Keep the leftovers for future meals

Hosting holiday parties and dinners is a big part of the holiday season for many. There is a common fear among people who host parties. “Will there be enough food?” Often the host tends to overcompensate and has a large number of leftovers to deal with.

There is certainly nothing wrong with leftovers. Still, there is a great deal of concern that leftovers will result in foodborne illnesses. If food is handled correctly, is can be stored and eaten with no waste. That is good for everyone.

Begin with the basics

According to the nutritionists at Mayo Clinic, there are some tips that keep you and your family safe. It is important that perishable foods are moved to refrigerator quickly. Do not let them sit at normal room temperatures for over an hour or two. If it is above 90 degrees, only one hour.

There is danger zone as far as temperature goes where most bacteria is formed. This is between 40 degrees to 140 degrees. So quickly get food out of that range.

As a general rule, if food is handled properly it can be stored up to four days in the refrigerator.

Menu calendar

A menu calendar is really the difference between success and organized use of food and tossing away perfectly good, healthy, nutritional food. If you know what is in your freezer, how and when you are going to use it, more than half the battle is done.

Here is an excellent example. Shepherd’s pie casserole on Monday. From the freezer, one pack mixed vegetables, one pack cooked hamburger and six dollops of mashed potatoes. These items are removed from the freezer in the morning and shifted to the fridge. In the evening warm up the ingredients, add sauce and cheese and bake it in the oven. It is easy quick and tasty.

With a little bit of organization some of the leftovers can be turned into a new dish before they ever reach the freezer. Ham is an excellent example. You can toss some of your ham in the food processor and store in the freezer for ham salad sandwiches. Be sure and put them on the calendar so nothing is forgotten and lost.

Specific helps for freezing

Anyone who has cooked for large families or crowds and served mashed potatoes has ended up with some leftovers. It is just hard to judge how much and it always better to have more than not enough. Here is a great way to freeze them so they are easy to use.

Place a pieces of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use an ice cream scoop and scoop out dollops of potatoes. Make certain they are not touching each other. Place them in the freezer until firm and then bag them. This way, you can remove just the right amount from the bag and keep the others frozen. Be sure to date and label everything that goes into the freezer.

Leftover meat

It is easy to slice or chunk turkey or beef. Since freezing tends to dry out the meat a little, it is a good idea to freeze it in a little broth. When you are ready to use, thaw the meat in the refrigerator. When it is completely thawed, dump the broth and use the meat. (Fresh gravy is always a better idea.)

Leftover vegetables

These are great for soups, stews, casseroles, omelets and rice. It is simple to keep a couple vegetable jars going all the time so you have a variety. Small glass jars work well. Just slip the cooled vegetables in and layer them. When you are ready to cook grab a jar and thaw it out.

Remember, make sure the food gets cooled. Put it in an airtight container and label it. Have a plan of how and when to use it. That way, safe use of leftovers is assured.

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