Most of us don't mind saving leftovers at home or packing them from restaurants. Not only do they save food wastage but can also help you save money and time for the next meal. While it is smart to be thrifty like this, eating leftovers that have been kept for way too long could in fact lead to food-borne illnesses. Apart from serious issues like these, food that has been kept in the refrigerator for too long also tends to lose the freshness and taste after a particular time and is no good anyway. This brings us to the question that how long can you keep leftovers in the fridge before they lose their taste or become unsafe to consume?
Ideally, it is believed that if you refrigerate the leftovers within two hours of serving, it is then okay to keep them for about 3-4 days straight. On top of that, consultant nutritionist Rupalli Dutta suggests "In the sense of what you are storing, how you are storing and for how long affect the storing capacity of the food. If the food is cooked down properly and covered immediately and kept for cooling, then it can be stored for 24-48 hours. And make sure that the cooked vegetable or curry is not contaminated before keeping it in the refrigerator. But if the food has to be stored for more than 1-2 days then it is better if frozen." Now that we know the average timeline for storing leftovers, let's take a look at different homemade or restaurant foods and how long can/should they be stored for safe consumption.
Here's How Long Can You Store Leftover Food:
A staple part of our diet no matter we are dining out or in the house, it is common to have leftover rice after most meals. While rice tends to get dry with passing time, reheating it by sprinkling some water tends to help. The bacteria thriving of starch present in the rice is likely to be less dangerous if consumed within a maximum time of two days.
Another staple of the Indian diet, plain roti/chapatti or phulka can be saved for not more than 24 hours. After which, they are extremely tight and dry to consume anyway. Puri or paratha cooked in oil and ghee tend to last longer since they take longer to dry because of the oil percentage in them. If you want soft phulkas to consume the next day, apply some ghee to them and store not more than 24 hours.
It is also known that storing raw foods have the highest chance of bacterial contamination. The sooner you can consume these, the better. However, if you do wish to pack salads from restaurants or save some from your homemade lunch, make sure to sore them devoid of any dressing. Wash thoroughly and dry before storing in an air-tight container. Consume within 24 hours for the best freshness and taste.
If you are packing pasta from a restaurant, we suggest do not do so. The lush creaminess that you love in your pasta can never be bought back after the first time it is cooked. The sauce tends to dry up in the refrigerator while it will be prone to contamination if kept in the outside moist environment. If you are cooking pasta at home, a good practice will be to store the sauce and boiled pasta in separate containers before you start the cooking process. Again, sauces made for pasta should be consumed within three days maximum.
Dal can turn rancid and have a bad smell pretty soon if not stored properly. If you have leftover dal, make sure to store it in an airtight container. If the quantity is huge, take the exact portion that you will be consuming and reheat that. Do not reheat the entire batch repeatedly because that might lead to the bacteria multiplying sooner. Homemade dal can be saved for five days if stored correctly.
Cooked sabji's should not be left for more than 3 days. Even if they are stored in an airtight container, the vegetables start losing their nutritional values and taste after around day 2. Sabji's with protein-rich ingredients like soya or paneer should be consumed even sooner.
7. Non-vegetarian curries:
Experts all over the world suggest eating protein-rich non-vegetarian dishes and curries as soon as possible. However, if you do need to store them, make sure to do so in an airtight container and strictly in the refrigerator. Consume within 1-2 days and avoid reheating or storing egg-based dishes particularly. In fact, the United States Food and Drug Administration even suggests that cooked eggs and egg-containing dishes should be served immediately after cooking.
You should also consider that when dealing with leftover food from restaurants; you are unaware of the freshness of the item when they were being served to you. Try and consume restaurant leftovers as soon as possible. However, home-cooked food can be fresher and be kept for the above-mentioned timeliness without any worry.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.