Most of us are very particular about saving up last night’s food hoping to finish it the next day. Typically, the next day will come and go without a thought to these leftovers. Stale and unwanted, these will be thrown after a few days or worse, you’ll consume food past its sell-by date and end up with a tummy issue. While we may think that refrigerators can save food for as long as you want, there is a certain point when food starts to deplete and lose the essential nutrients it had in the first place. Fresh food, especially when stored over unreasonable lengths of time, can get contaminated and cause stomach problems including food poisoning. The question is how long do these homemade leftover foods stay edible? Are they even safe to eat a few days after cooking? Let’s find out the answers.
According to Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Rupali Datta, “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 refrigerator. But if the food has to be stored for more than 1-2 days then it is better if frozen.”
It is generally 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. Eating leftovers kept for more than the recommended days may increase the chances of foodborne illnesses. Here’s a download on the shelf-life of some everyday foods that we tend to store in the refrigerator to eat later
Cooked rice when stored in the refrigerator tends to become dry. This food item can be stored for about three days considering it has low or negligible levels of protein in it. The bacteria thriving on protein foods are more likely to give foodborne illnesses than the bacteria thriving on starch and sugars. While rice can survive for long, but with time, the quality tends to degrade due to dehydration and natural decomposition. Reheating with a little sprinkling of water helps rehydrate the grains. But do this only if the Rice is less than 2-3 days old.
Cooked rice when stored in the refrigerator tends to become dry
Cooked lentils or dals when not stored properly may turn rancid and may have a pungent smell. Remember to not keep the container of dal outside for long as it may only invite the bacteria to ruin the dish completely. As soon as you are done serving the dal, put it in the refrigerator with a tight lid on. Refrigerated leftover dals can survive for 5-6 days only if it is stored correctly. Even if you want to eat some of it, make sure you take out only that portion, rather than re-heating the whole container. This can easily cause the bacteria to multiply sooner.
Cooked lentils or dals when not stored properly may turn rancid and may have a pungent smell
Chicken, mutton or fish curries should never be kept for more than 2-3 days unless they are frozen, those too can survive for not more than a week. It also depends on how you are storing them. Make sure the container is air-tight and do not expose them to extreme temperatures again and again.
Chicken, mutton or fish curries should never be kept for more than 2-3 days
Rotis or chapattis should never be stored for more than 24 hours (maximum 2 days), after which they become rubbery and tight and extremely hard to eat, even after re-heating. For that matter, paranthas and puris survive longer considering they are cooked in oil and ghee, so they take longer to dry out and start becoming rancid. So if you wish to eat a roti the next day, make sure you apply some ghee or oil to re-heat it in order to make it edible.
Rotis or chapattis should never be stored for more than 24 hours
5. Cooked vegetables (sabji)
Similar to others, cooked vegetables should not be kept for more than 3-4 days in the refrigerator. After four days, the quality of the vegetable starts to deplete. With every passing day, the optimum nutrition, taste, flavour and texture of sabji will fade. So watch out if you’ve been eating 2-3 day old cooked veggies. Sabjis made with paneer should be consumed even earlier.
Similar to others, cooked vegetables should not be kept for more than 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
All foods have their shelf-life, but it is always good to cook a limited quantity so you don’t have to store it for days anyway. As you store them, these foods tend to lose the actual nutritional value, taste and flavour, plus may only increase the bacteria count that can harm you in many ways. So get rid of these leftovers as soon as you can in order to avoid getting sick.