Food Leftovers 101: A Safe Guide To Keeping And Tossing Leftovers

  • 19 months ago
4 minute read.
Food Leftovers 101: A Safe Guide To Keeping And Tossing Leftovers

You might be thinking of that food storage container containing last night’s food leftovers as you read this article. We go through a whole monologue in our mind before deciding whether to eat that leftover or toss it in the bin. There is nothing wrong with keeping food leftovers aside for later consumption or usage. They often save the time of food preparation, avoid any wastage, and are a great way to save some money.

However, with this boon also comes the curse of food leftovers. Depending on what kind of food it is and how long has it been stored, they could pose dangers. Food spoilage can lead to issues like food poisoning. Various factors are responsible for food spoilage and one must look out for them in order to preserve the food safely in food storage containers.

Types of leftovers based on risk at consumption

Not all food spoils in the same way. Some are safe enough to keep for a week while others might spoil in a day, depending on food temperature. This basically depends on how prone a particular food is to harboring pathogens like bacteria. Based on how easily the food spoils, they can be divided into low, medium, and high-risk foods. Listed below are some of the foods that you can take note of.

Degree of Risk (Food spoilage risk)




1. Bread

1. Cooked food like spaghetti or fried vegetables

1. Cooked rice

2. Dry foods like biscuits

2. Baked food like brownies

2. Meat and chicken

3. Fruits and vegetables (washed and cut)

3. Hard-boiled eggs

Low-risk food

  1. Bread: One of the most regularly used food at home is bread. They can easily stay fresh for 3 days at room temperature. This can be increased to almost a week if kept in the refrigerator. Homemade bread is generally less lasting than store-bought ones so look out for moulds in case the pack has gone bad.
  2. Dry foods like biscuits are also safe to keep for 7-10 days or longer periods of time. They contain very less amount of moisture to trigger the growth of bacteria that might spoil the food.
  3. Fruits and vegetables: Fruits that are washed and cut can be kept for around 3-5 days while raw vegetables can be kept for around a week. Opened canned vegetables like beans and legumes last 7-10 days. However, vegetables and fruits with high moisture such as tomatoes and cucumbers might last for relatively lesser days than fruits with comparatively low water content such as onion or potato.

Diet Plan

Medium-risk food

  1. Cooked food like spaghetti or fried vegetables can be kept for 3-5 days under proper temperature. Some people also freeze their cooked food to preserve the food and such food can last up to 3 months.
  2. Baked food like brownies can last up to 5-7 days at room temperature if kept in an airtight food storage container. You can also tightly wrap these brownies and freeze them to make them last for almost 6 months.

High-risk food

  1. Rice carries bacillus cereus which produces toxins leading to illnesses like food poisoning. Bacteria is more susceptible to multiplying in cooked rice. It is important to store the cooked rice in a cold set-up and consume it within no more than 3 three days.
  2. Meat and Chicken should be stored at cold temperature and should be consumed within 1-2 days. These kinds of food are high in protein content making it easier for pathogens to develop and make the food poisonous.
  3. Hard-boiled eggs have the capacity to transmit salmonella when spoiled. Eggs should therefore be consumed within 7 days and should be refrigerated for storage.

Ways to identify food spoilage

#1. Mould

Moulds can be of various colors ranging from white to green, pink or even black. This is usually one of the most common signs of food spoilage. It is generally advised that if you do see signs of mould on food, do not smell it for it can cause discomfort in breathing. Just thoroughly analyze your food if you think it has been kept for too long. Sometimes the moulds are not visible on the outer surface of the food but are usually hidden somewhere sneakily.

#2. Discoloration of food

Foods, especially different types of cut fruit such as apple or avocado often tend to lose their natural color if exposed to the air for a long time. If you do see a brown patch, or green tint on your food, immediately toss it into the bin.

#3. Pungent smell

Smell the food if it has been lying around for too long. If it gives a pungent and unfresh odor, you know what to do with it!

#4. Off Flavour

Sometimes there aren’t any visible signs to be found on a food leftover. It might seem fresh and you might end up consuming it. However, if a food has gone bad it affects its tastes significantly. If you feel like it tastes very sour or weirder than usual, get rid of it and spit out whatever part of the food has not been swallowed.


When you are in the practice of keeping food leftovers, you need to be more vigilant about the state of the food. There might be situations when you find yourself to have ingested poisoned food. Food poisoning might occur, for which you must immediately contact the doctor, or leave for the emergency room in case the problem intensifies.

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