There’s no need to waste leftover food when it can be turned into makeover meals

What to Do With Leftover Food? Create Makeover Meals

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original blog here.


At one time or another we’ve all had leftover food in our refrigerators and wondered, “Is that still safe to eat?” Maybe we prepared too much for a meal or took a doggie bag home from a restaurant. No matter how it got there, eventually we have to deal with those leftovers.

The dilemma most of us face is having to choose between wasting good food or getting food poisoning. Fortunately, there are some guidelines to help make the right decision.

Identify Leftover Food for Future Meals

There are food safety rules for the correct temperatures and holding times for different foods before they should be discarded. Most cooked foods should not be reused if they have been at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the room temperature was above 90o F. That includes leftovers from restaurants. So the best time to decide if a food should be kept or tossed is when clearing the table or returning home after eating out.

The foods you can safely keep should be transferred to food storage containers or properly wrapped in food grade paper. The goal is to avoid exposure to the air, leaking of any juices, transfer of odors, and cross-contamination through contact with other foods.

It is never advisable to store or reheat food in the one-time-use containers that they are sold in, such as margarine tubs.

Now all you have to do is label that container so there’s no guessing about its identity. Keep some blank address labels in the kitchen so you can record the date and description of what’s in the container before putting it into the refrigerator or freezer. The 20 seconds it takes you to do that can save you countless hours and dollars should you eat the wrong thing.

Plan Makeover Meals From Your Leftover Food

If you decide how you want to use your leftovers before putting them away, you can save even more time and money. Cooked meat, poultry and fish are the most expensive part of the food budget, so should get your immediate attention to avoid waste.


The quickest option is to just wrap cooked meats in single or double portions and freeze them if there’s little chance you’ll get around to eating them in 2 or 3 days. Another is to cut them into cubes or strips before refrigerating so they can easily be added to a stir fry, folded into a fajita, tossed onto a salad, wrapped in a quesadilla, stuffed into a taco or scattered onto a pizza.

If you know you’ll have the chance to recycle that cooked meat into a makeover meal in the next two days you can prep it for its rebirth in a casserole, curry, soup or stew. By removing the bones and skin, cutting or shredding it and seasoning as needed, you are that much closer to a delicious new meal.

Be sure to check these post, too:

  • 6 Ways to Kill Germs & Bacteria in Your Kitchen
  • Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart
Posted in Food Labels, Food Preparation, Food Safety, HEALTH GOES STRONG, Health Risks, Meal Patterns and tagged , , , , .

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