Keep your food safe with these storage tips

Leftovers are a great way to cut down on food waste, but it's important to consume them before they spoil.

Have you ever wondered how long you can leave that leftover deli meat or spaghetti in the refrigerator? How about the banana pudding you made last week? Are there containers and “doggie bags” that you really can’t remember putting in the refrigerator? What about the half package of taco seasoning in your cupboard?

There is reason to be attentive to how long foods have been stored – both under refrigeration or not. Foodborne illness is something you don’t want to have, and proper storage is one way to prevent it. Bacteria can grow in varying ways – refrigeration cannot keep foods safe forever, as evidenced by some of those storage containers that have mystery contents covered with “fur.”

One rule of thumb is “If in doubt, throw it out.” If you want research-based information so you can make your own determination, there is the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-800-535-4555. There is also a new tool from the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Serv ice called the Food Keeper. This is a FREE app available for you phone that will give you instant information on how long to keep foods, and will even put a reminder on your calendar to tell you when things need to be eaten or thrown out.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that deli meat should be used within three to five days; leftover spaghetti can keep three to four days; the banana pudding should be going to the trash after one or two days. Doggie bags are another story because they have been out of refrigeration while you were talking over coffee and dessert and on the ride home. If that takes over two hours, I would do what the name implies and feed those leftovers to the dogs. You don’t want to take chances. The half-used packages of seasoning mixes should be used at one time – not saved for another.

Follow these recommendations to keep your family safe and your meals and snacks of high quality. And remember, to contact an expert in your area, visit

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