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How long will those leftovers REALLY last?

The time it takes for food in the fridge (or freezer) to start going bad

With a lot more time on our hands nowadays, the kitchen is becoming a more active room in the house with delicious food coming out of the oven in spades. Bon apetit!

Now that you've devoured that home-cooked meal, it's time to put the leftovers in the fridge; but just how long will those leftovers stay in there before it starts going bad? It turns out, it depends on what it is.

For most prepared meals, including your meat, potatoes, and veggies, you have about 3 or 4 days in the fridge before it could start to go bad. What if you decide to freeze it? That gives you a lot more time: two to three months. It's the same for prepared soups and stews as well.

Keep in mind that these are under ideal conditions. This means your refrigerator is set to less than 40 degrees and your freezer is set to less than zero degrees.

Cooking more food means buying more food. So it's good to know how long you have from the time you bring your food home from the grocery store to the time food could start going bad in the fridge or freezer.

Fresh red meat: steaks, chops, and roasts need to be cooked within 3 to 5 days of going in the fridge. Fresh poultry and raw ground beef is even less: just 1 to 2 days. But if you decide to freeze your meat, it buys you a lot more time: at least 4 months and up to a year depending on the type of meat.

What about eggs? It's one of the foods that will last the longest in the fridge: 3 to 5 weeks while it's still in the shell.

Prepackaged foods last a bit longer as well: once they're opened... Hots dogs or bacon will last about a week. And if you can't eat the whole pack in that time frame... Freezing them will extend that to a month or two.

There are so many different foods we can buy and prepare, and if you're looking for a quick and easy way to find specific information on how long a food or meal will last, there's an app for that!

Just search your mobile app store for "Foodkeeper". It's an app developed cooperatively by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Cornell University, and Food Marketing Institute. It's a complete guide to how long virtually every food available in the U.S. will keep in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer.

Regardless of the guidelines, if the food is obviously spoiled or has a strong unpleasant odor, it's time for it to go.

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