seasoning they’ll add. Finally, they’ll think of a side or two to accompany the meat.

And yes, if that’s your every day planning a meal without meat sounds crazy insane. But it just isn’t so.

Some veggies could indeed still plan around a protein source. I begin my planning with either a dish type or a key ingredient.

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Hello world, here’s why I’m starting a cooking blog

My little Jack and I, taken in spring 2014.
My little Jack and I, taken in spring 2014. Photo by Jack & Lola Photography

We moms have a lot on our plate. Changing diapers, getting everyone dressed, taking kids to lessons, negotiating naps and working all piles up fast. And by dinner time not only are you left with little energy from what sleep you got last night, but you just have no clue what to put on the table.

I’d like to do what I can to help. No, I’m not coming over to help with the chores (I have enough here, especially with no dishwasher). I’m here to see what help I can provide in advice, recipes and links that will help you know what to make for dinner. And at that, a dinner that you can afford, that you can make in a reasonable amount of time and that (maybe) everyone will eat.

I’m no professional chef, but I am a mom who cooks all the time. On days when I’m not working, I (usually) cook all three meals a day. Besides this new blog venture, I am a monthly columnist for OC Family magazine and on weekends I work at Sur La Table (this blog is in no way affiliated with either of those things).

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