The way you store and reheat leftovers can also put you at risk, so here's how to make the most of your weekly shop without risking an upset stomach (or worse).
1. Chill food straight away (but let it cool first)
The main reason to refrigerate or chill food is to prevent the growth of bacteria, which can cause illness. Cold temperatures can slow down this growth of harmful bacteria, says David Gray, food hygiene quality advisor at the FSA. If you cook something and want to eat it again tomorrow, let it cool for a few minutes, then chill it in no more than ninety minutes, says David: 'It's so important to cool food down before you put it into the fridge, otherwise it raises the temperature of the fridge. One way to do this is to break up leftovers into smaller portions and then put into some tupperware and into cold water (that's what I try and personally do) for a few minutes. Then cover and refrigerate.'
2. Eat most leftovers within two days
In general, leftovers should really be eaten within two days – with the exception of rice which should be eaten within one day as it's a lot more susceptible to bacteria growth:
'What we suggest is don't keep food more than a couple of days. If you cook rice serve it as soon as it has been cooked and any leftovers should be chilled as quickly as possible, ideally within one hour, and not kept out at room temperature. Keep rice in the fridge for no more than one day until reheating and when you reheat any rice, always check that the dish is steaming hot all the way through. Do not reheat rice more than once.'
When you're reheating, make sure the food is steaming hot and heated thoroughly. Don't reheat any leftovers more than once.
3. Freeze leftovers before use-by date
You are able to freeze food up until it's use-by date. The same principle of refrigerating leftovers applies to freezing leftovers: wait until they are cool.
'Theoretically you can keep frozen foods for a very long time. If they remain frozen, any bacteria present won't be able to grow. Usually frozen food, like frozen veg, will have a best before date and after that date the optimum quality of the food may drop a bit. Still they should be safe to eat – as long as they are defrosted properly and then cooked properly.'
Make sure you always defrost leftovers completely, either in the fridge or in themicrowave. Reheat leftover food within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted until steaming hot, and do not refreeze.
has a few handy frozen leftover tips:
- You can freeze eggs but if you freeze them in their shells explosions may occur! Freeze eggs in two ways: either crack the egg and separate yolks and whites into separate plastic containers or food bags before freezing. This is handy for baking. Or, you can crack the egg into a plastic tub and beat it before freezing: great for omelettes and scrambled eggs. Put them in an airtight container and label with the date and the number of eggs you've used.
- Tap the bottom of your bread onto a surface before freezing to separate the slices.
- Freeze milk in ice cube trays to use when you need it. You can pop them straight into your tea or coffee.
4. Respect 'use by' dates
'Use-by' and 'best-before' dates are there for a reason, so follow them. Here's the difference:
- Use-by-dates are placed on food by manufacturers as the date you shouldn't eat food after due to food safety.
- Best-before-dates mean that while the food might not be unsafe to eat after the date, its quality may not be as high.
5. Be smart about your fridge layout
Store leftovers above uncooked food, so any juices from raw meat or fish cannot drip on to cooked food and cause contamination.