Cook once, eat safely throughout the week.
If your New Year’s resolution is to eat out less, preparing meals at home is a key solution. However, after a long day at work, not everyone has the time and energy to sweat over a hot stove every night. A great idea is to prepare meals over the weekend and reheat them during the week. The question is, how far in advance can meals be prepared while still being safe to eat?
How long do leftovers keep in the refrigerator?
Most leftovers, such as cooked beef, pork, seafood or chicken, chili, soups, pizza, casseroles and stew, can be safely kept for three to four days. Potato salads or any style of potatoes will last three to five days, cooked vegetables last three to four days and fresh salads last one to two days for maximum flavor and freshness.
Shop on Saturday. Cook on Sunday.
Planning and then preparing a couple of meals on the weekend provides quick dinners or lunches at work for the week. Bake chicken breasts or make a tuna casserole. Baked potatoes, rice and even pasta can be made in advance. At dinner time, add a packaged salad or microwave fresh veggies for a complete meal.
Keep food at peak quality.
When cooking in bulk, don’t let food sit in large containers at room temperature to cool before putting them in the refrigerator. Immediately portion into smaller containers and refrigerate. If food is stored in large containers, it takes a while for the food to cool down. During that time, bacteria can grow and make food unsafe to eat.
Reheat leftovers properly.
Instead of reheating an entire dish, only reheat portions for that night’s meal. After reheating food in the microwave or the oven, use a thermometer to ensure leftovers reach a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
When in doubt, toss it out.
Leftovers don’t last forever. Obviously, do not eat leftovers that are green and fuzzy or smell like a pair of old sneakers. But what if it’s been in the refrigerator for a week and looks fine? Harmful bacteria, causing a foodborne illness, cannot be seen or smelled. Eat or freeze all leftovers before the three to four day time frame.
Improve your eating habits: reflect, replace, reinforce.
When it comes to eating, we have strong habits. Some are good (“I always eat breakfast”) and some are not so good (“I always clean my plate”). Although many of our eating habits were established during childhood, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to change them.
Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits, such as eating nothing but cabbage soup, can lead to short term weight loss. However, such radical changes are neither healthy nor a good idea, and won’t be successful in the long run. Permanently improving your eating habits requires a thoughtful approach in which you reflect, replace, and reinforce.
Reflect on all of your specific eating habits, both bad and good, as well as your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
Replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop. They don’t happen overnight. When you do find yourself engaging in an unhealthy habit, stop as quickly as possible and ask yourself: Why do I do this? When did I start doing this? What changes do I need to make? Be careful not to berate yourself or think that one mistake “blows” a whole day’s worth of healthy habits. You can do it; It just takes one day at a time.