One of the best things about the holidays is all the great food. But one of the most annoying or worrisome things about the holiday can also be all of the leftovers.
Some people don't like leftovers, others love them for their time and money saving potential. Whatever your feelings, about them, they can be a challenge anytime but most especially during the holidays when schedules get hectic and you may be staying at home and feeding a crowd or in and out traveling to be with family and friends.
Many consumers don't realize how quickly food leftovers can become unsafe or spoil. While the time can vary slightly for some foods, a good rule of thumb is to discard leftovers after four days, or to be sure to use or freeze them before you reach that deadline.
It is great to fix extra food and use it again to save time and money, when you know you'll be around or have the time to do so. If, however, you know that you won't have the opportunity to use leftovers within a four-day period, it is better to either plan on fixing just the right amount of food or to package and freeze the food for later use.
Another solution if you're not going to be home or don't want to use all of the food left from a big holiday feast yourself, is to package up "doggie bags" for guest to take home to enjoy. But be sure that the items are packaged properly and will be transported to their new home quickly or put in a cooler to keep them at a safe temperature during travel, if they will be going a long distance.
Many times family members come down sick over the holidays and think that they've picked up a virus or other "bug that is going around" when they've actually gotten a food borne illness. It is not worth the risk of being sick or risking the health of your family and guests. Be sure to follow safe food handling practices always but especially during the holidays when food is such a festive and integral part of the activity.
Remember to keep hot foods HOT; keep cold foods COLD and remember the Four-Day Throw Away rule for leftovers. If in doubt throw it out!
For more information about nutrition and or food safety call the Putnam County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Office at 653-8411.